Books about Mexico

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When Hernán Cortés met the Mayans, Aztecs and other cultures of the gulf coast of Mexico in 1519, it was the first extended contact between the peoples of continental America and Europe.

The Spanish found cities larger and better run than any in Europe, and pyramids greater than Egypt’s. The Aztecs believed time was running down and they lived in the final age of the world. Many Spaniards believed Christ’s millennium was approaching, and God’s revelation of Americas had opened the final act: the conversion of the remote races of the earth.

After the Day of Judgement God’s experiment with man was over. The laboratory, the physical world, would be destroyed. Both cultures were acting out the last days.

Halfway through researching this book John Harrison had a scan which told him he would not live to write it; he was seeing out his own days.

The Aztec people were concerned with the transitory nature of worldly things; some of their rulers were revered as much for their philosophical poetry as their conquests. John Harrison follows Cortés’s route along the Mexican coast and across country to modern Mexico City, home of the Aztecs.

A journey within journeys to the end of time, the book becomes a meditation on time, on mortality and self, from a modern master of travel writing.

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By John Harrison
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Aztec is the extraordinary story of the last and greatest native civilization of North America.

Told in the words of one of the most robust and memorable characters in modern fiction, Mixtli-Dark Cloud, Aztec reveals the very depths of Aztec civilization from the peak and feather-banner splendor of the Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan to the arrival of Hernán Cortes and his conquistadores, and their destruction of the Aztec empire.

The story of Mixtli is the story of the Aztecs themselves—a compelling, epic tale of heroic dignity and a colossal civilization’s rise and fall.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Gary Jennings
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Book of Clouds is a haunting, masterfully wrought debut novel about a young woman adrift in Berlin, where a string of fateful encounters leads to romance, violence, and revelation. Having escaped her overbearing family a continent away, Tatiana settles in Berlin and cultivates solitude while distancing herself from the city’s past.

Yet the phantoms of Berlin—seeping in through the floorboards of her apartment, lingering in the abandoned subterranea—are more alive to her than the people she passes on her daily walks. When she takes a job transcribing notes for the reclusive historian Doktor Weiss, her life in Berlin becomes more complex—and more perilous.

Through Weiss, she meets Jonas, a meteorologist who, as a child in the GDR, took solace in the sky’s constant shape-shifting, an antidote to his grim and unyielding reality. As their three paths intersect and merge, the contours of all their worlds change, culminating in an act of violence that will leave none of them untouched.

Unfolding with the strange, charged logic of a dream, Book of Clouds is a profound portrait of a city forever in flux, and of the myths we cling to in order to give shape to our lives.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Chloe Aridjis
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“Don’t judge me until you’ve found out what life in Mexico City was really like back then.”

We all face consequential choices that will define our lives.

“My entire family was stuck for generations in that isolated village where I was born. A three hour bus trip up the coast to Veracruz was a risky thought. Not for me. When you’re fourteen, know you are a dreamer and become a damned good schemer, you can’t stay and so you start planning for the day.”

It was in 1941 that Arturo Fuentes followed the beat to Mexico City.

“There was so much going on.”

Bottles of rum in smoke filled bars, sultry women and impassioned conversation, chic restaurants, music, and bright show lights calling. Murder and corruption.

“When a man is moving up he gets to meet all kinds of people in that seductive city. Powerful men who might alter your business prospects or a real dish who will change your life. Without women, life is without drama.”

What can be said of life without love?

“Arturo has goodness in his heart. It is something a girl like me could tell the minute I saw him. He had other girls but Arturo believed in me and he was so easy to love. Exceptional as he was, he could not sense the warning signs a woman does. That pack of important politicos sucked him in! You can’t play their games and then expect to walk away.”

In the dark undercity those consequential choices are not always ours to make?

“It was not of my creation that in a corrupt city there is such pressure on a guy with the guts to chase success. Each day the reasons for quitting got bigger and the ways out got smaller. I had to do what I had to do even if it cost my life. Either that or lose my soul.”

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By D. Grant Fitter
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A political, social, cultural and economic study of Mexico by a journalist who spent six years as the New York Times bureau chief in Mexico City. Although published in 1984, it remains one of the best books ever written for anyone interested in Mexico, its people and its politics.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Alan Riding
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Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines, and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia.

