of California Press
ISBN: 0520 223241
[Cloth: alk. Paper]
Mason Hart’s monumental Empire and Revolution answers
with courage the question many modern Americans are asking: “Why
do they hate us so much?” At the outset Professor Hart aptly
quotes a passage from Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes’ masterpiece,
The Death of Artemio Cruz, the gist of which is that one cannot
commit what North Americans [and the Mexican elite] have committed
against Mexico and expect to be loved.
answer is 677 pages long, including a flowing narrative text,
extensive notes and a delicious forty-page index, a delight for
students of U.S.-Mexican relations and for the general public
alike. The author sees the historical attitudes of the United
States toward its southern neighbor as the model for America’s
drive for world hegemony and its urge to control other peoples.
Mexico was the
first of the economically weak nations that Americans encountered
after the Civil War. It was there that the historic compulsion
of certain American elites toward external wealth and global power
was first expressed. Mr. Hart, Professor of History at the University
of Houston, walks a tight wire in a balancing act to show that
relations between the two nations from 1865 until today have been
marked by intervention from the north and revolution against it
on one hand, and, on the other, by accommodation and cooperation.
The history of
the last 137 years offers valuable insights for those who want
to understand how the United States became a global empire.
in his introduction:
“From the beginnings of the nineteenth
century until the present era, the citizens of the United States
attempted to export their unique “American dream”
to Mexico. Their vision incorporated social mobility, Protestant
values, a capitalist free market, a consumer culture, and a
democracy of elected representation.”
“The evolving pattern of American behavior
in Mexico have reflected and usually anticipated the interactions
of U.S. citizens in other Latin American and Third World societies.”
crossing the border at Laredo for the first time enters another
world, a world beyond his conceptions; he cannot help but be astonished
that the narrow Rio Grande can still divide two such distinct
life styles after these 137 years.
But the border
crossing is different depending on the direction and on whether
you are Mexican or North American. Many Americans cross the International
Bridge in their huge SUVs; many Mexicans, or wetbacks, wade through
the water at night, at great risk and expense, for the privilege
of working on Dallas skyscrapers or in California orchards at
below the minimum wage and facing all sorts of discrimination.
has often treated Mexico’s people as children, Americans
who have lived in Mexico understand that the Mexican people are
and have always been the nation’s greatest wealth, one of
the chief reasons Americans love Mexico. But they are also familiar
with the love - hate relationship Mexicans have with their overpowering
and crude neighbor to the north.
In the first half
of Empire and Revolution, Mr. Hart traces from its origins the
role of America’s economic-financial elite in Mexico, for
whom annexation has been the traditional goal. Many Americans
have favored outright political annexation of parts or of all
of Mexico. Many have considered it just a question of time.
If one is amazed
by the number of Mexicans immigrating to the United States today,
Professor Hart reminds us of the mass immigrations of Americans
to Mexico. In the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries Americans
purchased large tracts of land in Mexico and immigrated there
in increasing numbers. By 1910, 40,000 Americans had swarmed into
the new frontier territories—12, 000 in Mexico City itself—where
rich Americans settled in the plush Las Lomas quarter of the capital.
to own approximately thirty-five per cent of Mexico. In the early
times many foreigners chose to open bars and night clubs, dance
halls, bordellos and casinos—as later in Cuba—rather
than investing in agriculture and industry. Thus, many became
early on exploiters of the common people.
Mr. Hart documents
how the privatization and foreign investment policies of the regime
of Porfirio Diaz in Mexico City from the latter part of the nineteenth
century up to the Revolution in 1910 enriched the oligarchy but
left nothing for the Mexican people. The Mexican elite and the
North American capitalists took all. Foreigners had the benefits
and the power.
At the same time,
American financiers and industrialists, successfully established
in Mexico, were gaining influence in Central America and the Caribbean,
and began participating as associates with their British partners
in South America, Africa and Asia. Thus, when the Mexican Revolution
exploded, the people’s ire was directed against both the
Diaz regime and foreign capitalists—chiefly Americans.
Their shouts of “Long Live Mexico” and “Death
to the Yankees” are echoed today in protests ringing out
from Afghanistan to Africa to the Middle East. Mexican rioters
attacked Americans and American targets, as do Islamic terrorists
Mr. Hart recalls
that when the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in south Mexico proclaimed
that the rich of Mexico City treated their horses better than
the people, he attracted poor peasants all over Mexico. The government
has never ceased to fear the Zapatistas, as the movement for “tierra
y libertad” is still called today, and who periodically
march on the capital to demand their rights.
In his conclusions,
Professor Hart writes: “Although the postindustrial West,
led by the United States, controls vast amounts of capital and
levels of technology unimagined in Mexico, it has failed to benefit
Mexico in the sense of making it a better place to live.”
Revolution shows how American-Mexican relations anticipated
the issue of globalism that emerged in the 1990s. Now globalization,
the division of wealth and the economic disparity between the
United States and the Third World are sharpening the conflictual
relationship between the rich and the poor worlds.