Mexicans and Mexican Americans: Remarkable Lives and Unforgettable Stories is the title of Michael Hogan’s latest slim but engrossing book. This is not a history book, nor is it anyone’s biography. Rather, it is a short compilation of 28 unforgettable and influential Mexicans or Mexican Americans. No, please don’t get uppity by pointing out that all peoples of the Americas are considered Americans. The real question is, how could Hogan select these people to represent so many Mexican contributions out of such a long and varied list of influencers and contributors? How did he manage to encapsulate so many individual contributions and historical episodes into this slim, provocative, and inspiring 122 pages? This small volume contains biographies both inspirational and informative, filled with brief biographies of women and men who make or made a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. Of course since Dr. Hogan is an acknowledged teacher and writer, his selected characters or personages are also people with deep beliefs and self-assurance, whose lives could have been ordinary except these mini biographies show people of conviction and action. I found it remarkable how Dr. Hogan has managed to distill the accomplishments of 28 individuals into a few short pages. Reading this little volume has motivated me to find out more about several of his heroes and amazed me at how he could succinctly encapsulate the lives of others like Sor Juana, whose image is instantly recognized by every Mexican, her face appears on the Mexican $200 peso Intelligent Banknote, something I think that would have pleased the nun who suffered and was silenced for her intelligence and outspoken advocacy for women´s education. Today every Mexican school child knows of Mexico´s early (1648-1695) feminist poet, playwright, philosopher, and nun who wrote in Spanish, Latin, and Nahuatl. Although born out of wedlock, Sor Juana received an excellent education, thanks to her wealthy maternal grandfather. She mastered Greek and Latin, she understood the male culture of machismo, blamed our attitude towards male dominance on the Greek Odysseus, whose exploits are “exciting, violent, colorful, adventurous and readily accessible.” This character formation, education was brought from Spain to Spanish America.
Just as most readers know something about the Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919), it was interesting to read about the desecration of Zapata´s corpse. After he was buried, the hero of the Mexican Revolution had his corpse desecrated by unknown people who severed his head, which has never been discovered. Many believe that a corpse without a head cannot enter paradise. There are biographies of recent influencers such as Lance Wyman, who designed the murals and graphics for the famous Mexico City subway system. The cliff divers of Acapulco, which includes a video link, are praised for their courage as well as their contributions towards tourism, which brings in much appreciated tourist currency.
Not all the personages in this book are deceased; some are current influencers of our current Mexican society. Lorena Ochoa, who, although retired from golf to raise a family, supports education with her charities. Another Ochoa, Ellen Ochoa, is the first Mexican woman in space, who credits her immigrant parents for their encouragement and support. Besides her own accomplishments in space science, she travels to schools to, “give pep talks to students with the message that enthusiasm, self-discipline, and focused study can lead to remarkable success.” This also has been the goal of Dr. Michal Hogan throughout his academic and writing career.
Like most people I enjoy being educated while reading, and Hogan does this with his brief histories and biographies. Mexicans and Mexican Americans: Remarkable Lives and Unforgettable Stories is the type of book that one purchases several of, one for the guest room and one for the library and several more to give as gifts. The book is short, the biographies are condensed and inspirational. Everyone who has any interest in knowing about Mexico, her peoples, her history, and enjoys having their curiosity piqued needs to purchase this book. These easy-to-read biographies make excellent gifts for friends, children and grandchildren.
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