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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and candid assessment of Mexico's democracy
Jorge Castaneda's tome is both incisive and a bit maddening. Despite his academic background, the book reads a good deal like a series of stream of consciousness rants...many sweeping assertions buttressed only by anecdotal examples. There is a paucity of data or research supporting much of Castaneda's work. His writing style also is disjointed and frequently...
Published on September 2, 2011 by Greg Schell

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43 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative but flawed...
This book is the latest work in a pseudo-psychological/cultural genre popularized by Mexican writers who rely mostly on their imaginations and back their interpretations with little or no empirical data. These authors have taken great liberties in speculating that the violent Spanish conquest and subsequent 300-year colonial domination of Mexico left deep, seemingly...
Published on August 14, 2011 by Ginny


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and candid assessment of Mexico's democracy, September 2, 2011
By 
Greg Schell (Lake Worth, Florida) - See all my reviews
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Jorge Castaneda's tome is both incisive and a bit maddening. Despite his academic background, the book reads a good deal like a series of stream of consciousness rants...many sweeping assertions buttressed only by anecdotal examples. There is a paucity of data or research supporting much of Castaneda's work. His writing style also is disjointed and frequently unfocused.

Nonetheless, Castaneda is a keen observer of Mexico's political environment and offers a unique perspective, having served as foreign minister under President Fox in addition to his many years as an academic in both Mexico and the U.S. With his liberal and progressive background, Castaneda was an odd appointment for the right-of-center Fox, but his inclusion in the Fox cabinet is clear from Manana Forever. Castaneda's passion is democracry, with a small "d," and he views the development of a viable two-party system in Mexico as imperative for Mexico to forever advance beyond "third world" status.

Despite its shortcomings, Manan Forever is probably the most candid discussion of the current state of Mexican politics from a Mexican perspective, as opposed to observations from political scientists and analysts outside the country. While a number of Castaneda's generalities deserve to be challenged, he succeeds in building a solid case for urgent changes in Mexico's political structure for the nation to finally emerge from its "Manana Forever" mindset.
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43 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative but flawed..., August 14, 2011
By 
Ginny (El Paso, TX) - See all my reviews
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This book is the latest work in a pseudo-psychological/cultural genre popularized by Mexican writers who rely mostly on their imaginations and back their interpretations with little or no empirical data. These authors have taken great liberties in speculating that the violent Spanish conquest and subsequent 300-year colonial domination of Mexico left deep, seemingly never-healing wounds in the hearts and minds of Indians and mestizos. Supposedly a culture of victimization emerged among the citizenry, exemplified by the wearing of invisible personality masks to conceal pain, distress, and feelings of inferiority. Unhealthy and self-destructive attitudes and behavioral patterns purportedly became central to the Mexican character, a development that damaged Mexico's prospects for success.
Castañeda continues the tradition of attributing endless negative value orientations to Mexicans as he gives credence to highly-suspect and controversial views that are rejected by most economists and other social scientists. His conclusions cannot be taken seriously because they (1) rest on the extremely shaky supposition that negative personality traits are found throughout Mexico and among all social and economic groups; (2) disregard the fact that traits attributed exclusively to Mexicans are actually universally found throughout the world, especially among peoples who live in economic contexts that manifest dependence, colonialism, and social marginalization; (3) explicitly or implicitly erroneously assume that the prosperity of other countries such as the United States must rest on a national characters imbued with wholly-positive cultural traits, and that, because of prevailing healthy values, the governments of these countries function efficiently and, as a matter of course, promote the common welfare; and (4) confuse cause and effect, assuming that negative economic and politically-related value orientations result in underdevelopment, when in reality it is underdevelopment that gives rise to negative traits.
It is regrettable that a political scientist who should know better has resorted to highly questionable cultural interpretations to explain complex problems that beset Mexico. The Mexican people, and readers in general, are not well served by this book.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking the societal and cultural rules, August 5, 2011
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In this magnificent insight into the Mexican psyche, Jorge Castaneda, does exactly what he says one shouldn't do in Mexico, create conflict. I've already given a dozen copies of this book in English and Spanish to friends and relatives and it invariably gets the discussion's heated up. Although he does an excellent job of identifying the roots of the problems and even what needs to be done, I still see it as very challenging for the types of changes necessary to happen anytime soon. Culture is a slow moving boat where you can only really see the change in path from the back of the boat as the wake drifts to the left or right. If you have interest in Mexico, it's culture, it's people, or even doing business here, this is definitely in the top five of books to read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good comparison between Mexican attitudes and today's reality, September 18, 2012
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Essentially "Manana Forever" compares and contrasts the character traits of modern-day Mexicans in a variety of ways to a variety of current factors such as modern economic, geographic, and political realities especially as Mexico has transitioned into a more democratic and economically open society.

Castaneda's method is to identify key Mexican character traits, review the current situation of a particular factor such as politics in a democracy, and then compare the two. In the end he uses the millions of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States as a "control group" against which to discuss whether or not Mexican attitudes can change in relation to the factors that make up today's reality in Mexico.

For example, Castaneda discusses the average Mexican's attitude towards the rule-of-law, which is ambivalent at best. He discusses how the attitude developed and what that character trait is today. To do this he uses the best available polling data from a wide variety of sources. While acknowledging that the data are incomplete, and that polls are relatively new phenomena in Mexico, he pulls together some interesting threads that paint a relatively accurate picture of the Mexican people. Castaneda then goes into a description of how the Mexican legal system functions on paper and in reality. (Of course, as the author notes, the relative lack of interest in the "rule of law" does not mean it's a lawless state, only that there are traditions that allow Mexico to function in a different way than the rule-of-law.) At the end of the book, the author then addresses how well Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the US accept the rule of law, both in attitude and reality. Castaneda uses this approach for Mexican attitudes towards the US, the economic and political systems, history, democracy, the concept of conflict (violent and political), tradition, form over function, etc.

