This rich anthology provides a glimpse of modern Mexico through the eyes of foreign observers. Some of these selections are by well-known authors (Alexander von Humboldt, John Reed, B. Traven, Evelyn Waugh). Some are unpublished pieces by little-known writers, and six are available here for the first time in English.
The writings fall into four periods: the transitions to independence and Mexico's first decades as a sovereign country (1800-1867), the era of Liberal modernization (1867-1910), the Mexican Revolution (1910-1940), and the post-World War II era. Four major topics show up repeatedly: ethnicity, gender, and race; cultural differences between Mexicans and foreigners; political stability and instability; and the economy and its impact on Mexicans. Although observers expressed a wide range of viewpoints on these issues, they agreed in finding a stunning degree of ethnic and regional diversity as well as what they saw as stark contrasts between urban and rural, rich and poor, modernity and tradition.
In addition to Anglo American authors, the anthology includes selections by German, French, Norwegian, and Spanish authors. Just over a third of the pieces are by women, who offer glimpses of private worlds closed to men, such as convent life, relations between women and their servants, and household affairs. Each selection contains biographical information on the author.