Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dr. Konrad Ratz (December 20, 1931 - May 22, 2014)

I was very saddened to learn of the death of my friend, Dr. Konrad Ratz, translator, researcher, and writer whose contributions to our understanding of Maximilian von Habsburg and Mexico's Second Empire I admire more than I can say. Among his many works, all of them major contributions:

Tras las huellas de un desconocido: Nuevos datos y aspectos de Maximiliano de Habsburgo (Link goes to my note in English about this excellent and very illuminating book.)
Los viajes de Maximiliano de Maximiliano en México(co-authored with Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan)(Link goes to my comments for the book's presentation in Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City.)
Correspondencia inédita entre Maximiliano y Carlota
El ocaso del imperio de Maximiliano visto por un diplomático prusiano
Maximilian und JuárezBand I Das Zweite Mexikanische Kaiserreich und die RepublikBand II Querétaro-Chronik
The musical:

Very few researchers can work in both Spanish and German, fewer still with the skills to research Mexico's most complex and transnational period of the 19th century. We are fortunate indeed that Dr. Ratz dedicated so much effort and so many of his years to these tasks.

From the note his son Wolfgang sent out (my translation from the Spanish):

He began his professional life in Bilbao as a translator for the automobile industry. After moving with his family to Vienna, he worked for many years as an economist and translator for the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. Following that, as Director of the Fund to Promote Research, he had the opportunity to support many innovative projects and young entrepreneurs. He also worked to help create similar institutions in various countries, among them, Mexico. In 1975 he received the Austrian Decoration for Arts and Science.
... As a historian, he dedicated his life to researching Maximilian von Habsburg, and especially so during his retirement when he considered Mexico his "adopted country" and spent many marvelous years there with his second wife, Herta, making many unforgettable friendships.
Throughout his life, music was a great passion. The musical "Maximiliano - el Sueño de una Corona" was debuted successfully in Querétaro and Mexico City.
Open to all cultures, his life created bridges among Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and Latin America.

COMMENTS always welcome.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Luis Reed Torres' Biographies of Two Mexican Monarchist Generals, Joaquín Miramón and Manuel Ramírez de Arellano

As mentioned in my previous post, there was a conference held recently on Maximilian at Mexico City's Centro de Estudios de la Historia de México which had a spectacular lineup of scholars. The final speaker in the series, not in the original announcement, was Mexican historian Louis Reed Torres, who gave a wide-ranging and very entertaining talk with many rare photographs and special emphasis on his two recent biographies, both important contributions to our understanding of Mexico's Second Empire and the French Intervention:

*Joaquín Miramón, El General Olvidado
Herido y prisionero, Juárez ordenó que lo mataran
(Vida y muerte del Hermano Mayor de Miguel, 
Según su Archivo Militar y sus Documentos Privados)

[My translation of the above:
Joaquín Miramón, The Forgotten General
Wounded and taken prisoner, his death was ordered by Juárez
(The Life and death of the older brother of Miguel, 
according to his military records and private documents)]


*El Artillero de Maximiliano
(La Azarosa Vida del General Manuel Ramírez de Arellano, 
Niño Héroe de Chapultepec, Ideólogo Nacionalista y 
Amigo Fraternal de Miguel Miramón, 
Según su Archivo Inédito y sus Escritos)

[My translation of the above:
Maximilian's Artilleryman
The adventurous life of General Manuel Ramírez de Arellano,
One of "Boy Heroes" of Chapultepec, Nationalist Ideologist and
Close Friend of Miguel Miramón, 
According to his Unpublished Archive and Writings]

General Ramírez de Arellano, head of the Mexican Imperial Artillery, was the of the few to have escaped death in Querétaro in 1867. After that, as Reed Torres puts it, "his life was a novel." Ten years later, on the point of returning to Mexico, he died of Roman fever in Remini, Italy.

To get copies of either or both books, contact rosaura.tapia (at) hotmail (dot) com

Here's hoping these can be made available in Kindle!

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P.S. I will be speaking (in Spanish) with my translator, Agustin Cadena, about my novel based on the true story, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 as part of the conference on Maximilian in fiction at Mexico City City's National Palace. The entire conference, which runs several more weeks, is free and open to the public. Click here for the full line up and more information.

Biblioteca Francisco Xavier Clavigero in the Universidad Iberamericana in Mexico City

Two great conferences on Maximilian here in Mexico City-- one recently concluded at the Centro de Estudos de la Historia de México, and another is in progress in Mexico's National Palace, both free and open to the public and with a wide variety of accomplished scholars.

