History of Mexican Independence and More from Plaza Books

- by Michael Stillman


History of Mexican Independence and More from Plaza Books

Plaza Books has released their List 37 Early and Important History of Mexican Independence. It actually extends beyond its title, with some works pertaining to other Latin American countries, others to pre-independence history. Nonetheless, you will find many items relating events in the years of Mexican independence, as the nation grappled with finding its way after centuries of rule from far off Spain. These are a few of the items presented in this list.


First up is an uncomplimentary look back at the original conquest of Mexico by the Spanish. The author was Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, descendant of two rulers with the same, hard to spell name, of the city-state of Texcoco. The second and last of these Texcoco rulers had cooperated with the Spanish in defeating the Aztecs, but Ixtlilxochitl the historian was bitter at how the Spanish ended up treating his people, and the cruelties they committed in capturing Mexico. While he was born in the second half of the 16th century, and did not personally witness the conquest, he had access to ancient records and spoke with old timers who carried his people's oral history. As such, he was able to describe the conquest and pre-conquest Mexican history from the perspective of the land's natives, rather than its conquerors. The book's title is Cruautes Horribles des Conquerants du Mexique (horrible cruelties of the conquerors of Mexico), and this is a second edition published in 1838, nine years after the first. That was over two centuries after Ixtlilxochitl wrote his account of the Mexican conquest. Item 12. Priced at $1,200.


This next item provides a unique look at Spanish rule of Mexico: Instrucciones que los Virreyes de Nueva Espana dejaron a sus Sucesores. It is a compilation of instructions left by various viceroys to their successors, as well as directives they received from Spain. It covers not only what is today Mexico, but areas of the United States from California to Florida which were once controlled by Spain. The printing of this material was ordered by Emperor Maxmilian, when another European power, this time France, seized control of Mexico during the 1860's. However, during the year it was published, 1867, Mexican revolutionaries overthrew French rule and executed Maximilian. According to Sabin, most copies were destroyed during the siege of Mexico City, making the book scarce today. Item 10. $3,000.


The French weren't the only ones who attempted to conquer independent Mexico, or at least a part of it. The newly independent Republic of Texas tried to grab a portion of Mexican territory in 1841. A poorly equipped group of Texans attempted to attack Santa Fe that year. The aim was to extend the Texas border on the west to the Rio Grande, seizing a large portion of New Mexico. The Texans believed the locals were as disgusted at Mexican rule as they had been a few years earlier and would join them in throwing out Mexican rule. They guessed wrong. Mexican forces quickly overwhelmed the Texans, who then marched the Texans all the way to prison in Mexico City. One of those who participated in this calamity and was marched to Mexico City was George Wilkins Kendall. He gives an account of the disaster in Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, published in 1844. Kendall and his comrades were freed the year after their capture through the efforts of U.S. diplomats. Just a few years later, the United States would capture this and far more Mexican territory during the Mexican War, but Texas still did not get this territory as it became part of the future state of New Mexico. Item 14. $1,850.


Here is a favorite topic of collectors all over the world - railroads: History of the Mexican Railway. This is the 1876 first English language edition of a book originally published in Spanish in 1874. It celebrated the opening of the Mexico City – Vera Cruz line. It contains 32 sepia plates, all but two of which have been hand colored. This is the same number of plates as found in the Spanish edition. It also contains a map. Item 3. $6,500.


Item 35 is a look at Mexico just before one of the more important of its many revolutions: Barbarous Mexico, by John Kenneth Turner, published in 1911. Turner was a crusading California newspaperman who exposed the abuses and corruption of the then 35-year-old dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. This came at a time when the American government was sympathetic to Diaz for keeping Mexico under tight rule. Turner predicted a revolution, and Diaz' successor credited his articles, on which the book version was based, as helping to bring it about. Turner would oppose American intervention in Mexico in the years following Diaz' overthrow. $100.


Plaza Books may be reached at 707-217-9229 or plazabks@sonic.net. Their website is www.plazabooks.com.