In This Review

Here: A Biography of the New American Continent
Here: A Biography of the New American Continent
By Anthony Depalma
PublicAffairs, 2001, 384 pp

The American public has traditionally shown scant interest in either Mexico or Canada, and newspaper editors have had little inclination to inform them. But DePalma was fortunate to arrive in each country at a fascinating moment in its history, and his editors at The New York Times gave his reports the exposure they deserved. He set foot in Mexico in 1993 in the wake of the assassination of the cardinal of Guadalajara, followed by the equally shocking murder of the presidential candidate of the governing party (and presumptive next president of Mexico). There he tracked the beginnings of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Chiapas rebellion, the peso crisis, and the dramatic collapse of the reputation of former president Carlos Salinas. In Canada, he explored the nation's ambivalent relationship with its southern neighbor, its own struggle with the strong separatist sentiment in French-speaking Quebec, and its emergence as an independent voice on broader western hemisphere affairs. At times, DePalma gives too much weight to parallels between Mexican history (with its complex, pre-Columbian roots) and the immigrant background of his own family in the United States. But he skillfully weaves his interviews of leading figures with instructive pieces of each country's history and personal anecdotes to explain past misunderstandings and future challenges. Both a biography and a story of the emerging new North America, this book depicts three intertwined nations sharing much more than borders.