History and Archaeology
Calderón de la Barca, Fanny. Life in Mexico, with New Material from the Author’s Journals. New York: Doubleday, 1966. Edited by H. T. and M. H. Fisher. An update of the brilliant, humorous, and celebrated original 1913 book by the Scottish wife of the Spanish ambassador to Mexico.
Casasola, Gustavo. Seis Siglos de Historia Gráfica de Mexico (Six Centuries of Mexican Graphic History). Mexico City: Editorial Gustavo Casasola, 1978. Six fascinating volumes of Mexican history in pictures, from 1325 to the 1970s.
Collis, Maurice. Cortés and Montezuma. New York: New Directions Publishing Corp., 1999. A reprint of a 1954 classic piece of well-researched storytelling. Collis traces Cortés’s conquest of Mexico through the defeat of his chief opponent, Aztec emperor Montezuma. He uses contemporary eyewitnesses—notably Bernal Díaz de Castillo—to revivify one of history’s greatest dramas.
Cortés, Hernán. Letters from Mexico. Translated by Anthony Pagden. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. Cortés’s five long letters to his king, in which he describes contemporary Mexico in fascinating detail, including, notably, the remarkably sophisticated life of the Aztecs at the time of the conquest.
Davies, Nigel. Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico. London: Penguin Books, 1990. An authoritative history of the foundations of Mexican civilization. Clearly traces the evolution of Mexico’s five successive worlds—Olmec, Teotihuacán, Toltec, Aztec, and finally Spanish—that set the stage for present- day Mexico.
Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico. Translated by Albert Idell. London: Routledge (of Taylor and Francis Group), 2005. A soldier’s still-fresh tale of the conquest from the Spanish viewpoint.
Garfias, Luis. The Mexican Revolution. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985. A concise Mexican version of the 1910–17 Mexican revolution, the crucible of present-day Mexico.
Gugliotta, Bobette. Women of Mexico. Encino, CA: Floricanto Press, 1989. Lively legends, tales, and biographies of remarkable Mexican women, from Zapotec princesses to Independence heroines.
León-Portilla, Miguel. The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. New York: Beacon Press, 1992. Provides an interesting contrast to Díaz del Castillo’s account.
Meyer, Michael, and William Sherman. The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. An insightful 700-plus-page college textbook in paperback. A bargain, especially if you can get it used.
Novas, Himlice. Everything You Need to Know About Latino History. New York: Plume Books (Penguin Group), 1994. Chicanos, Latin rhythm, La Raza, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and much more, interpreted from an authoritative Latino point of view.
Reed, John. Insurgent Mexico. New York: International Publisher’s Co., 1994. Re-publication of 1914 original. Fast-moving, but not unbiased, description of the 1910 Mexican revolution by the journalist famed for his reporting of the subsequent 1917 Russian revolution. Reed, memorialized by the Soviets, was resurrected in the 1981 film biography Reds.
Ridley, Jasper. Maximilian and Juárez. New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1999. This authoritative historical biography breathes new life into one of Mexico’s great ironic tragedies, a drama that pitted the native Zapotec “Lincoln of Mexico” against the dreamy, idealistic Archduke Maximilian of Austria-Hungary. Despite their common liberal ideas, they were drawn into a bloody no-quarter struggle that set the Old World against the New, ending in Maximilian’s execution and the subsequent insanity of his wife, Carlota. The United States emerged as a power to be reckoned with in world affairs.
Ruíz, Ramon Eduardo. Triumphs and Tragedy: A History of the Mexican People. New York: W. W. Norton, Inc., 1992. A pithy, anecdote-filled history of Mexico from an authoritative Mexican-American perspective.
Simpson, Lesley Bird. Many Mexicos. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1960. A much-reprinted, fascinating broad-brush version of Mexican history.
Townsend, Richard, et al. Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998. This magnificent coffee-table volume, with lovely photos and authoritative text, reveals the little-known culture being uncovered at Guachimontones and other sites, notably the “bottle tombs,” in the Tequila valley west of Guadalajara. Dozens of fine images illuminate a high culture of sculptural and ceramic art, depicting everything from warriors, ball players, and acrobats, to loving couples, animals, and sacred rituals.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition