cover image Blooming in the Ruins: How Mexican Philosophy Can Guide Us Towards the Good Life

Blooming in the Ruins: How Mexican Philosophy Can Guide Us Towards the Good Life

Carlos Alberto Sánchez. Oxford Univ, $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-769100-7

Mexico’s philosophical tradition looks outside the “colonial picture of things” to speak to “the margins” and “the accidentality of our lives,” according to this vibrant study. Sánchez (Mexican Philosophy for the 21st Century), a professor of philosophy at San José State University, outlines a tradition that came into its own during the 1910–1917 Mexican Revolution as thinkers interrogated “what it means to be Mexican” after nearly 400 years of the country’s identity being shaped by oppressive colonial governments. Drilling down to individual concepts, Sánchez describes how nepantla, or the sense of being trapped between home and an “alien” world, which was first described in 16th-century Mexico, is perennially relevant for Mexicans, who occupy a space “in the middle of” cultural influences and histories. Elsewhere, he delves into relajo, which was characterized by 20th-century thinker Jorge Portilla as a simultaneously “disruptive, distracting, and inviting” action that can “break us out of our routines.” Throughout, Sánchez shows how Mexican philosophy inverts traditional assumptions and hierarchies, revealing that “seriousness can be oppressive, and that rituals and traditions are artificial constructs,” and bolsters his analyses through historical context and resonant personal anecdotes (after his family moved to the U.S., the author’s mother treated his fever with folk remedies before driving him to the hospital—“She still had a foot in the old ways while trying to find her footing in the new”). This captivates. (Sept.)