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Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans Paperback – October 23, 1989
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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).
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).
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fine book with an overview of Mexican - American history of value to most of our citizens.Published 4 months ago by Michael Mcdaniel
Good information and valuable insight for Americans living in Mexico. Felt a little dated, but spot on in regard to the issues. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Texas Rose
There are millions of ways to write on a country -- a thousand different writing objectives or different slants or biases. Read morePublished on April 29, 2014 by K.M. McKay
Very interesting book, even though it had more politics and economics than I would like. Helped me better understand the country I call my second home.Published on February 20, 2014 by linda bentz
Excellent reading for as anyone moving to or doing business with our south of the border neighbors. Very good understanding of the Mexican mind after reading this book.Published on September 10, 2013 by Henry Lopez
This book is a must for anyone interested in Mexico. Covers all facets of Mexico and reads like a novel. Read morePublished on May 23, 2011 by Andre de Toledo
I first got an introduction to this book in 2006. I was supposed to read it for a literature class and never finished the first chapter, but I was thoroughly impressed by what I... Read morePublished on September 7, 2010 by Maite
This book provides an analysis of Mexico since the Spanish Conquest, with an emphasis on the 20th century. Read morePublished on May 7, 2010 by Newton Ooi