From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Despite its title, this volume from L.A. Times columnist Rodriguez is a thorough and accessible history of Mexico that emphasizes the legacy of mestizaje, mixed races, among Mexico's inhabitants. Beginning with Cortes' arrival in 1519, an elaborate system of racial classification was put into place to keep separate Spanish and native peoples. The failure of this system, Rodriguez argues, allowed for a more progressive and open-minded approach to race in Mexico compared with, for example, the U.S.: "In colonial New Mexico, mestizaje was the rule rather than the exception." Black/white racial lines were nonexistent, as African natives merged effortlessly into Mexican society (which abolished slavery nearly 40 years before the States). Other developments include the Mexican-American War and subsequent insurgencies in the huge swath of Mexican land ceded to the U.S.; the Mexican revolution and the immigration wave it inspired; the backlash against Mexican-Americans during the depression years; and the Chicano movement of the 1960s and '70s. There's more at stake in Rodriguez's text than the latest immigration hullabaloo (he doesn't get around to addressing the past 30 years until the last chapter); aside from illuminating a complicated history and deeply contextualizing the present debate, the author takes on the concept of racial classification itself, calling for a change in attitude that more closely reflects the Mexican unifying idea of mestizaje, that we are all, to some extent, racially mixed "mongrels."
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“A fascinating excursion through the history of Mexican immigrants in the United States, full of instructive revelations and forgotten facts.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Brilliant. . . . Politically savvy and enchanting.”—Los Angeles Times
“Riveting. . . . A thought- provoking account of current-day Mexican Americans and their forefathers.”—The San Antonio Express-News
“Required reading for anybody interested in the future of the United States. . . . The best available account of the origins, history, ideas, and aspirations of Mexican-Americans.”—Foreign Affairs