Mexican and Latin Works from Plaza Books
List 18 of Latin American works from Plaza Books.
By Michael Stillman
Arriving in our mailbox a short time ago was List 18 from Plaza Books of Santa Rosa, California. Plaza specializes in books from south of the border. While anything from Tijuana to the Straits of Magellan is fair game, and so even are items from within the USA with a Latin connection, most of the books in this catalogue pertain to Mexico. The linguistic mix is fairly even here, between English and Spanish language works, with a few in French. The time period covered ranges all the way from the days before the Spanish conquest to the Mexican Revolution. It offers a most worthy selection for collectors of Mexicana and Central America. Here are a few samples.
Item 4 is a contemporary work concerning the Mexican Revolution, though it would only have covered the initial stages. Author Henry Baerlein was a correspondent for the London Times who published his book in 1912: Mexico, the Land of Unrest: Being chiefly an Account of what produced the Outbreak in 1910, together with the Story of the Revolutions down to this Day. In 1910, Mexicans overthrew the longstanding dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, and installed Francisco Madero as President. He would still have been in office at this time, but by 1913, Madero too was overthrown, executed, and a series of other leaders would come and go until the PRI would gain control. That control was not relinquished until the most recent Mexican presidential election. Priced at $115.
Item 31 relates to an earlier change of government in Mexico, though this was more invasion than revolution. During the 1860s, France invaded Mexico and established Emperor Maximilian on the thrown. It didn't work out. However, in 1863, a year before Maximilian's installation, John de Havilland could not foresee what would transpire. De Havilland was an ultra-conservative royalist who believed that an emperor was just what Mexico needed. At the time, he could point to America, engaged in its civil war, as proof of the failure of democracy. De Havilland recalled that Americans had appreciated France's involvement in their revolution against the British, and concluded the Mexicans would feel the same. What he failed to notice is that the Americans were fighting a foreign power, not each other. A year later, de Havilland got his wish, but within three years, Mexicans united to throw the French out of the country, and Maximilian lay dead in front of a firing squad. The book, in French, is Le Mexique sous la Maison de Habsbourg. $500.
Mexican and Latin Works from Plaza Books
Here is another person who knew how it felt to be unwelcome, but not so unwelcome that anyone shot her. Melinda Rankin was a Presbyterian missionary. Her work, published in 1875, is Twenty Years Among the Mexicans, a Narrative of Missionary Labor. Ms. Rankin first promoted her beliefs in Texas, but she was strongly pro-Union, not a popular sentiment among Texans, who even threw Sam Houston out of office at the time of the Civil War for such sympathies. She went to New Orleans to work among free Blacks for a while, and after the war, moved to Monterrey, Mexico, to start that country's first Protestant mission. This did not make her very popular either, as she was not welcome by the local clergy in this heavily Catholic country. Ms. Rankin retells her adventures in this autobiography. Item 43. $150.
Item 3b is the story of a Mexican-American outlaw, Vicente Silva. Silva led a couple of gangs in Las Vegas, New Mexico, which used mafia style tactics to terrorize the local population. Assault, arson, and the like were Silva's implements of exacting tribute from his neighbors. Operating as a legitimate saloonkeeper by day, Silva was a fearsome personality in Las Vegas from his arrival in 1875 until the early 1890s. His luck finally began to turn when he requested a trio of crooked lawmen lynch a gang member who evidently committed some misdeed. They complied. When Silva heard that his brother-in-law was going to turn him in, the three lawmen again complied with his order to perform a killing. However, when Silva's wife began asking questions about her brother, the outlaw offed her too, and hired the lawmen to dig her grave. Concerned that Silva was now acting a bit too crazy, they dug her grave, but when Silva arrived with the body, they killed him too, and put both in the grave. Item 3b is a 1947 reprint and translation of the rare, original Las Vegas imprint, titled Vicente Silva and his 40 Bandits. $275.
Plaza Books may be found online at www.plazabooks.com. Their phone number is 707-546-3544.