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Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A history of courage, intrigue and unlikely friendships Reviewed by Rita Pomade

Cover image of Dr. Michael Hogan's Abraham Lincoln and Mexico.
The United States and Mexico struggled through volatile years of suffering and carnage to become unified nations. Michael Hogan’s thoroughly researched and passionately written "Abraham Lincoln and Mexico" is a thought-provoking read that covers part of that struggle from 1822, when Americans settlers first arrived on Mexican territory, to 1867, when Mexico finally freed itself from France’s intrusion into its territory. The nineteenth century was a turbulent period in American and Mexican history. read more

Playing for Pancho Villa Reviewed by James Tipton

Book cover-Playing for Pancho Villa
he year was 1916. Young Frank Holloway "got mercury poisoning working in the Silver Creek Mine in Mogollón, New Mexico." To recover his health, his doctor told him to get away and go have "an adventure."

And so… perhaps lacking judgment because of the mercury poisoning, Frank opted for danger as well as adventure. On Tosca, his beloved mare, he rode south, and fifty miles west of El Paso he crossed the border into Mexico.

Frank, "with a fool's luck, managed to pick his way… between horse thieves from both sides, the Texas rangers who pursued them, Pancho Villa's Dorados, General Pershing's 6,000 gringo troops who were chasing Villa after the raid at Columbus, New Mexico,... read more

Xtabentum: A Novel of Yucatan Reviewed by James Tipton

Xtabentum: A Novel of Yucatan begins in 1906, in those tense years just preceding the Mexican Revolution. A woman in Merida is giving birth to a baby girl, who will be named Amanda Diaz, and who will be one of the principal characters in Xtabentum.

The young Amanda, with the help of her thoughtful father, begins to understand la Casta Divina, the Divine Class, and how most members of this class "considered themselves superior by birth and the lighter color of their skin." read more

Ajijic: 500 Years of Adventures Reviewed by James Tipton

Ajijic: 500 Years of Adventures
The title announces that it is a history of "Ajijic: 500 Years of Adventures," but in fact, most of the book is a pleasant and satisfying collection of various articles, memoirs, interviews, about fairly recent life in Ajijic including Jocotepec and Chapala. This charming little book, put together by the Thomas Paine Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was compiled by long-term Ajijic residents Alexandra Bateman and Nancy Bollenbach. read more

Drums in the Hills: A personal story of the Mexican Revolution Reviewed by James Tipton

Drums in the Hills cover art
Frank Dolezal, fighting for Pancho Villa during the Mexican revolution, was captured by some of Venustiano Carranza's troops, taken before a mockery of a trial, and was charged with "Treason against the legitimate government of Mexico." With fifteen other prisoners he was taken to a clearing, offered a final cigarette, and then shot. Miraculously he survived. read more

With love, from and for Jenny Reviewed by Marvin West

Tales from the Sierra Madre
Tales from the Sierra Madre is not a miracle, just a beautiful, dedicated, determined effort finished by husband Howard and a few dozen of the McGills’ hundreds of friends.

It is an unusual book about many people and places and happenings, a delightful collection of her best columns, even favorite recipes and those who mixed, stirred and cooked.

Like Jenny was, the new book is vigorously alive. Characters are colorful but real. Tales from the Sierra Madre is from Jenny – and for Jenny. With love. read more

The Isthmus: Stories from Mexico's Past, 1495-1995 Reviewed by James Tipton

The Isthmus: Stories from Mexico's Past, 1495-1995 by Bruce Stores
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is "without a doubt strategically significant as it provides a narrow land bridge between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. But it is nowhere near Mexico's major cities or the beaten tourist track." Bruce Stores presents the historical material through a series of stories in The Isthmus, Stories from Mexico's Past, 1495-1995. It is a work, the author acknowledges, of "historical fiction." For me, because I love stories, the history then became fascinating. read more

Religion In Latin America: A Documentary History Reviewed by James Tipton

Religion in Latin America: A Documentary History   By Lee M. Penyak and Walter J. Petry Orbis Books, 2006   Available from Amazon Books: Paperback Reviewed by James Tipton © Ja... read more

Mexico's Hidden Gold Reviewed by James Tipton

Some corrupt Mexican soldiers are also looking for the hidden gold, and so Kylie and Raven and their Yelapa companions have a lot more on their hands than they had bargained for. R. D. Lyons is a long... read more

Mejico: The Conquest Of An Ancient Civilization Reviewed by James Tipton

This is the beginning of the end…. Ruffo Espinosa, Sr., the author of this remarkable historical novel, was born in Mexico in 1907, although he spent most of his adult life in the United States. He ... read more

The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This is the story of a group of men who have become known as the Yuma 14. They are the fourteen illegal immigrants who died attempting to cross the Arizona border in May, 2001. And what a terrible and upsetting story it is. Unknown numbers of these illegal immigrants die every year making the dangerous crossing on foot over one of the most inhospitable stretches of terrain in the world. But the Yuma 14 constituted the largest known number of such immigrants to die at one time. read more

San Miguel and the War of Independence by Mamie Spiegel Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Ms. Spiegel's account mainly covers what she calls the viceregal period, also known as the colonial era, which lasted from 1521 to 1821. Mexico at that time was the richest and most populous of Spain's overseas dominions. It was at the end of this period, in 1810, that the War of Independence erupted with San Miguel and the nearby town of Dolores being the focal points of that outbreak. The war was to last eleven years. read more

Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy by Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here is the history of Mexico in the last two or three decades - and what a history it is. It's the story of how a dictatorship eventually found its way toward becoming a democracy. As stories go, this one has everything - political corruption, student demonstrations leading to a massacre, earthquakes, citizen crusades, an Olympics and, as they say, much, much more. It looks as though it might even have a happy ending. read more

A History of Mexico by Henry Bamford Parkes Reviewed by Allan Cogan

A very straightforward, unbiased, factual account of Mexican history from the times of the Indians, the Mayas and Toltecs and Aztecs up to the 1960s. read more

The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The story is based on the mysterious death/disappearance of the American writer Ambrose Bierce who, at age 71, went into Mexico in 1913 during the Revolution and vanished. Bierce is the author of such works as "The Devil's Dictionary" and "Incident at Owl's Creek Bridge." He was a contemporary of writers like Bret Harte and Mark Twain. He was also a newspaper reporter, employed at the time of his death by the San Francisco Chronicle, which was part of the William Randolph Hearst empire. Bierce had also seen distinguished service in the Civil War. read more

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The story mostly concerns three generations of a Mexican family, some of whom live in Mexico, others in the U.S. The action starts with three family groups making an annual pilgrimage from their homes in Chicago to visit other family members - like Awful Grandmother and Little Grandfather - in Mexico City. As they drive in three carloads down Route 66 one of the daughters, Lala, tells us about them - or at least some of them. read more

The Annexation of Mexico: From the Aztecs to the Imf, One Reporter's Journey through History by John Ross Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Ross, a social activist, poet and working reporter based in Mexico City, has a lively and irreverent style. It makes his book an enjoyable read, despite the sometimes heavy material. His thesis is that outsiders, and most especially the United States, have never stopped trying to control or annex "this enormously rich, indescribably poor nation" in one way or another for centuries. Usually this was accomplished through plain old land-grabbing. Today the process continues through economic instruments such as indebtedness, NAFTA and the war on drugs. read more

Aztec by Gary Jennings Reviewed by Allan Cogan

I found this novel to be a total winner. In fact, it just kept on getting better and better and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A couple of people described it as "that gory book" when I mentioned I was reading it. Yes, it’s gory, because it describes a society that was rather big on human sacrifice and a people who were rather beastly to neighboring tribes. But they had worthy things going for them, too. They built a wonderful city and produced great artists and created a viable civilization. My hat is off to Gary Jennings. read more

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The story is based on an actual event in Mexican history when, in 1926, then President Calles began a persecution of the Roman Catholic Church by burning churches and killing priests and, in general, creating a Godless country. The reason for the persecution was what the government called the Church's greed and debauchery. The campaign was more successful in some states than in others. Tabasco was the most rabid persecutor and the Governor, Tomas Garrido Canabal, actually drove every priest out of the state. Canabal was determined to show that a well-run society was possible without allowing any place for religion. Churches were destroyed and the stones used to pave roads. To protect the populace he also outlawed alcohol and jazz. The importation of saxophones was banned. One follower was so devoted to the cause he carried a business card which explained that he was the personal enemy of God. In some cases a citizen could be severely penalized for saying "Adios" simply because it referred to God. read more

Yesterday's Train: A Rail Odyssey through Mexican History by Terry Pindell with Lourdes Ramirez Mallis Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Author Pindell and Dr. Lourdes Ramírez Mallis, who served as Pindell's interpreter, collaborator and researcher, set out together on a lengthy train journey covering all of Mexico. I should also add that Terry Pindell has written similar books about train journeys in Canada and the U.S. As they travel, we're treated to dissertations on the various locales as well as a fairly serious coverage of Mexican history and the character of the people. read more

Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes and the Fall of Old Mexico by Hugh Thomas Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This must surely be one of the great adventure stories of all time – how Hernan Cortés and about 500 conquistadores conquered a settled and established civilization in three short years, from 1519 to 1521. Distinguished scholar and historian Hugh Thomas has made good use of recently discovered archival material in both Spain and Mexico to produce a feast of reading for history buffs. Cortés must have been an incredible leader – as well as being a total bastard. read more

Border Crossings by David L. Fleming Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The book is ased on an actual incident in relations between the U.S. and Mexico when, in 1916, Pancho Villa's bandidos, led by Antonio Salazar, raided the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. The border between the two countries in those times was a more tense and seemingly less well-defined place at the beginning of the century. Certainly there was less coming-and-going between the two countries then. read more

Mexico by James Michener Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The good thing about "Mexico" is that Michener has done enormous research in order to write it. read more

South of Yesterday: A True Story by Virginia Downs Miller Reviewed by Allan Cogan

"South of Yesterday" is the story of my mother's life as a bride coming to a strange land. The book flows through the charmed life of an American living in Guadalajara in the early nineteen hundreds, into the violence of the Revolution, escape from and return to a much-beloved Mexico. I related never before publicized events of history." read more

The Underdogs (Los de Abajo): A Novel of the Mexican Revolution by Mariano Azuela Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This novel is described in several places as a classic of modern Hispanic literature and it really is a powerful book. Novelist Mariano Azuela knew what he was writing about, having served as a doctor in Pancho Villa's army and having participated in several key engagements in that conflict. read more
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