But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants, and the odd corrupt politician or two.

Long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child’s wish.

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 Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Juan Pablo Villalobos
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The world has watched stunned at the bloodshed in Mexico. Thirty thousand murdered since 2006; police chiefs shot within hours of taking office; mass graves comparable to those of civil wars; car bombs shattering storefronts; headless corpses heaped in town squares. And it is all because a few Americans are getting high.

Or is it? The United States throws Black Hawk helicopters and drug agents at the problem. But in secret, Washington is confused and divided about what to do. Who are these mysterious figures tearing Mexico apart? they wonder. What is El Narco?

El Narco draws the first definitive portrait of Mexico’s drug cartels and how they have radically transformed in the last decade. El Narco is not a gang; it is a movement and an industry drawing in hundreds of thousands from bullet-ridden barrios to marijuana-growing mountains. And it has created paramilitary death squads with tens of thousands of men-at-arms from Guatemala to the Texas border.

Journalist Ioan Grillo has spent a decade in Mexico reporting on the drug wars from the front lines. This piercing book joins testimonies from inside the cartels with firsthand dispatches and unsparing analysis.

The devastation may be south of the Rio Grande, El Narco shows, but America is knee-deep in this conflict.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Ioan Grillo
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Electric Literature 25 Best Novels of 2014

Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2014

“An extraordinary new literary talent.”—The Daily Telegraph

“In part a portrait of the artist as a young woman, this deceptively modest-seeming, astonishingly inventive novel creates an extraordinary intimacy, a sensibility so alive it quietly takes over all your senses, quivering through your nerve endings, opening your eyes and heart. Youth, from unruly student years to early motherhood and a loving marriage—and then, in the book’s second half, wilder and something else altogether, the fearless, half-mad imagination of youth, I might as well call it—has rarely been so freshly, charmingly, and unforgettably portrayed. Valeria Luiselli is a masterful, entirely original writer.”—Francisco Goldman

In Mexico City, a young mother is writing a novel of her days as a translator living in New York. In Harlem, a translator is desperate to publish the works of Gilberto Owen, an obscure Mexican poet. And in Philadelphia, Gilberto Owen recalls his friendship with Lorca, and the young woman he saw in the windows of passing trains. Valeria Luiselli’s debut signals the arrival of a major international writer and an unexpected and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.

“Luiselli’s haunting debut novel, about a young mother living in Mexico City who writes a novel looking back on her time spent working as a translator of obscure works at a small independent press in Harlem, erodes the concrete borders of everyday life with a beautiful, melancholy contemplation of disappearance. . . . Luiselli plays with the idea of time and identity with grace and intuition.” —Publishers Weekly

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 Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Valeria Luiselli
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Kidnapped in Mexico by a notorious air pirate, Dancy likes the wild life of the cartel gunmen so much that she takes over the gang and starts pulling robberies. The men who would possess her keep ending up dead.

Can Doc find the beautiful heiress and bring her out alive? Or will he also fall for her?

This book has been called “Romancing The Stone Noir:” two attractive people fleeing drug bandidos through the jungle… but with a much more “adult” feel or both relationships and violence.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Linton Robinson
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In a ranch south of Texas, the man known as The Executioner dumps five hundred body parts in metal barrels. In Brazil’s biggest city, a mysterious prisoner orders hit-men to gun down forty-one police officers and prison guards in two days. In southern Mexico, a meth maker is venerated as a saint while enforcing Old Testament justice on his enemies.

A new kind of criminal kingpin has arisen: part CEO, part terrorist, and part rock star, unleashing guerrilla attacks, strong-arming governments, and taking over much of the world’s trade in narcotics, guns, and humans. What they do affects you now–from the gas in your car, to the gold in your jewelry, to the tens of thousands of Latin Americans calling for refugee status in the U.S.

Gangster Warlords is the first definitive account of the crime wars now wracking Central and South America and the Caribbean, regions largely abandoned by the U.S. after the Cold War. Author of the critically acclaimed El Narco, Ioan Grillo has covered Latin America since 2001 and gained access to every level of the cartel chain of command in what he calls the new battlefields of the Americas.

