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MEXICO: Porfirio Diaz

Elias Castillo writes: "To know more about the bloody rule of the Porfiriato, Barbarous Mexico provides a truly horrifying description of life among the poor and the virtual death camps of the plantations in Southeast Mexico. I managed to find a copy of this now rare book tucked away in the back of a Palo Alto used bookstore. I'm sure it was a major factor in throwing popular support in the U.S. to the Maderistas, Villa and Zapata when the revolution was launched".

My comment: This book (1911) by John Kenneth Turner is indeed rare. Only one library in the US is listed as having it. It is not even mentioned in the bibliography of Mexico in the Area Handbook series. The fact that only one edition appeared makes me question whether it had much impact. Turner also wrote Hand off Mexico!, and a biography of Pancho Villa, of which I can find only a Spanish translation. John Reed had much more of an impact on Americans through his firsthand reports on Pancho Villa's 1914 revolt which appeared in the magazine Metropolitan.

The curious thing is that a number of translations of Turner's book have appeared in Mexico in the last decade or so, indicating that, unlike the American original, it had a good sale there.Why? Probably some people were trying to discredit the US-trained technicians brought in by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari by implying that they were like the científicos brought in by Porfirio Díaz. Perhaps it was a protest against NAFTA, which, like the Díaz regime, brought American capital flowing into Mexico.

Ronald Hilton - 3/15/01