México en las miradas de Estados Unidos (Editorial Las Animas, 2017), Mexican writer and historian José N. Iturriaga has edited an anthology that is at once a vital scholarly contribution towards the history of Mexican and of US-Mexico relations, and an "armchair read," as I like to think of those box-of-chocolate tomes one can dip into here and there, on some quiet afternoon (perhaps with a bit of a birdsong and by a burbling fountain...) In short, this is a book I will keep on an eye-level shelf of my working library, but also return to time and again just for the fun of it. (For this reason furnishings for a proper working library include an upholstered armchair and ottoman!)
For those who can read Spanish and have even an iota of interest in Mexico, México en las miradas de Estados Unidos is a must-have. Over 130 American voices are represented here, and of an astonishing variety, from the early 19th century to recent years, and of all sensibilities. To quote [my translation] from Iturriaga's introduction, they are:
"traders and engineers, adventurers and sailors, explorers and historians, photographers and archaeologists, diplomats and journalists, novelists and miners, geographers and artists, poets and filmmakers, priests and planters, scientists, various soldiers, a comic and a president."
That comic would be Groucho Marx, and the president, James K. Polk.
Many of these authors will be familiar to those who who have already read widely on Mexico in English: Fanny Chambers Gooch, John Kenneth Turner, John Reed, Katherine Anne Porter, Alma Reed, William Spratling, John Steinbeck, William Burroughs, John Womak.
And I was delighted to see so many of my personal favorites, among them, pioneer trader and explorer Josiah Gregg, Princess Salm Salm (suffice to say, had Andy Warhol been alive in 1866 they would have been amiguísimos), Charles Macomb Flandrau, and my own dear amigo, the accomplished biographer and historian Michael K. Schuessler.
I am immensely honored to find my own work in such company, with an excerpt from my novel based on the true story of Mexico's half-American prince, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire.
Although I have been reading on Mexican history for decades now, and in fact collect memoirs of Mexico in English, many of Iturriaga's selections were new to me, for example, General John E. Wool, soldier Thomas Yates Lundie, traveler Maude Mason Austin, and more.
Read about José N. Iturriaga's many works, including the recent Saberes y delirios, his fine novel about the incomparable 19th century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, here.
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