Much about Mexico that has recently come to the world's attention is actually old: Modernization, reform, social turmoil, one-party rule, and the struggle to break free from an oppressive past are all themes that have been carried out for generations.
Mexico's present makes no sense without Mexico's past. There have always been "many Mexicos," the Mexico of varied terrain, the Mexico of the Amerindian heritage, of the Spanish Conquest, of the Revolution, and of the era when elections and bankers rule. These are all part of modern Mexico, creating not only colorful diversity and vast historic pageantry but also great confusion.
However, through all this diversity and change runs a powerful historic continuity. Mexico has always been a potentially explosive society that, despite upheavals, rests on an inherently stable base. It has always been easier for outsiders to see the color and cruelty, the violent potential, and the suffering of the people than to understand this essential continuity.
This book, written for English-speaking readers, is an attempt both to bring Mexican history to life and to make it intelligible to North Americans. The people of the United States like to believe that political will and good intentions can solve most human dilemmas. They often find it hard to understand Mexicans, who know better. And Mexicans are baffled by people who lack a timeless, tragic view of life. Yet both peoples have something to learn from each other.
Most Mexicans are aware, North Americans less so, that fate has placed both nations upon the same continent, interacting, intermingling, coming constantly closer while remaining strangers divided by their pasts. Yet both heritages are vital parts of the American whole.
And together they will forge its future.
T. R. Fehrenbach
San Antonio, Texas