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Mexico: What Everyone Needs to Know Paperback – 24 Nov 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (24 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199773874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199773879
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 1.8 x 13.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"A timely, valuable asset for understanding an important, emerging nation." - Booklist

About the Author

Roderic Ai Camp is Philip M. McKenna Professor of the Pacific Rim at Claremont McKenna College and serves on the Advisory Board of the Mexican Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in teh Smithsonian Institution. His books include Politics in Mexico and The Metamorphosis of Leadership in a Democratic Mexico.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author without patronising the reader has successfully brought together a vast amount of historical, sociological , economical and political information relating to this country in a pithy Q & A format which should be of great interest to the traveller with an inquiring mind.
For instance there are great insights into the present problem of drug violence/gang warfare and its origins.There is a good analysis of the modern economical development of Mexico and its relationship with its big neighbour.
The author covers as well the history of the Spanish colonisation and its socio political legacy. The Mexican Revolution and the conflict between liberals and conservatives is given serious treatment and most importantly the evolution of modern political structures after 1920 is well covered as well as the recent political developments.
It is partly journalistic account and partly historical essay and economic analysis.I found it an enlightening easy read not particularly taxing despite its obvious scholarship.A great synopsis highly recommended for the intelligent traveller and a comprehensive introduction for any student of Mexican society.
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By B. Koo on 26 Feb. 2015
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Informative, interesting, AND engaging.
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By sue wright on 21 Dec. 2014
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By susan randell on 7 July 2014
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A terrific primer for those interested in learning about the past, present and future of Mexico. 1 Jan. 2012
By Paul Tognetti - Published on
Format: Paperback
I hate to admit it but despite the fact that I consider myself to be pretty well-read my knowledge of our neighbor to the south largely consisted of reading a few pages in my high school history and geography texts back in the 1960's. Frankly, the subject of Mexico simply never interested me all that much. Having said that it has become increasingly apparent to me that what goes on in Mexico exerts a major influence on the economic well-being and quality of life of millions of my fellow Americans. As such I decided it was high time to get myself up to speed. In recent years Oxford Univeristy Press has produced a series of primers on a vast array of subjects. The most recent offering in the series is "Mexico: What Everyone Needs To Know". Author Roderic Ai Camp has written a number of books on Mexico and as it turns out this book is the perfect vehicle to introduce me to the history, geography, culture and politics of this vast and highly complex nation.

In "Mexico: What Everyone Needs to Know" Roderic Ai Camp presents a brief history of how Mexico was colonized by Spain in 1521 and became a part of what would eventually come to be known as New Spain. For reasons that quickly become apparent Mexico's political system would be dominated by strong individual rulers for the next 450 years. This was true even after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Just three decades later the fledgling nation of Mexico would lose 55% of it's territory to the United States in the Mexican-American War. Because a large percentage of Mexicans firmly believe that this land was stolen from them this is a conflict that is still having reverberations in U.S.-Mexicans relations to this day.

Porfirio Diaz served as President of Mexico continously from 1876 to 1911. Diaz ruled with an iron fist and in spite of the fact that he did improve economic conditions in his country he did so at the expense of human rights. After ruling for more than 30 years the Mexican people became disenchanted with their leader and the result was the Mexican Revolution. Once again, Roderic Ai Camp offers up a detailed history of this conflict in his book. Following the bloody ten year revolution Mexican politics would be dominated by a single politcal party for more than 70 years. Learn about the history of the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI and discover the circumstances that finally brought their long-standing reign to an end.

Throughout the pages of "Mexico: What Everyone Needs To Know" you will learn about the important people and events of this increasingly important nation. Find out why the government decided to nationalize the petroleum industry back in 1939 and why a similar decision was made to nationalize the banks in 1982. You will also learn all about the indigenous peoples of Mexico who reside to a large extent in the southern reaches of the nation. Uncover the reasons why these folks were so vehemently opposed to treaties like NAFTA and GATT and took to the streets to oppose them. And unfortunately no portrait of Mexico would be complete without a look at the influence drug cartels have played in this country in recent years. Very scary stuff indeed! Finally, discover the significant role the Catholic Church has played throughout the history of Mexico.

