Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2009 Issue

Latin American and Spanish Works from Plaza Books

Plaza28

Latin American and Spanish works from Plaza Books.


By Michael Stillman

Plaza Books recently issued their List 28. The California bookseller specializes in Latin American and Spanish books. The greatest concentration is in Mexican items, including some which cover territory now part of the American Southwest. Most of these items were written in the Spanish language, but there are exceptions. These are some of the items we found in this latest presentation.

Item 13 is a document containing autographs of two of Mexico's most notable presidents, one a beloved national hero to this day, the other a controversial leader who ruled for decades with an iron hand. The document is a manuscript dealing with legal title to a gold mine in Oaxaca called San Juan Bautista. The date was 1857, and neither man had yet ascended to the presidency. The document is signed three times by Benito Juarez, who was then Governor of Oaxaca, would be interim president the following year, and president beginning in 1861. Juarez would lead the fight against French occupation during the 1860s, and would be restored to the presidency after Emperor Maximilian was overthrown. He remains, perhaps, Mexico's most popular leader. The other signature is from the then military and political leader of Ixtlan, Oaxaca, Porfirio Diaz. He, too, would become very popular for fighting the French during the 1860s, and would rise to the presidency in 1876. Diaz would take firm control of the government, essentially forcing any opposition into the shadows. He effectively ruled the country for the next 35 years, until forced into exile in, of all places, France, in 1911. Priced at $1,450.

For those who still like Diaz, item 27 is a large poster of him (23" x 14"), suitable for display. It was taken for his birthday, probably around 1900. $550.

Item 3 is a proclamation from Mexico's interim president Miguel Barragan dated January 13, 1836. After Santa Anna was elected in 1833, he seized dictatorial powers for himself. This led to rebellion, not only in Texas, but in other parts of northern Mexico. Santa Anna temporarily turned over his office to Barragan and led his forces north to put down the rebellion. This proclamation made some changes in the structure of the military in the northern states, including the appointment of a military officer to reside within Texas. $1,750.

It would not be much longer before Mexican troops would be engaged in battle with Texas settlers. Their most notable victory would come in early March, when Santa Anna's siege of the Alamo would finally overwhelm Crockett, Bowie, Travis and the other defenders. In this battle, as at Goliad nearby, the Mexicans would show little interest in holding prisoners, simply killing everyone in sight. Santa Anna was no humanitarian, so this next proclamation may sound surprisingly generous. Issued on April 14, 1836, under the name of General Jose Maria Tornel, Santa Anna offers permanent banishment to Texans who surrender within 15 days. That certainly beats the alternative. Of course, at this time Santa Anna was celebrating his victory at the Alamo and expected to have the revolution put down shortly. He was likely to have been quite satisfied to have Texans voluntarily leave than have to fight them, and probably figured many would choose this over inevitable death. We should point out that no such generous terms were offered Texian leaders. It seems unlikely that many, if any, Texans took advantage of this offer. The joke here was on Santa Anna. To his great surprise, just a week later, the retreating Texans attacked and totally routed his forces in the Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured and granted Texas its independence in return for his freedom (he later reneged on this agreement, but was never able to make a serious attempt to recapture the state). Item 32. $2,400.

Item 36 is the only book by the noted filibuster William Walker. Walker attempted to capture northern Mexico and set up his own government in the early 1850s, but to his surprise, the Mexicans did not welcome him. His defeat left him undaunted. He next attacked Nicaragua, and despite his small forces, managed to take over the country. He ruled for a while, but antagonized enough people, including some friends in the U.S., that he was overthrown. Still undaunted, he attempted to return in 1860, hoping to set up a slaveholding state that would receive support from America's South. It was in this year that Walker published his book, The War in Nicaragua. The second time in Nicaragua was no charm for Walker. In fact, he never made it. Walker was captured in Honduras while trying to sneak into Nicaragua and was promptly executed by local authorities. $950.

Plaza Books may be reached at 707-546-3544 or plazabks@sonic.net. Their website is www.plazabooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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