Do you have a strong desire to visit Mexico but are unable to do so at this time? One of the finest ways to discover Mexico is through literature, whether you’re saving for a vacation or have wanderlust. The best classic books on Mexico, books about Mexican history, and fiction works by Mexican authors will be discussed in this article. There should be something for everyone on this list, no matter what kind of reader you are. I’ve provided Amazon links for both print and Kindle versions of each of these novels. Is there any notable Mexico-related literature missing from this list? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Classic Books about Mexico
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
Pedro Páramo was first published in Mexico by Juan Rulfo in 1955. Since then, numerous well-known Latin American authors, like Gabriel Garca Marquéz, have cited this novel as a major inspiration. Juan Preciado begins the story by promising his mother that he will visit her homeland and meet his father, Pedro Páramo. When Juan arrives in Comala, he discovers that it is an actual ghost town, where the living and the dead mix freely. Fans recommend that you read this book more than time to fully appreciate its value.
The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
In 1962, Carlos Fuentes, one of Mexico’s most famous novelists, published The Death of Artemio Cruz. As a result, this novel became considered as a pivotal work in the literary movement known as the Latin American Boom. We encounter veteran soldier Artemio Cruz on his deathbed in the book. As he reflects on key events in his life, such as the Mexican Revolution, the story changes between past and present. Cruz began his career as an idealist, but he gradually succumbed to the seduction of power and corruption. As a result, one of the novel’s key themes is to investigate how the goals of a revolution get perverted over time.
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Lowry narrates the story of Geoffrey Firmin, a former British diplomat living in Mexico who is battling alcoholism. The majority of Under the Volcano takes place on November 1st, 1938 (Day of the Dead), which also happens to be Firmin’s last day. The novel’s title is derived from Quauhnahuac, a Mexican town surrounded by two volcanoes. Firmin spends the day with his estranged wife Yvonne, half-brother Hugh, and childhood buddy Jacques. Despite the tragic nature of the plot, it is regarded as one of the top 100 English-language novels of the twentieth century.
The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
The Underdogs was the first Mexican government-sponsored translation of a novel about the Mexican Revolution into English. In truth, Azuela’s personal experiences as a medical officer in Pancho Villa’s soldiers shaped much of the plot. We follow Demetrio Macas, a peasant who is forced into the revolution following a disagreement with the local cacique, throughout the novel. He eventually rises to become the head of a band of outcast rebels who torture and oppress others. Unfortunately, the troops who were fighting for their principles in the first place end up fighting for the sake of fighting.
The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos
The Book of Lamentations is a fictionalized account of a 1930s insurrection in Chiapas. Although the novel’s insurrection is fictional, it is based on real Mayan uprisings that occurred in the mid-nineteenth century. As Castellanos explores the struggle for power, we follow several characters and perspectives representing Chiapas residents, colonialists, and the establishment (church and government). The Book of Lamentations is regarded as a classic of contemporary Latin American fiction, and Castellanos is considered Mexico’s best female writer of the twentieth century. She is also recognized as an advocate of indigenous cultures and an icon of Latin American feminism.
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
The Power and the Glory’s anonymous protagonist is a “whiskey priest” on the run from the Mexican government, which has outlawed Catholicism. Despite the fact that it is unlawful, the priest continues to minister and perform mass whenever he is able. Despite this, he is continually at war with his religion. He has an illegitimate child, for example, and fights with drinking. In the meantime, a police lieutenant who despises the Catholic church is on the lookout for the priest. Faith and Catholicism, hope, and desertion are among the issues explored in this work. Since 1923, TIME magazine has ranked this novel as one of the finest English-language novels.
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
In Savage Detectives, we meet Juan Garcia Madero, a seventeen-year-old aspiring poet who wants to join a group known as “The Visceral Realists.” In Mexico City, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima founded this movement, which is based on the author (Roberto Bolao) and his close friend Mario Santiago. The story opens with a description of life in Mexico City for two young poets as they explore their art and sexuality. We follow Madero, Belano, and Lima as they flee to the Sonoran Desert after a stunning turn of events. The main question now is whether they’ll be able to track down the legendary poet Cesárea Tinajero.
Books on Mexican History
The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico by Miguel León-Portilla
The Broken Spears was the first book to portray Mexico’s invasion from the perspective of its indigenous peoples when it was published in 1959. It’s uncommon to find a Nahuatl description of this historical event because the Spanish burned many Aztec documents. As a result, everyone interested in learning more about pre-Colombian/conquest history in Mexico should read this book. The Broken Spears begins with Cortes’ arrival in Mexico and details the devastation he leaves behind as the indigenous people struggle to maintain their culture.
Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs by Buddy Levy
Conquistador is a well-researched historical book that, because to its detailed characterizations, reads more like a novel. The story is told mostly from the perspective of Hernán Cortés, and we follow his military and political battles as he strives to overthrow the Aztecs’ mighty dominion. It focuses on his efforts to form alliances with the Aztecs’ oppressed neighbors. Due to his elevated status in Aztec society, Levy paints Cortés as both vicious and intellectual, whereas Montezuma is meek and constrained. This fascinating book covers a crucial period in history for anyone interested in pre-Columbian times or the Spanish Conquest.
The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
One of Octavio Paz’s most well-known works is this book-length essay. It is primarily concerned with the subject of what it means to be Mexican. As part of a cultural examination of Mexico’s past, Paz claims that the country is a “labyrinth of loneliness.” He explains that modern Mexican culture is influenced by both Spanish and Indigenous cultures, and that Mexicans often ignore aspects of their identity. Anyone interested in Mexican history and literature should read The Labyrinth of Solitude.
Massacre in Mexico by Elena Poniatowska
Elena Poniatowska’s perspective of what happened during the 1968 student protests in Mexico City is presented in this book. As a result, she includes eyewitness and informant testimonies, concluding that the government fired on unarmed citizens. This incident occurred just days before the 1968 Olympic opening ceremony in Mexico City. Tragedy in Mexico was the only book about the Tlatelolco massacre for twenty years. Furthermore, it clearly contradicted the version of events presented by the Mexican government. Despite the fact that it is a difficult read, it is critical to remember the victims of this catastrophe so that it does not happen again.
The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics by Gilbert M. Joseph
In The Mexico Reader, you can learn everything there is to know about Mexico via documents written by its citizens. This collection of written materials, photographs, and maps aids in the comprehension of the country’s most important historical periods. Its portions, for example, address Mexican identity, conquest and colonization, and the period when Mexico was a young republic, all the way up to the present day. Other authors, such as Luis Alberto Urrea, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, and Juan Rulfo, are also referenced in this article. This reader goes above and beyond what you’d get in a traditional history book.