I must tell you that I came away from "Mexico: What Everyone Needs To Know" feeling pretty darn good about what I had learned. Mission accomplished! Just yesterday there was an article in the paper about the upcoming elections in Mexico. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I had some understanding of what it is all about. Roderic Ai Camp has given us a scholarly and highly readable book here. If you are at all interested in the thorny economic and immigration issues that threaten the precarious relationship between the United States and Mexico then reading "Mexico: What Everyone Needs To Know" will definitely get you up to speed. Very highly recommended!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Poorly organized, not well edited, and too focused on political process 18 Dec. 2012
By Jeff - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a professional starting a new job in Mexico in a few weeks. I bought this book in hopes that it would help me understand the basics about Mexico -- or at least, what I should look for to learn the basics.

Frankly, I was disappointed.

The book does not follow a clear chronology: It begins in the modern era with a brief discussion of crime and drug violence, then rewinds to the colonial period and bounces around the timeline as it works its way primarily through the 20th century. Oh, speaking of timelines, for a book that talks so much history, I wasn't impressed that the sole chronology provided is a list of presidential administrations.

The text is structured around a number of questions. Maybe if I knew more about Mexico going in to this book, these questions would have been on my mind. Maybe. Here's one I don't think I would have wondered about: "Could the International Boundary and Water Commission serve as an institutional model for other issues with the United States?" As a whole, the questions in a given section of the book are inter-related, but if (as I did) you read the book from cover to cover (instead of just looking up the answer to the question you wanted to ask), the answers begin to get redundant. Likewise, after having read references to the Institutional Revolutionary Party for the past hundred pages, it is annoying to have the entire acronym spelled out for me the first time it is introduced in each section.

My biggest gripe with the structure is that, while related subjects are grouped together, there seems to have been absolutely no effort to make the prose flow between questions. In other words, he doesn't set the next question up, or give me -- an admitted layman -- a reason to ask that question.

OK, so long story short, I didn't like the format. But hey, maybe it will work for you.

What I really didn't like though, was the author's obsessive focus on the political process and democracy in Mexico. Search the book, and democracy is mentioned 100 times, in about 170 pages of text. Don't get me wrong: if this were a book on Mexico's political model, it would have been fine. But that's not what I was looking for. The majority of this book is dedicated to accounts of the competitions between various political factions throughout the 20th century, descriptions of elections and appointments, and how Mexico's form of government came into being. Pardon me for saying so, but that's not "What Everyone Needs to Know" about Mexico.

Some things mentioned in the book that I thought could have used a lot more detail:

*The drug war. Who's who? Where is it happening? What kinds of drugs are we talking about, and how does Mexico fit into a system that must include countries like Colombia as well? What do you mean by repeated vague references to human rights abuses by the armed forces?

*Indigenous peoples. The book mentions them repeatedly, gives a few statistics, and mentions that they are discriminated against. Honestly, having read this book, I know absolutely nothing about them, and I'd like to know more -- seems like that's an important undercurrent in Mexican society that was not really addressed.

*Migration. What drives people to migrate to the US, and how do they do it? How has the migrant experience of the US affected Mexican perceptions of Americans? Does Mexico receive migrants from other countries? Where? Why? How? Given what a huge issue Mexican immigration is in the US -- and yes, this book is extremely US-centric -- I'm shocked by how little I learned from reading this book.

*Modern Mexican society. What do people do!? What industries are big in Mexico? Where do Mexicans travel? Is there a rural-urban divide? The book clearly indicates that there is a rich-poor divide, but doesn't explain at all how that plays out.

I suppose I could go on, but I won't. Instead, I'll pick up another book on Mexico, because I did not find this one very useful at all.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A very good job of presenting Mexico and what makes it tick 13 Nov. 2012
By Kurt A. Johnson - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this book, a professor and author of books about Mexico gives the American reader an introduction to Mexico. Organized in a Question-and-Answer format, the book has three sections, Major Issues Facing Mexico Today, Historical Legacies, and Mexico's Present and Future.

