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Mexico: Biography of Power Paperback – June 3, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (June 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929176
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Krauze is a well-known Mexican literary and historical author who has worked with and written for the important Mexican magazine Vuelta since its inception. His well-translated work, originally published in Mexico as three separate volumes, offers a readable history of the country since independence in 1810. Krauze first identifies themes that permeate Mexican history, e.g., the concentration of power, the role of the church, and the importance of history to Mexicans, which he then elaborates on by relaying the history of Mexico through the biography of its leaders, primarily presidents. As a result, he offers rewarding insight into how Mexicans see their own history. A useful volume that will be of value to academic libraries and public libraries with an interest in Latin America.?Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Ut.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Krauze offers a unique perspective of modern Mexico by interweaving the biographies of a number of consequential nineteenth-and twentieth-century leaders into a cohesive historical overview of the Mexican nation. Rooted in both Indian and Spanish cultures, the notion of the caudilloa leader granted an inordinate measure of respect and control--is one of the most pervasive elements and formative themes in Mexican custom and tradition. Arguing that these leaders have both reflected and influenced the shape and the direction of Mexican history, the author provides detailed accounts of the personal and professional lives of a variety of individual caudillos. An insightful examination of how this unbroken cycle of power has played a decisive role in the political and social history of Mexico. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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The book, a hefty 800 pages, is a combined English volume of three separate books by Enrique Krauze published in Spanish.
Michael Dickson
It's a fascinating book, very well written, covering the history of Mexico from Cortez until 1996 and making frequent references to pre-Columbian Mexico along the way.
A. Marks
While not exactly beach reading, I would highly recommend this book for people with more than a casual (tourist) interest in Mexican history.
Jon L. Albee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on April 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have to confess I haven't read the English version of this book. But if it's anywhere as good as the 3-volume Spanish version, it is probably excellent.
Mexico, particularly in Latin America, is a mythical country. It has always had a vibrant popular culture. In Colombia, it used to be said that the upper class aspired to be English, the middle class wanted to be American, and the lower class wished to be Mexican. This is no slight on Mexico, just a statement of its powerful pull over others. Amazingly, such an important country has never had such a strong historiography as much smaller ones, like Cuba. This has many reasons, one of them being that the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), probably the most effective political party in history, was able to co-opt most intellectuals either with favors or intimidation.
Therefore, much Mexican history used to revel in a hagiographical version of its pre-Columbian splendor and to celebrate politically correct milestones, such as Hidalgo's cry, Juarez's victory over Maximilian or the 1911 revolution, while glossing over other important but more embarrasing episodes, such as Iturbide's empire, Santa Anna's 30 year reign that led to the less of the Northern half of the country to the US, Maximilian's closeness to Indian land rights (Indians in Mexico were never better treated than under Maximilian), the remarkably efficient Porfiriato (a 35 year-long dictatorship), or the extremely brutal aftermath of the revolution. This promoted a mythological self-view of Mexico that paved the ground for the economic catastrophe of Lopez Portillo and the political catastrophe of Salinas de Gortari.
For anyone interested in looking behind the cobwebs of official history and popular culture, Krauze is a Godsend.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Mejia (mejiac@mexicwpoa.us-state.gov) on March 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Enrique Krauze has produced a superb introduction to Mexican history. His appraisals of various Mexican leaders are shrewd and always fair. However, the book suffers from two annoying shortcomings. First, the chapters are sometimes haphazardly organized and Krauze is not always successful at weaving the historical context into his biographical tapestry. Second, the fifth and final part (the last 59 pages) is superificial compared to the previous four parts; the book as a whole suffers as a result. Nonetheless, Krauze and his translator, Hank Heifetz, have created a vivid narrative that skillfully explicates the problems and complexities of Mexico's history within the covers of a single, albeit substantial, volume.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you know nothing about Mexican history and don't know where to begin, this is THE book to read. Mind you, it's a little too long but you won't be disappointed. It's very well written, it's fun, it's insightful, and has a no nonsense approach one appreciates after reading tons of biased harangues on the subject, both pro and con.
A MUST for any American, Mexican or Mexican-American who wants to learn about a country so often misunderstood by contempt, demagoguery, prejudice or simple plain ignorance.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Dickson on September 20, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is required reading for anyone who wants to understand modern Mexico and the (gradually improving) mess that it is in.

The book, a hefty 800 pages, is a combined English volume of three separate books by Enrique Krauze published in Spanish.

The translation by Hank Heifetz is superlative.

After touching on pre-1810 Mexican history, the book gets down to business after the Spanish have been tossed out on their collective keisters in that year.

We see the independent nation's early confusion as it lurched about for a few decades under inept leaders like its first "emperor," a joke named Iturbide, and then silly Santa Anna who bounced in and out of the presidential chair countless times, losing much of the nation's acreage to the better-organized and focused Americans. National Darwinism at work.

Benito Juarez was the first serious leader. And then the French tried to take over in the form of Emperor Max and his nutty wife, Carlota. That did not last long, thanks in great part to Juarez.

Finally, rising from the smoke and ashes, Porfirio Diaz brought some order and advancement to the nation for 30 years until his despotism too was shown the door, bringing on the Revolution in 1910. Diaz made it to Europe with his skin intact, but he died five years later.

The dates of the Mexican Revolution are not set in cement, depends on whom you ask. Nobody ever raised their fist, shot a Mauser shell into the clouds, and declared it done with.

Krauze sees it lasting longer than most observers, putting the end date around 1940. You could make an argument that it really did not end until 2000 when Democracy finally bloomed with the open election of President Fox of the longtime opposition party known as the PAN.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By itscbsmc@mail.internet.com.mx on April 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Krauze writes a BIG BOOK, but even almost 900 pages can't really do justice to 500+ years of history. The concept is interesting. Mexico has, perhaps more than any other country, been influenced by the personalities and individual traits of its leaders. Therefore, this book looks at the leaders' backgrounds, upbringing, fortunes and misfortunes, and attempts to draw a comparison between events in their formative period and how they effected their rule, all done in "biographical style".

Well, OK. But this may be taking amateur psychology a little far.

A very frustrating part of the book is the Revolution. Given the number of rulers during this time period, a biography of any one of them naturally has to include reference to 3 or 4 others. However, as these 3 or 4 others have not had their biographies told yet in the book, then reference to them is confusing to say the least.

Unless you're already an expert in Mexican history, this book is quite confusing and realy needs to be read twice. The biography format, however, makes histroy far more fun to read.
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