I have been reading Henry Bamford Parkes's A History of Mexico, along with other history books recommended by a school friend who is now a political science professor.
I am enjoying the book, though, it is a bit dated -- the first edition was published in 1938. Parkes's historiography is too Marxist for my taste. But it may simply be that he talks about class so much; and to talk of Mexican history is to talk of class.
In every chapter I have come to understand why some things in Mexico happen as they do. Why bureaucrats love stamps, seals, and signatures. Why laws seem to have very little practical impact on daily life. Why smiles often conceal bitter resentment.
Tonight I ran across a passage about an incident that every visitor and resident experiences. When the hapless Hapsburg prince and his beautiful Belgian wife entered Mexico City at the bequest of Mexican conservatives, but, more importantly, with the backing of French bayonets, they dreamed of creating a liberal Mexican society. They claimed to be disappointed in nothing -- other than the deplorable state of the roads.
Parkes relates the following anecdote:
When, at four in the morning, the Indians of Tacubaya celebrated with loud firecrackers a fiesta of the virgin, Maximilian and Carlotta awoke at Chapultepec in the belief that the Juarists were cannonading the castle.
After a while, they just got used to the loud noises. Well, he did.