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Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy Hardcover – March 15, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Preston and Dillon, former Mexico bureau chiefs for the New York Times, combine personal experience and journalistic accounts in this thoughtful report on the trials of Mexico's turbulent first taste of democracy after decades of authoritarian rule. With grace and candor, the authors capture this transitional period, which has been characterized by a slow and tense crumbling of Mexico's main political party, the PRI (a victim of its own incompetence and hubris), and a rapid increase in civic fervor. This is a portrait of historical change of seismic proportion, told from individual perspectives, depicting an intriguing web of heroic Mexicans struggling to bring about cultural change while others tend toward corruption. As a result, this book is as bleak as it is insightful. Hopeful victories in this "imperfect democracy" are few and far between. The authors detail government negligence and deception during the devastating earthquake of 1985, cunning reporters and renowned intellectuals attempting to pierce the regime's stronghold on the media, and the ongoing low-intensity warfare against deeply divided indigenous communities in the southern state of Chiapas. Also featured here is the controversial investigation of Mexico's narcotics underworld that implicates two high-level PRI officials as "associates" of Mexico's most notorious drug trafficker, Carillo Fuentes. This type of coverage earned the authors strong criticism from the authorities in Mexico and a Pulitzer Prize—the latter well deserved. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Two reporters lately posted in Mexico by the New York Times review the county's recent political history in this hefty narrative. The authors structure their story line around the relinquishment of presidential power, which was held without interruption for the preceding 70 years by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as the PRI), in the 2000 election. They develop the PRI's increasingly blatant rigging of elections over the course of the 1980s and 1990s and the types of opposition the chicanery provoked. They describe the protests and appraise the motivations of election monitors, intellectuals, candidates, Mexican journalists, and leaders of a rebellion in Chiapas. As for the PRI's response to discontent with its rule, the authors recount the ascent of figures such as Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo and their differences in handling the severe crises (assassinations, the collapse of the currency, the wave of hypercriminality) that wracked Mexico during their terms. With a concluding and diffident portrayal of current president Vicente Fox, Preston and Dillon have compiled a crowded, comprehensive survey for watchers of contemporary Mexican politics. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374226687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374226688
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,235,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is the first and only account of the amazing revolution in Mexican politics that took place when Vicente Fox was elected. For more then 70 years Mexico was dominated by the PRI(Institutional revolutionary Party) which made Mexico basically a one-party state. But beginning in the 1990s this book tells the fascinating story of the surprise election results that almost brought the PRD socialists to power. Then subsequent chapters detail the Colosio assassination and the Salinas/Zedillo presidencies, culminating in the Fox campaign and the rise of the PAN party.
Although this book will appeal mostly to those with some knowledge of Latin American politics and Mexican affairs it is also of interest to any American who seeks more knowledge of our southern naeighboor. This is a much needed contribution to the dirth of scholarship on modern Mexican politics.
Seth J. Frantzman
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book on several counts. First it serves as a good primer for anyone wanting to learn about our neighbors to the south. Second it is a sobering analysis of the factors that need to be in place to even get to an imperfect democracy. Finally it is a remarkable blow by blow of how a hardy band of idealists, intellectuals and politicos brought down the "perfect dictatorship".
Opening Mexico takes us from the student rebellion of 1968 to the presidential election of 2000. Along the way we meet unrepentant PRI dinosaurs who almost seem to relish stealing elections and their outnumbered and outmatched opponents. Hovering in the background is Vincente Fox who does the impossible, taking over Los Pinos - the presidential residence. While Fox did the impossible it is his predecessor Zedillo, the accidental president, who emerges as one of the greatest heroes of the book. Zedillo was named his party's candidate for the presidency only after the previous candidate was gunned. Constitutional peculiarities practically forced Carlos Salinas to name Zedillo as the PRI candidate. Zedillo a dour technocrat would ultimately challenge the very system that promoted him by turning on his benefactor and forcing his party to face to accept its defeat.
Read "Opening Mexico" book if you love Mexico, enjoy politics, are inspired by the quest for freedom or enjoy a good thriller.
I also recommend "Bordering on Chaos" by Andres Oppenheimer. "Opening Mexico" is in many ways a sequel to Oppenheimer's work. "Bordering on Chaos" closes with the Mexican meltdown of 1994 and does an exceptional job recounting the efforts of the dinosaurs to manipulate the political process. It is a gripping narrative.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having lived in Mexico for 38 years, I would say that this THE definitive work. Another reviewer insists on looking at only the negative side of what happens in Mexico, as do so many Mexicans themselves. However, there is a positive side - a very positive side. Things are happening, and Mexico is, indeed, opening to a whole new way of life. No, it is not happening in a single day, but what does?

I arrived in 1966. I have witnessed all the changes that Preston and Dillon depict in their book. It is a true picture of those events - and a pretty gutsy one at that.

I once heard Julia Preston speak at the school where I am working. I was impressed at her intelligence and how knowlegeable she was. She was one of the most open-minded and objective Americans I had ever heard on the subject of this country. And that is exactly what I saw in her book.

I don't wear a hat, but, if I did, it would certainly be off to these journalists who have done such a fine job.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over 500 pages of well described political history, excluding the 40+ pages of painstaking endnotes, make this an impressive body of work.

The most informative and colorful anecdotal pages were from Carlos Salinas administration in 1980's to Vincente Fox up to 2002. Pre-1980's Mexican history tends to be a textbook version of how Mexico evolved differently from the U.S. Facts, dates, and quotes are precise. With a clear intent to write to the U.S. reader, the case is made that the democratic struggles in Mexico are unlike the U.S. For example, until Vincente Fox the government was ruled by a single political party (PRI) which was tightly integrated into the unions, voting mechanisms, fiscal appropriations, and candidate selection processes.

As New York Times writers, Preston and Dillon clearly have had the experience and understanding to address the Mexican history. However, if you are seeking a book that is a biography of Zedillo, Salinas, Fox, Slim, et al. This is not the right book.

In general, the fact-filled style and approach of their story-telling misses many personal and human textures; instead it focuses on their political persona or the writers attempt to reveal the persona under the politician within the context of the politics. You may learn that virtually all of the leaders went to Ivy League PhD programs, but you are not involved in the influences of their very different academic lives.

In summary: well written history, could have been a bit more concise for an easier read, but lacks deeper revelation of the human sides of the major characters of the Mexican political struggle.
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