Mañana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans

In This Review

Manana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans
By Jorge G. Castaneda
Knopf, 2011
320 pp. $27.95

Although not all readers will accept Castañeda’s core thesis -- that Mexico’s drive toward modernity is being delayed by traditional cultural characteristics that have proved counterproductive -- Mañana Forever is brimming with lively observations on all things Mexico. A former foreign minister, Castañeda settles scores with the intellectual and media elites who frustrated his efforts to update Mexican foreign policy. Castañeda wants to ramp up the North American Free Trade Agreement, turning it into a full-fledged regional economic union with a single currency (in effect, dumping the peso for the greenback). But first, he maintains, Mexicans must rise out of their backward-looking defensive crouch, rewrite their history books, and stop denigrating the United States; it is high time, he says, for Mexicans to improve their self-esteem and build a more cooperative civil society. Castañeda pins his hopes on his country’s modernizing middle class, and he imagines a Mexico bound together by a new respect for the rule of law and competitive economics, and yet one that still honors its rich regional diversity. Some of the better passages take the reader into Mexican homes and neighborhoods about which Castañeda, a peripatetic public intellectual, speaks authoritatively from firsthand experience.

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