James A. Michener’s Mexico opens with these words:
I had been sent to Mexico to cover a murder, one of a remarkable kind. And since it had not yet happened, I had been ordered to get photographs, too.
Clearly, this isn’t the standard Michener formula.
The journalist is Norman Clay. Born and reared in Toledo, Mexico, he left for the US in 1938 after the Mexicans confiscated oil wells his family owned. Clay served in the American armed World War II, and worked as a journalist ever since.
Clay, 52, is back in his hometown to cover a bullfight that’s rumored to be a confrontation the equivalent of murder.
He revisits places he knew as a childhood, tracing his roots to Mexico’s three primary population groups: Indians, Spaniards, and English. Readers get to see how differently pivotal historical personages and events were viewed by each of the three groups.
Some of the historical facts are grisly: men’s beating hearts ripped out of them to appease a stone god, nuns burned alive, women made to work in a silver mine, never seeing daylight.
With the brutality, there’s also art, music, public service, bullfighting, and an ending with just the right degree of happy ending for a 52-year-old journalist.
Mexico by James A. Michener
Random House. ©1992. 625 p.
1992 bestseller #8; my grade: A
©2020 Linda G. Aragoni