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Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans Paperback – October 23, 1989

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former Mexico City bureau chief for the New York Times, Riding shows himself to be a sympathetic, informed observer of the complex changes wracking Mexican society and is especially insightful about recent political and economic turbulence and the tension between the Mexican majority and the "Americanized" minority. PW called Riding's analysis "broad, absorbing and up-to-date." January
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A spectacular piece of work. Alan Riding has a rich under-standing of [Mexico]: anthropology, history, economics, politics, culture, and--not least--psychology."--Anthony Lewis

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (October 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679724419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679724414
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ALAN RIDING is a Brazilian-born Briton who studied economics and law before becoming a journalist and writer. Working successively for Reuters, The Financial Times, The Economist and The New York Times, he reported from the United Nations in New York, Latin America and Western Europe. During much of his career, Riding covered political and economic affairs. During the final 12 years before he retired from journalism in 2007, he was the European cultural correspondent for The New York Times, based in Paris. In 1980, Riding was awarded the Maria Moors Cabot Prize by Columbia University for his coverage of Latin America and he has also been honored by the Overseas Press Club and the Latin American Studies Association in the United States. He is author of the best-selling book, "Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans," and co-author of "Essential Shakespeare Handbook" and "Opera." His most recent book, published in 2010, is "And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris." It has since also been published in French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and Polish.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Mejia on September 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
For too many Americans, Mexico is terra incognita. Even most U.S. visitors have only partial impressions of this vast and variegated country based on a quick trip to the border, a holiday in Cancun, or a brief stopover in Mexico City. To make Mexico less of a distant neighbor for Americans, Alan Riding has written a superb, highly readable synthesis of Mexican psychology, history, politics, social issues, and regional diversity. Sure, "Distant Neighbors" is a bit dated at 16 years old, but it's still well worth reading today.
The first chapter is a lucid description of national character to rival Thucydides or de Tocqueville. Mexicans may object to Riding's stereotypes but he's dead-on 95% of the time. Equally insightful is the way he deals with social issues (land, Indians, social well-being, and the family) and regional diversity. These six incisive chapters get to the heart of the nation's urgent problems and survey the country's dramatic contrasts. The historical and political sections are models of brevity and perspicuity. Even though the Mexican political system has changed out of all recognition since 1984, Mexico will be a long time dealing with, coming to terms with, or ridding itself of the 71-year legacy of one-party rule that Riding describes so well.
Of course, every book has its weaknesses. The last chapter, a sort of "whither Mexico" postscript, should be read as an object lesson on the pitfalls of prognostication. The chapter on Central America is interesting but irrelevant. Although the overview of U.S.-Mexico relations provides good historical background, NAFTA has overthrown most of Riding's judgments on that score. The economy and culture sections are lucid but superficial.
In sum, I highly recommend "Distant Neighbors" as a first-rate work of formidable breadth and depth written with exceptional grace and edited with meticulous care (amazingly, I couldn't find a single solecism).
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rick Oliver on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
I had to read this book as part of a foreign study program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. It is a brilliant social history of the perception on the Mexican people. Our educational system is built around a brief New World history on top of an extensive European tradition; unfortunately the lands south of our borders generally aren't a part of our perception of history.
Alan Riding makes this very plain early on in the book; in the first paragraph, he states, "..nowhere in the world do two neighbors understand each other so little. More than by levels of development, [these] two countries are separated by language, religion, race, philosophy and history."
Perhaps Riding can summarize his own purpose best when he wrote that "the purpose of this book is to make Mexico more accessible to non-Mexicans. It is inspired not by a desire to expose the country's vulnerabilities, but by the belief that Mexico would be served if better understood by its northern neighbor."
If you're interested in putting Mexico in a perspective complimentary to your boiler-plate knowledge of world history, read this book. After you read it, your mind will begin to "look south" when examining issues close to home (especially if you live near the US-Mexican border).
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joel Quezada on April 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
I bought and read this book twice in a time span of ten years. I was fascinated since I read it the first time. Being a mexican, Distant Neighbors provided me with insight from a foreigners perspective. It is not a plain book and can not be differet. As Mr. Riding explains so clearly, mexicans complexity and contradictions are due to the mixture of occidental and indian concepts.
I can see myself in this book.
In practice, the author speculates, the PRI would not survive in a democratic environment without provoking its own destruction. In theory it would have to change so much to the point of becoming unrecognizable. As I write this line, the PRI is in such stages! The words of Alan Riding are becoming a prophecy.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael Strah on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am surprised that people seem to be critical of Alan Riding's excellent work. The key here is an objectivity that is so seldom seen in this type of work. This is not a travel is a guide to understanding the differences that are real, profound, and do exist between two cultures. I was able to enjoy Riding's book as I purchased it shortly after moving to Mexico to work in 1993. It helped me so much that I have loaned copies (yes I have purchased more than one copy) and given them to visitors and other ex-pats working in Mexico. I am a Canadian citizen who is married to a Mexican citizen. This book has not only helped me understand Mexicans it has helped my marriage too! It is not Mr. Riding's place to critique or spew contempt for the PRI party, he merely provides the truth and lets the reader make up their mind. As far as Mexican people enjoying this book, I have passed it for review and commentary to Mexicans of all social classes and they all enjoyed the book and offered little in the way of unfavorable reviews. I have read Octavio Paz and the Labyrinth of Solitude and it is very introspective but very subjective. Riding may not be a poet, but he is also not a Mexican author who is subjectively speaking for an entire population. Alan Riding is a keen observer and he presents the facts! Read it and make up your own mind!
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