Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, & Revolution in the Borderlands

Ricardo Flores Magón and the revolutionary movement he created (the magonistas) were considered precursors to the larger Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917. But the story is often "folded into the corners of Mexican American history," according to MacArthur Fellow and historian Kelly Lytle Hernández (City of Inmates) in the impressively researched Bad Mexicans.

The story of the magonistas is essential to understanding the history of the United States, Hernández claims, and particularly the American West. Magón and his band of gutsy revolutionaries--with their iconic battle cry of "Land and Liberty!"--sought "a wholesale political and economic revolution" with their plans to overthrow the long reign of General Porfirio Díaz, a military dictator who squelched protest and greased the wheels for legions of U.S. investors. Díaz, who dubbed the magonistas "malos Mexicanos" (or bad Mexicans) for challenging his rule, sought to muzzle and, if necessary, silence all opposition. The flamboyantly mustachioed Magón, after years of anti-Díaz jeremiads and revolutionary rhetoric, fled to the U.S. in 1904 to continue the work of toppling the dictator from afar. Through his long-running newspaper and recruitment tool Regeneración, Magón and his circle of comrades planted the seeds from which the Mexican Revolution bore fruit. But before their dream was realized, the vaunted precursors became the transient targets of a joint U.S.-Mexico counterinsurgency campaign.

Bad Mexicans is history that promises to enlighten as much as it entertains. An attempted kidnapping of Magón, for instance, reads like a bar brawl from a western. It is eminently satisfying. Just like Hernández's book. --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver

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