Overall, I thought that the author did a very good job of presenting Mexico and what makes it tick. I especially liked the section on Mexican history, though I was surprised to see that the whole issue of Mexico's independence from Spain was not discussed. Perhaps it had no "legacy" for modern Mexico? I don't know.

But, his discussions on Mexico's political and economic situation are quite interesting and very informative. If you want to understand modern Mexico and how it got to be the nation that it is, then I would recommend that you read this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
academic bypasses editor 7 Nov. 2012
By T. Stilwell - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author clearly knows his subject but he frustrates the user because he writes as if having a conversation while standing in line at Starbucks rather than seriously attempting to make cohesive points using clear arguments with well defined thoughts. This makes the book unnecessarily difficult to read. To make sense of facts spews at random, the reader must repeatedly jump between pages in different chapters.

The book has a lot to say about the drug trade and organized crime but statistics are directly quoted from sources that are not explained even when they appear to contradict or overlap each other. For example: "Illustrative of the increased violence is the fact that from 2004 to the end of 2010, twenty-seven mayors have been murdered--fourteen of them in 2010 alone." The reader is left to ponder how Mexicans feel about democracy if they are regularly bumping off elected officials until learning much later that the drug trade is quite lucrative and profits are used to bribe local politicians who may later ask for an increase in bribes or attempt to switch alliances between drug cartels resulting in their untimely deaths. Similarly, exactly which Mexican states are involved in the drug trade seems to be quote dependent. It is odd that such strong economic sources are left out of the detailed state by state descriptions of the economy at the Museo Interactivo de Economía in Ciudad de Mexico. Much later the reader learns that police and military are also in on the take to a very large degree so basic assumptions need to be reset. For example, does the average Mexican have many economic opportunities available outside the drug trade such that family members need not become involved and can look askance at those involved and demand government support to crack down on it or can those unhappy can safely accuse wrongdoers with necessary witness protection? Meaningful conversations about sufficiently diverse environments need ground rules to avoid confusion.

Many other comments are made without sources or explanation. On page 7 the reader learns that a Sinaloa Cartel is at war with a Juarez Cartel for control over overland routes of unknown region presumably within some Mexican states and extending to an American border. On page 12, this is contradicted by the comment that the Juarez Cartel is no longer influential. On page 11 the reader learns that the US somehow shutdown air and sea routes forcing drug shipments overland but no explanation of where these routes are. Apparently media reports of drug busts of ships, ship containers or small planes are imaginary. Presumably, a learned academic could collect data from property confiscations indicating common overland routes. If we can determine the ancient Salt Roads, surely drug routes are not so challenging. On page 8, after a discussion regarding drug cartel infiltration into American and Canadian cities, the US DEA is cited as having identified drug distribution networks in 230 cities but it is unclear if these cities are Canadian, American or Mexican. The reader might want to know.

The author has a liberal slant that probably doesn't belong in the book. For example: "In 2010, 15,273 individuals were murdered, compared with 9,614 executions in all of 2009, a 63 percent increase." Why are victims considered murders one year but only executions another year? "Mexico's drug problems emanate from the insatiable demand for drugs in the United States." The huge problem of Mexican domestic drug use is mentioned in passing much later.

It is a worthwhile read but as a regular purchaser of books from Oxford University Press, this book missed the mark on quality.
On the plus side, it doesn't read like a textbook.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great book. 20 Feb. 2013
By lawrence david farrell - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another in the Global History Series by Harlan Davidson. For an introductory guide for the uninitiated, a very easy read.
By a serious scholar and native Spanish-speaker.
Especially loved the question and answer format of the book, broken up into manageable 'chunks' of information.
History, culture, politics, people. Seriously whets ones appetite to dig deeper into all of the material that the author presents.
Well-sourced, excellent bibliography, glossary, and easy-to-use index of key term.
Recommend without reservation.
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