In my little cross-cultural talk at church this afternoon, I managed to stuff 500 years of Mexican history into just less than an hour -- with a layer of social and political commentary from Jorge Castañeda, and time for questions for and from the audience.
Well, the time for questions from the audience went well over my allotted hour. But I had a grand time hamming it up on stage.
Based on the questions, my audience seemed to learn a bit about the historical milieu in which our Mexican neighbors swim. I know I learned a lot simply by sharpening my focus on my studies and my observations around Mexico.
I had intended to put together a list of books I have read recently concerning Mexico -- in addition to what I have managed to pick up in The Economist (my primary source of contemporary news). But I did not get around to copying it.
So, for the people this afternoon who requested a list of books to learn a bit more about Mexico: here it is. It is a good start.
- Henry Bamford Parkes, A History of Mexico
- T.R. Fehrenbach, Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico
- Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power -- A History of Modern Mexico (1810-1996)
- Jorge Castañeda, Mañana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans
- Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude: The Other Mexico
- Richard Grabman, Gods, Gachupines, and Gringos
If I took away one theme from this exercise, it is that we are now living in another of those great epochs of Mexican history where the playing pieces are moving in new directions. As Mexico, the United States, and Canada become closer entwined through NAFTA, families, and shared interests, Mexico will continue to modernize.
PRI and President Peña Nieto have proposed a series of reforms that amend the Mexican Constitution of 1917: opening foreign investment in PEMEX; allowing reelection of officials other than the president; removing restrictions on foreigners owning property in the forbidden zone. Some people have called those reforms the worst phrase they can think of: counter-revolutionary.
I think they are correct. The restrictions put in place by the Constitution of 1917 may have met their purpose. But they are not the tools of a modern 21st Century Mexico.
In a way that no one could have imagined, the liberal agenda of Benito Juarez, frustrated by the wars of the 1860s, may finally be put into place. And we will be honored to see if they work.
Pull up a chair and watch history unfold.
Note: If any of you have any other suggestions for people who want to learn a bit more about Mexico's history and culture, feel free to put in your oar.