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The Mexico City Reader (The Americas Series) Paperback – July 15, 2004
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"Gathered under topical headings such as The Metro, Eating and Drinking, Corruption and Bureaucracy, Gallo has chosen some of the most engaging and lively chronicles of [Mexico City]."--Jean Franco, author of "The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America and the Cold War"
"In spite of its size, its proximity to the United States, and its extraordinarily vibrant cultural life, Mexico City remains almost invisible as a literary locale to North American readers who do not know Spanish. Ruben Gallo undertakes to fill this gap with his anthology of writings about the city, and he does so with great skill, insight, and verve."--Maarten van Delden, author of "Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity"
“A must-read for anyone interested in the social and cultural pulse of modern Mexico City.”—Clara Ricciardi, "The Bloomsbury Review"
"Gathered under topical headings such as The Metro, Eating and Drinking, Corruption and Bureaucracy, Gallo has chosen some of the most engaging and lively chronicles of [Mexico City]."Jean Franco, author of "The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America and the Cold War"
"In spite of its size, its proximity to the United States, and its extraordinarily vibrant cultural life, Mexico City remains almost invisible as a literary locale to North American readers who do not know Spanish. Rubén Gallo undertakes to fill this gap with his anthology of writings about the city, and he does so with great skill, insight, and verve."Maarten van Delden, author of "Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity"
From the Publisher
The Americas, Ilan Stavans, Series Editor, Irene Vilar, Associate Editor
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First, the reasons you, as a possible visitor to Mexico City, should consider buying this book: Ruben Gallo's introduction, which sketches out the long history of the city and then critiques the usual theorizing of the D.F.--the nostalgic lamenting of the loss of Mexico City's former graceful status of the City of Palaces--in favor of a theory arguing that, especially since the immediate aftermath of the 1521 conquest, the city has constantly been remaking itself; all of the essays in the section called "Places," which still ring true to me; the various photo-essays, in particular Francis Alys' "Ambulantes"; Alma Guillermoprieto's "Garbage" (a subject which, for fairly obvious reasons, is something of an obsession for chilangos); and Elena Poniatowska's beautifully-told "The Earthquake," which focuses solely on the story, told in their own words, of a woman who happened to be rescued from her collapsed building by her nephew, yet which somehow ends up conveying, better than just about anything about the 1985 quake that I've read, the heartbreak of those terrible days (and the years that followed). Also, students and admirers of writing about urban spaces will find much to like and learn from in all these pieces.
Now the note of caution: The possible visitor needs to know that some of these pieces have become dated in their details. They do indeed give one an accurate sense of the city as I found it to be from the early-'80s to early-'90s--roughly the period that most of these pieces were written. That time, suffice it to say, was not a happy one in the life of the D.F.: air pollution so bad that the State Department classified our embassy there as a hazardous-duty post; underemployment resulting in beggars, day-laborers, vendors and street performers (and many other, less-savory characters) clogging the sidewalks and delaying traffic on the main streets; trash everywhere; all-but-denuded green spaces--including Chapultepec Park; formerly-elegant and vibrant neighborhoods gone to seed; and clearly overwhelmed city services. However, over the years since this book's publication, the city has dramatically expanded public and alternate transportation (12 Metro lines built or under construction; light-rail lines extending into the suburbs; dedicated bus lanes and, more recently, bike lanes and rent-a bike stands throughout the city's heart); air quality seems to have improved a great deal; the Centro seems to be a desirable place to live now; in general, the broad middle of the city feels much safer than just about any other big city you can think of, including many in the States. None of this is to say that Mexico City is now some sort of urban paradise; and it obviously isn't Gallo's fault that some of these pieces seem less true now than they once were. It's simply to say that the potential buyer needs to know that the city that is these essay's subject has changed fairly substantially since their publication--in some cases, clearly for the better.
1) It's already very dated: we need a new edition of this fine book for it to address today's Mexico City. I am awaiting the day when anthologies will be websites instead of books and constantly updated akin to Wikipedia or Wikitravel. In many cases, the age of this book really shows though that should not discourage anyone from reading it because it does still offer a real wealth of insight.
2) The book simply should have been longer. Aside from the cost of printing a slightly larger book, I don't see any real obstacle to making it longer, either, as many course readers number over 600 pages. This one clocks less than 350 pages and there are plenty of worthwhile essays on Mexico City in the public domain--historical documents, even--so copyright isn't a viable problem. The editorial approach taken has been superb: nearly all the included material is great. However, the editor could have sourced even more material to produce a far more robust book. "Readers" really serve two purposes: to educate a seminar student or other person on the topic at hand via reading the whole damn book or, to serve as a reference book for someone interested/involved in the subject. For the latter, the more material the better.
I hope for a new edition of this book soon. For now, it's still very worthwhile despite my small misgivings
Most of the authors are Mexicans; a lot of the essays are famous in Mexico, and appearing in English for the first time. There is a level of authenticity here that is not reached by competing books (e.g., David Lida's 'First Stop in the New World' -- which is more of an American journalist's perspective on things.)
The writing is exciting, artistic, and well-chosen.