Moving between militia-controlled ghettos and the halls of top policy-makers, Grillo provides a disturbing new understanding of a war that has spiraled out of control–one that people across the political spectrum need to confront now.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Ioan Grillo
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Mexico is undergoing economic and political changes that lie like landmines ready to explode beneath Uncle Sam’s footsteps.

By the close of the first decade of the twenty-first century Mexico-United States relations had begun to shred. The leaders of the two countries shared a master-servant façade of cooperation and commitment but faced eroding control of the economy, the flourishing drug trade and human rights issues.

Despite the propaganda to the contrary every year millions of Mexicans sank into poverty, their lands expropriated and the prices of basic necessities soaring. ICE agents swept through factories, farms and construction sites from Maine to California herding handcuffed “illegals” into detention facilities.

Both countries ignored human rights violations and corruption in order to maintain control over Mexico’s pro-neoliberal administration. Violence associated with the “War on Drugs” took over 70,000 lives without materially diminishing the U.S. market for cocaine, marijuana and designer drugs. Brutal repression of citizen protest provoked ongoing international criticism and alienated millions of Mexican citizens.

The country’s dependence on oil exports to finance social programs pressured the state-controlled monopoly to cut corners, creating pipeline leaks and other environmental disasters.

Hidden Dangers pinpoints five major “landmines” that seriously threaten both countries’ social and political structures. It includes first-hand observations of devaluations, political repressions and border conflicts and commentaries and analyses from officials and academics on both sides of the frontier.

The five principal sections investigate migration and its effects on both Mexico and the United States, the drug trade’s influence on the economies and politics of both countries, popular uprisings that challenge U.S. influence and neo-liberal politics, how Mexico’s deeply rooted “politics of corruption” binds the entrepreneurial and banking systems to government processes and environmental disasters, both real and in the making, created by the oil, lumber and cattle industries, toxic waste, floods and poisoned waterways.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Robert Joe Stout
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For those who are thinking to work or retire in Mexico, the expatriate colonies in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala are well known.

For many Americans and Canadians coming south of the border to simply live or start a business abroad, the ability to tread a well-worn path is reassuring. Other folks who know the ropes are willing to help you get settled.

But what if you’re looking for an experience of Mexico undiluted by the presence of so many foreigners? This book reveals the stories of people who have moved to Mexico to settle in places that have only small or hardly any support communities; in one case a place that is nearly a ghost town.

Is this a different kind of expat? Does it require more independence of mind or only better Spanish? Find out here in their own words as you follow these conversations around the less well-traveled roads of Mexico off the beaten path.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By John Scherber
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Award-winning author explores the fascinating history of the Lake Chapala region in Mexico, now one of the most popular retirement area for Americans and Canadians.

A unique collection of extracts from more than 50 original sources dating back to the 16th century is enhanced by insightful and entertaining commentary.

Poets, friars, travelers, exiles and scientists overcome bandits and natural disasters to offer captivating tales of courage, greed, delight, unexpected triumphs and much, much more.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Tony Burton
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Born in Lancashire as the wealthy heiress to her British father’s textiles empire, Leonora Carrington was destined to live the kind of life only known by the moneyed classes. But even from a young age she rebelled against the strict rules of her social class, against her parents and against the hegemony of religion and conservative thought, and broke free to artistic and personal freedom.

Today Carrington is recognised as the key female Surrealist painter, and Poniatowska’s fiction charms this exceptional character back to life more truthfully than any biography could. For a time Max Ernst’s lover in Paris, Carrington rubbed elbows with Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso.

When Ernst fled Paris at the outbreak of the Second World War, Carrington had a breakdown and was locked away in a Spanish asylum before escaping to Mexico, where she would work on the paintings which made her name.

In the hands of legendary Mexican novelist Elena Poniatowska, Carrington’s life becomes a whirlwind tribute to creative struggle and artistic revolution.

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By Elena Poniatowska
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Originally published in 1990, Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate) won Laura Esquivel international acclaim.

The film based on the book, with a screenplay by Laura Esquivel, swept the Ariel awards of the Mexican Academy of Motion Pictures, winning eleven in all, and went on to become the largest grossing foreign film ever released in the United States.

In 1994 Like Water for Chocolate won the prestigious ABBY award, which is given annually by the American Booksellers Association.

