Carlos Fuentes has a great ability to quickly set in historical and cultural context the political and economic transition under way in Mexico. But Mexico is a very complex country, as Fuentes always reminds us, and he warns against overly simple interpretations. Here he provides one of the best available surveys of Mexico's past and weaves into this story his month-by-month diary of the events leading up to the 1994 peso crisis. He etches sharp vignettes of Salinas, President Ernesto Zedillo, and the assassinated candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, who, Fuentes believes, would have promoted major democratic reforms. Because Fuentes resists the temptation to alter the diary entries in light of later events, one can understand how the preoccupying tumult of that tremendous year -- the Chiapas uprising, Colosio's assassination, and, above all, the presidential elections -- blinded participants and observers alike to the impending economic crisis. This is an elegant, finely crafted piece of writing, as always with Fuentes. But Fuentes admits that, like most Mexicans, he is still perplexed about the future. He believes democratization is the answer but is not too clear about the particular steps that need to be taken to get there.