There are dozens of academic-style books written by erudite professors about Mexican society. This ain't one of them. Modern Mexico ... is written in the style of the Mexican people. I don't explain what they are saying from Mt. Orizaba (the Mexican Mt. Olympus). I encourage the people of Mexico tell you who they are. The Mexican people wrote this book. I was only the conduit. I tried to keep myself out of the stories. These are their stories about what it is like to be a Mexican today. The stories will surprise you and open your eyes.
While I am no Studs Terkel, I do pay homage to this great author for his inspiration to Modern Mexico Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans. He suggested that one not be a writer, but a listener. I tried to do this when writing this social history of modern Mexican people. Like Studs, people open up to me, probably for the same reason. I am not threatening or polished. I am just a guy. Mexican people talked to me like I was a friend, not some gringo with a tape recorder. Middle-class Mexican people were happy to dispel stereotypes many Americans have. They talk about raising their families, taking care of their elders and children today. Although Modern Mexico Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans is published by a University Press, I am no academic and this is no tome. I intrude very little, I am just the storyteller.
In one of Studs Terkel's stories about a retired farm worker in California, he quoted a phrase that was repeated by interviewees in my book: la esperanza muere la ultimo (hope is the last to die). This is a book of hope and of reality. This is what Mexico is all about.
(Although this book has little to do with migrant labor, an aside about the author might be appropriate. I grew up picking citrus on the family farm near Lopezville, TX. My Latino neighbors left year after year to follow the crops. I tried being a "real" migrant farm worker so I could understand people better (and be a better writer, I thought grandiosely). I was "real" for one season, following the apple crop from WA to NY. It was hard work and I had the easiest job - picking apples. I was lucky, I had a choice. I respect anyone who works the fields).
Modern Mexico Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans is not about immigration (though the interviewees had some surprising takes on that subject and some of them had been mojados). It is not about drug lords or their minions. It is not about the very rich or the very poor. It is about the middle-class mostly, but some people from all classes are interviewed.
It is not about politicians (though there is one who spoke frankly - off the record). In short, Modern Mexico Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans is about people just like you and me, living in a different country. Their points of view and the way they live life are different, of course, but - like you - go to work, raise families, worry about the future and take care of their elderly parents. These are the people whose stories are never told.
There are 30 average or middle-class Mexicans talking about their lives, dreams, politics, views of the United States and what they think of the stereotypes that so many Americans have of the Mexican people.
There is not a cactus, vaquero sombrero or Pancho Villa caricature in Modern Mexico Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans. This is like having a Mexican person talking one-on-one with you telling you the unvarnished truth about their lives Each person interviewed tells you what he or she thinks about families, aging and the elderly, safety, children, education, opportunities for the future and how the past has shaped the present in Mexico.
But, hey, don't take my word for it. Here is what some reviewers who know Mexico had to say about
Ambassador of Mexico, Arturo Sarukhan: … A book like yours, which gives voice to modern Mexicans and portrays contemporary Mexico in ways that perhaps many Americans fail to see is so important. Mutual understanding is a goal better served with everyone’s involvement. … Books like yours are of great value to foster better and deeper understanding between Mexican and U.S. contemporary societies.
James Tipton, MexConnect reviewer, author of numerous books and articles about Mexico and expat in Ajijic - "Mexico" Mike Nelson writes a working-man prose, sturdy, usually direct, often repetitive, sometimes rambling… but usually interesting. I like his books and have found them useful, and I particularly like the "human touch" that is one of Mike's trademarks. Mike is what my mother would have called "a good soul."
Joe Frazier, Associated Press (ret.) - For way too long the United States and Mexico have been on a ``we-they'' footing. Here is a book that aims to alter that misconnect. Most norteamericanos have notions of who the Mexicans are and what they think of them. But what do Mexicans think of Mexicans? How do they see themselves? I lived there for 10 years as a correspondent with The Associated Press (plus five more years in Central America in the same job) ) and gathered a sense of understandable irritation that their northern neighbors see Mexico only through Gringo eyes. And they're not wrong. "Mexico" Mike's book leaves us with the notion that we share more than just a border.
Carol Wheeler, Editor in Chief, www.mexconnect.com - While no culture is perfect, I've kept a home in Mexico since 1978 and have found the Mexican people to be gracious, charming and educated, no matter their social strata. As an anthropologist, I find Mexico Mike's book to be fair and insightful as he continues to build bridges of understanding between the peoples I love.
Travis Whitehead, The Brownsville Herald, and author of Michoácan - Land of the Artisan, www.travelswithtravis.blogspot.com. - Modern Mexico introduces the reading public in the United States to the ideas and issues confronting today's Mejicanos. I feel like I'm getting to know a whole other side of Mexico.
Leon C. Metz, Author of Border, The U.S. – Mexico Line - “Mexico” Mike Nelson’s prose is clear and informative. It flows easily. Mike is a reputable fascinating storyteller. He is the kind of writer I seek out.”
Texas writer Susana Hayward was a correspondent in Mexico for The Associated Press, the San Antonio Express-News and Knight Ridder newspapers - "Mexico" Mike's love of Mexico has taken him where few have dared to venture south of the border. Now, his passionate wanderlust gives readers an inside look at real Mexicans, shedding stereotypes many Americans hold about their 'distant' neighbors and giving readers a rare inside look."
Now go forth and buy a copy! Buy two!