The book has been translated into thirty languages and there are over three million copies in print worldwide. Ms. Esquivel lives in Mexico.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Laura Esquivel
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Live Better South of the Border in Mexico is as necessary for the prospective transplant to Mexico as an airline ticket, a passport, or a roadmap. And the author’s entertaining and frank assessments will give readers the confidence to choose to move or not to move.

In addition to expert evaluations of gringo havens such as San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, Cuernavaca, and Baja, you’ll find information on how to work in Mexico, how to find a place to live, realistic costs for living in paradise, banking and owning property in Mexico, medical care, telephone and Internet access, and more!

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Mexico Mike Nelson
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Thinking about living in Mexico?

Perhaps you’ve heard it’s cheaper, warmer, and the culture is rich.  Places like San Miguel de Allende have support communities of expatriates, (about 8,000) to help you settle in.

But this is a big change!

Thinking about it can keep you awake nights. You ask yourself:

• How do other people make this work?

• How do I avoid making a mistake?

• What are the real costs of living there?

• How do I arrange for healthcare and an English-speaking physician?

• If I buy a house, what am I really getting?

• How do I transfer and handle my money intelligently and safely?

• Is the U.S. media telling the truth about crime in Mexico?

What if you were prepared? What if you knew the answers to these questions and many others before you decided to try it?

This book provides answers to the vital questions you must ask to make a move like this successfully. Plus, it offers a list of resources for further research.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By John Scherber
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Lonely Planet Mexico is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the Maya ruins and superb beaches of Tulum, savour regional specialities amid the colonial charms of Merida or party hard at the dazzling resort of Puerto Vallarta; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Mexico and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet’s Mexico Travel Guide:

  • Color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips – hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets – eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience – history, ancient civilizations, economy, education, the drugs war, religion, sports, architecture, sculpture, painting, music, cinema, literature, folk art, food and drink, landscape, wildlife, environment
  • Over 120 maps
  • Covers Mexico City, Veracruz, Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas, Oaxaca, central Pacific coast, central highlands, baja California, Copper Canyon and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Mexico, our most comprehensive guide to Mexico, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

  • Looking for a guide focused on Cancun Cozumel & the Yucatan? Check out Lonely Planet’s Cancun Cozumel & the Yucatan guide for a comprehensive look at all these areas have to offer.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Lonely Planet
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Malintzin was the indigenous woman who translated for Hernando Cortés in his dealings with the Aztec emperor Moctezuma in the days of 1519 to 1521.

“Malintzin,” at least, was what the Indians called her. The Spanish called her doña Marina, and she has become known to posterity as La Malinche. As Malinche, she has long been regarded as a traitor to her people, a dangerously sexy, scheming woman who gave Cortés whatever he wanted out of her own self-interest.

The life of the real woman, however, was much more complicated. She was sold into slavery as a child, and eventually given away to the Spanish as a concubine and cook. If she managed to make something more out of her life — and she did — it is difficult to say at what point she did wrong.

In getting to know the trials and intricacies with which Malintzin’s life was laced, we gain new respect for her steely courage, as well as for the bravery and quick thinking demonstrated by many other Native Americans in the earliest period of contact with Europeans.

In this study of Malintzin’s life, Camilla Townsend rejects all the previous myths and tries to restore dignity to the profoundly human men and women who lived and died in those days.

Drawing on Spanish and Aztec language sources, she breathes new life into an old tale, and offers insights into the major issues of conquest and colonization, including technology and violence, resistance and accommodation, gender and power.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Camilla Townsend
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Lives intertwine at the Californa/Mexico border. Smugglers, immigrants, cops, lawyers, journalists, politicians, predators… and the various residents of barrios on both sides, a community with an imaginary line drawn across its heart.

Drawn from the scripts for the television show, this first book in its series focuses on several lives: Ado sings ballads on buses until his son is stricken down, Riles’ sorry appetites suddenly come together for his stories and his ill-gotten gains, Pepito crossed all the water between Honduras and California, and now it’s all fallen apart, Pucho goes from fighting pits to the border beach to a home in the smuggler roost, La Flaca married out of the hills at twelve, and hit the streets before finding her true calling.

This is border life unvarnished and undramatized… but human drama of its essence.

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Reviews courtesy Goodreads
By Linton Robinson
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