In the Shadow of the Giant
The Americanization of Modern Mexico
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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One of the very first Spanish words I learned as a child was pocho. Though my Mexican immigrant parents, Joe and Olga Contreras, started speaking to me almost exclusively in English in the months prior to my entering kindergarten in the Los Angeles suburb of Pico Rivera in the early 1960s, Spanish was always in the air at home, especially when relatives came calling or Mom...
Introduction: The United States of Mexico
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Every modern society has catch phrases that become ingrained in the collective subconscious of its people. Ask any American of my generation to complete the sentence uttered by President John F. Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address that began, “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” and without missing a beat, most will answer “. . . ask what you can do for...
1. A Chicano Comes to the Big Enchilada: Mexico City, 1984–1987
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Octavio Paz was in his late twenties when he won a Guggenheim scholarship to travel to the United States in the 1940s and pursue his studies at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. During his stay in the Golden State, Paz encountered the unique cultural phenomenon known as the pachucos, the flamboyantly dressed Chicano gang...
2. Not Such Distant Neighbors: Mexico in the Era of Vicente Fox
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Twelve years elapsed before I next set foot in Mexico. My career trajectory at Newsweek had taken me to South America, southern Africa, and the Middle East, and during that time I had only casually followed events in Mexico. I had seen the headlines: the 1988 presidential election brazenly stolen by the Mexican government on behalf of the ruling...
3. Looking Northward
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The ambivalence that Mexicans harbor toward the United States is a familiar clich
4. NAFTA: The Double-edged Sword of Free Trade
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When Malcolm Lowry moved to Cuernavaca in 1938 to work on the manuscript of what eventually became his classic novel Under the Volcano, the Hotel Casino de la Selva was the gathering place for foreigners living in the picturesque city south of the Mexican capital. The resort hotel appears in the opening pages of the book, and Lowry is unsparing in his description...
5. The New Breed of Mexican Businessmen
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Emilio Azcárraga Jean doesn’t make much of an impression when he enters a room. I was chatting with his lifelong friend Bernardo Gómez in Azcárraga’s private office at one of Televisa’s Mexico City studio complexes when the boyish-looking scion of the country’s top broadcasting dynasty walked in. Gómez, who heads up the television network’s news...
6. The Modern Mexican News Media
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My return to Mexico in June 2000 after an absence of twelve years was full of eye-opening episodes. Owing to my professional background, perhaps the most palpable revelation of all occurred on the morning I picked up a copy of the newspaper Reforma for the first time. In visual terms, the broadsheet was a far cry from the stodgy, black-and-white dailies I read in...
7. The Mexican Dream
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On Sunday mornings the courtyard of the public library in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende fills up with Americans. The drawing card is a weekly house-and-garden tour that spotlights some of the splendid homes purchased by American expatriates in the historic city center and on the hillsides overlooking San Miguel, and on a typical weekend in the fall of...
8. The Gringo Riviera
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“What’s the difference between Cancún and Miami?” a Mexican tourism official asked me during my first visit to the world famous resort. I shook my head and said I had no idea.“In Cancún, everybody speaks English.”The pithy truth of that joke stuck with me throughout the four days I spent in Cancún in March 2005. On the last night of my stay, I hailed a taxi in...
9. The Umbilical Cord of Remittances
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The rather impertinent question came at the tail end of Felipe Calderón’s first joint press conference with George W. Bush as president of Mexico, in March 2007. “President Calderón, it’s been reported you have relatives working in the United States,” began Stephen Dinan, the White House correspondent of the conservative newspaper Washington Times. “Do they...
10. The Southernmost City in Texas: Monterrey, Nuevo Le
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It hits you almost as soon as you leave the glittering terminal of Monterrey’s international airport. First come the hotel signs with names so familiar to the American business traveler: Hampton Inn, The Courtyard, Best Western, Fairfield Inn. As you drive around Monterrey, the same restaurant and store logos that line American interstate highways dot the...
11. Made-in-the-U.S.A. Diseases
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The descent of Pedro Rocher into the sordid world of crack cocaine addiction is a sad but familiar tale for millions of American families. The son of a Mexico City secretary began drinking alcohol at the age of fourteen and smoked marijuana for the first time a year later. It wasn’t long before Rocher started snorting powder cocaine, in part because he wanted to set...
12. The Evangelical Challenge
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In an era when the once omnipotent PRI finds itself outnumbered by two parties in the national congress and its candidate finished a distant third in the country’s most recent presidential balloting, the central state of Hidalgo lives on as a steadfast bastion of Mexico’s erstwhile ruling party. The state’s voters elected the PRI’s gubernatorial candidate in 1999, only a...
Conclusion: An Invaded Country
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Few Mexican cities can boast a central plaza matching the beauty and elegance of Puebla’s main square. The zócalo is dominated by the city’s seventeenth-century cathedral and its 225-feet-high towers, the tallest of any church in the republic. On the opposite side of the plaza sits the Municipal Palace, an imposing, belle époque edifice that stands as...
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I like to think of the acknowledgments section of a book as a vehicle to express the author’s gratitude to those who made vital contributions to the researching and writing of the work and also tell readers a little bit about its genesis. In that spirit, I wish to thank the New York literary agent Carol Mann for selling Rutgers University Press on the idea of publishing...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009