Of course there is no "one size fits all" description of all Mexicans. I'm bilingual and have travelled and worked directly with Mexicans from Hermosillo to Monterrey to Mexico City and many places in between, both with businessmen and government functionaries. Naturally there are differences depending on the region of the country, and there are always individual exceptions. I understand that, for example, not all Mexicans ignore the "rule of law," but there are enough who do ignore it for it to be a factor in how Mexico functions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting perspective, but with several weak arguments and awkward writing:, August 5, 2014
This book provides a useful introduction to the subject of Mexican national character as well as valuable insights into Mexico's culture, history, and politics that might be difficult to find elsewhere; especially about politics since the author is a former Mexican foreign minister. As the title implies though, this book is really a polemic. Castañeda's purpose is to identify the aspects of Mexican national character that he believes need to change in order for Mexico to achieve its full economic, political, and social potential. I agreed with some of his points but I also found the supporting evidence for many of them to be unconvincing.

For example, Castañeda cites excessive individualism as one of the counter-productive national character traits. As evidence for its existence in Mexico, he points to a preference among Mexico City residents for low-rise housing rather than skyscrapers, thereby making the city sprawling, congested, and polluted. While he does concede that Mexico City is in an earthquake zone, I think the apparent lack of high-rise residential buildings is better explained by the (past) availability of cheaper land on the outskirts of the city along with a lack of central planning in the face of a strong and steady stream of immigration rather than excessive individualism among the city's residents. And does sprawl really tell us something unique about Mexico? Most Americans choose not to live in residential high-rises either. I wouldn't consider Manhattan to be particularly communally-oriented or civic-minded. And probably even less so than a village in rural Chiapas.

I found the logic in the last section of the book to be particularly weak where Castañeda suggests that Mexican immigrants to the USA represent a glimpse of the more progressive Mexican national character that could develop in Mexico if certain liberal reforms that he recommends are carried out. Firstly, according to Castañeda himself, Mexican immigrants to the USA are a self-selecting group and accordingly are not demographically representative of the rest of the country in regional origin, age, or socio-economic class. Secondly, while Castañeda cites an increased respect for the law as one of the positive attitudinal changes observed among Mexican immigrants living under the US legal system (as he partly claims is shown by their lower incarceration rate compared to both their compatriots in Mexico as well as native-born Americans), the footnotes in the same section suggest that if this is a real change and incarceration rates are real evidence, average levels of respect for the law actually trend downward among the immigrants' children since their incarceration rate is actually higher than the overall average for native-born Americans.

Besides some of the flaws in argumentation, this book could really have benefited from more aggressive editing to improve the often awkward word choice and sentence structure, and to just trim it down into a more concise form. As a casual reader who likes to finish what I start, there were a few times when I regretted picking this book up. However, now that I'm done I can see its good points and it does offer several valuable observations and insights and may actually be worth your while if you have a strong interest in the subject.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars La pura verdad..., December 25, 2011
I am Mexican... I live in Mexico, and yes! We Mexicans are the way Jorge Castañeda describes us in this book. It is not pretty at all, but it would be irresponsible to deny what he says about our idiosyncrasy... Es la pura verdad! And we have to be aware of it, so we can overcome the huge problems my country is drowning in. For those who can read Spanish, I recommend "El país de uno" (My country) by Denise Dresser. It is a vital reading for the tough times Mexico is going through right now. Saludos!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very accurate portrayal of Mexico, March 5, 2012
This review is from: Manana Forever? (Kindle Edition)
I'm an ex-pat who has been living in Mexico for the past 9 years. It's as if the author of this book has listened in on the numerous conversations I've had with my ex-pat friends about the good, the bad and the ugly of Mexico.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Boring, April 29, 2012
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As the owner of a Mexican home who enjoys Mexican culture quite a lot this book was recommended to me by a Mexican/American. Recommended profusely I bought w/o even knowing what the book was about. I actually expected a Mexican novel. This is nothing like that and in fact quite a technical book about the psyche of the Mexican population in general. Living in the culture parttime allows me to observe but not at the level demanded by this book. While there is a quite a lot of interesting parts in general this undocumented theory of Mexicans with a complex is lacking. I did enjoy the good discussion on why Mexicans do not obey the law allowing the bribe system to thrive (and I have first hand knowledge owning a home there where not a year goes by w/o a bribe).

Overall, I really can't recommend this book unless you are interested in an intellectual discussion of the Mexican psyche without exceptional documentation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mexico's future, March 20, 2013
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This review is from: Manana Forever? (Kindle Edition)
I found this book somewhat tedious, just like I found school books tedious when I was in school; too many dates, too many statistics, too many Mexican Politicians and authors to sort out. However, just as I would start glazing over, information would pop up that I found incredibly interesting (i.e. Carlos Slim, Elba Gordillo, the drug war, and a Mexican's belief that if they think a law is unjust they don't have to follow it). I checked out some info on the internet while I was reading and the book is so timely that some of his thoughts are already out of date. Elba Gordillo, for instance, is in jail right now. Check it out. You may like it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book tha explains the mexican culture, February 7, 2014
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This review is from: Manana Forever? (Kindle Edition)
A believe Jorge Castañeda make a great work describing how the Mexican Culture is and how our culture affects our development.
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Manana Forever?
Manana Forever? by Jorge G. CastaÑEda
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