Tuesday, September 02, 2008

a good firecracker in the morning

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.


Jonna said...

Another thing that hasn't changed: "to talk of Mexican history is to talk of class." To talk of present day Mexico is to talk of class as well.

Poor Maximilian and crazy Carlotta, I've come to believe that he meant well as aristocrats sometimes do. Of course, it changes nothing that they mean well, it is still oppressive.

Steve Cotton said...

It has taken almost 200 years, but liberal democracy has finally started taking root in Mexico. But those historical factions keep popping yp -- over and over again.

Michael Dickson said...

Stamps, seals and signatures came to us from Spain. Even the signatures are similarly unreadable due to filigreed flourishes.

Many, perhaps most, of our problems came to us from Spain. The natives filled in the blanks between Spanish problems.

Steve Cotton said...

Michael -- Parkes could not have said it better. The reading list my friend provided has hurtled me back to my college days -- at least, to recall the expense of text books. Yow! I have become accustomed to $17 books at Amazon. $150 for a history book is -- well, like waking up to firecrackers.

Michael Dickson said...

You paid $150 for that book? Amazon has them used for $8.

Steve Cotton said...

Michael -- I need to be a bit clearer in my writing. I did not spend $150 on Parkes; I bought it for $7.50 at my local used book store. The other books my friend recommended are current text books and cost the higher amount. I suppose in another 70 years, they will also sell for the equivalent of $7.50.