Viva Mexico! by Charles Macomb Flandrau
Viva Mexico! originally published in 1908, is written in the first person, in something of a mixed format of novel/ journal/travel guide, and describes what life is like living in Mexico on a ranch along with notes, tips and stories of how to travel about within the country. Flandrau also writes on what to expect so far as the Mexican people, customs and culture go, by relating through past experiences. At times the book might seem dated with stereotypical ideas typical of a turn-of-the-century European man of wealth dealing with the everyday problems of living without the comforts of the 1st world, though overall, I found his take rather respectful of Mexico, charming and ever grateful for his quiet dry wit. But no matter his struggles, he always seems to leave the situation with a greater understanding and a deeper love for the country. As did I after reading his book. I came across Viva Mexico! in old and rare book shop in Charleston, NC, precisely in the travel section. I’m not sure if it has been republished as of late, but if you’re able to locate a copy, I highly recommend it.
Here are a few wonderful and funny (so dated and proper!) excerpts from Viva Mexico!
“Why people are the way they are is always an interesting subject on which to exert one’s talents, however slight, for observation, and inference. On an isolated Mexican farm one spends many odd moments considering and attempting to explain the traits of the people who condescend to work for one.”
“Conventionally speaking, traveling in Mexico is uncomfortable”
“The hotels, as a rule, are of two stories built around a tiles patio, full of flowers and plants, and open to the sky. The more expensive rooms have windows looking down upon the street, and in cold or gloomy weather have the advantage of being lighter and warmer than the others.”
“The only edible butter in Mexico in made in Kansas, and can be bought in convenient one-pound packages in the city of Mexico, and also in some of the smaller towns. There is no objection whatever to your taking your own tea and butter, or anything else that contributes to your comfort, into the dining room of Mexican hotels.”
“Few beds in Mexico have arrived at the sybaritic luxury of feather pillows. The national pillow is a narrow, long, unsympathetic contrivance tightly stuffed with hair, or something more unyielding.”
“On the whole, I should not advise and invalid to go to Mexico, for I have met invalids there who, although they might not have been happy anywhere, stuck me as being for many unavoidable reasons more unhappy in Mexico than they would have been if they had sought a warm climate closer to home.”
“In the kitchen doorway a very old, white bearded man was improvising poetry – sometimes sentimental, sometimes heroic, sometimes obscene – to a huddled and enthralled audience all big hats, crimson blankets, and beautiful eyes.”