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Manana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 17, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This important book, by an exceptionally shrewd, sophisticated and deeply knowledgeable analyst, deserves a place on the short shelf of classics about modern Mexico that includes Alan Riding’s Distant Neighbors and Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude.” —Los Angeles Times

“Castañeda presents an impassioned and erudite case for a rethinking of old Mexican habits. His background makes him especially well positioned to explain his native land to an international audience.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“A revolutionary book about Mexico. . . . I never thought I would read a book by a Mexican that acknowledges that Mexicans have more to gain in venturing to America than U.S. dollars.” —Richard Rodriguez, The San Francisco Chronicle

“A lively and perceptive analysis of Mexican society. . . . [Castañeda] is an unusual and important voice in Mexico.” —The Economist

About the Author

Jorge G. Castañeda was born and raised in Mexico City. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from the University of Paris. He has been a professor of political science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., and a visiting professor at Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley. He was Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003, and is now Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American Studies at New York University. He is a member of the board of Human Rights Watch and lives in New York and Mexico City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780375404245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375404245
  • ASIN: 0375404244
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Greg Schell on September 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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