cover image Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands

Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands

Kelly Lytle Hernández. Norton, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-324-00437-0

MacArthur fellow Hernández (Migra!) explores in this stellar history the legacy of Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón (1873–1922) and his magonista movement. Dubbed malos Mexicanos, or “bad Mexicans,” by President Porfirio Díaz, the magonistas and their political party, the Partido Liberal Mexicano, paved the way for the 1910 Mexican Revolution, according to Hernández. Combining exhaustive research with dramatic storytelling, Hernández chronicles Díaz’s seizure of power in an 1876 coup and the ensuing rush of foreign investment that saw U.S. citizens take control of the Mexican railroad, oil, and mining industries. The exploitation of ordinary Mexicans sparked rebellion, and some activists, including Magón, fled over the border to plot Díaz’s overthrow. Hernández vividly details how the “brilliant and ill-tempered” Magón “cultivate[d] the support of Anglo-American radicals” including Eugene V. Debs, while “outrunning and outsmarting” U.S. law enforcement, and paints a harrowing picture of the harsh treatment Mexicans faced in the U.S. Touching on long-running themes in the U.S. government’s relationship with Latin America—including the prioritization of corporate profits over human welfare and the propping up of autocrats in order to protect allegedly vital economic and security interests—Hernández offers a vital reconsideration of American imperialism and the Mexican American experience. This is history at its most elucidating. Photos. (May)