I wanted to note one of the talks from the former which took place on June 2, 2014: Teresa Matabuena's about the magnificent holdings related to the Second Empire in the archives of the Universidad Iberoamericana's Biblioteca Francisco X. Clavigero. She mentioned just a few of them-- from my notes:

1. The manuscript "Les Vaincus du 5 du mai" (The Defeated of May 5)
by a French soldier, decorated with his own very elaborate and beautiful little paintings of birds and flowers. (Quite extraordinary to see.)

2. Folletería (Pamphlettes)
Including "Reseña de las Fiestas de la Independencia" and "Calendario Histórico de Maximiliano."

3. Revistas (Magazines)
Among them: El Museo Universal, a Spanish magazine thast was published bimonthly, and included many articles and notes on Maximilian; and L'Illustration, Journal Universal, a French magazine.

4. Books
Over 400, including L'Empire de Maximilien by Paul Gaulot, Paris, 1890; a copy of the very rare Reglamento del ceremonial de la Corte (the first edition of 1865); Estudios de grabados por autores mexicanos, a specially bound edition of 186(?) owned by Maximilian.

5. Concha Lombardo Collection
Concha Lombardo was the wife of General Miramón, a key figure in the Second Empire and one of the two generals exceuted in 1867 with Maximilian. While the Miramón papers are in Palermo, Italy, this one contains many crucial items for anyone studying the period and its violent end.

6. A photographic album of some 200 personalities of the period
The original has been returned to its owner, but a complete copy is in the catalog.

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P.S. My talk about my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, El ultimo príncipe del Imperio Mexicano, together with my translator, the noted writer and poet Agustín Cadena, will be on Tuesday 15 of July in the conference in the National Palace. More about that here.

Who was Francisco Xavier Clavigero? An 18th century Mexican Jesuit and historian of note. Among his many works is The History of [Lower] California, translated from the Italian by Sara E. Lake, Stanford University Press, 1937. (Why Italian? There's a story.) I relied on Clavigero quite heavily in the section of my book, Miraculous Air: Journey of as Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico, about the tragedy of the Jesuit missions. So just hearing his name, it seems like a little wave from an old amigo.

Monday, June 23, 2014

In Mexico City: A Series of Conferences in the National Palace (Free) : "Maximiliano en México, una historia novelada"

This is all in Spanish, but I know many of you, dear readers, do speak it. So here's the big news: my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empiretranslated by Agustín Cadena asEl último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano, will be featured on Tuesday July 15, 2014 in the series of talks on (my translation) "Maximilian in Mexico, A Fictionalized History." The talks are all free and open to the public and held in the Recinto de Homenaje a Don Benito Juárez of Mexico City's National Palace. 
It will be a very special honor for me to present the novel together with Agustín Cadena, for his translation is such a superb one; he is one of Mexico's most accomplished literary writers (and I have been honored to translated some of his short stories); and he is an expert on the novels of the 19th century. (Those baggy monsters… which mine most definitely is.)
(Don't know who Maximilian was and why Mexicans find him so endlessly worthy ofconferences and novels and conferences about the novels? Start here.)

Las escrituras de la historia son variables y a su vez coincidentes. La intrigante pasión por develar la memoria colectiva atrapa por igual tanto a historiadores como a novelistas. Mientras el historiador se ocupa de que los hechos narrados sean verdaderos, el novelista pretende sobre todo que estos sean verosímiles. Sin embargo, cuando el novelista se ocupa de narrar los “grandes” relatos de la historia, éste no puede fácilmente escabullirse del dato histórico, materia prima para el historiador. 
Para conocer las claves de la novela histórica y experiencia creativa de la escritura en voz de algunos de sus representantes, el Recinto de Homenaje a Don Benito Juárez organizó el ciclo de entrevistas presenciales y conferencias: MAXIMILIANO EN MÉXICO, UNA HISTORIA NOVELADA.
José Manuel Villalpando
Martes 1, 17:00 horas/ Entrada libre

Entrevista al autor por Bertha Hernández
Martes 8, 17:00 horas/ Entrada libre 

Agustín Cadena
Martes 15, 17:00 / Entrada libre

Entrevista al autor por Leopoldo Silberman
Jueves  24, 17:00 horas

Alfredo Moreno Flores
Martes 29, 17:00 horas / Entrada Libre


Entrevista al autor por Bertha Hernández
Martes 5, 17:00 horas / Entrada Libre

Entrevista al autor por Ariel Ruiz
Martes 12, 17:00 horas / Entrada Libre
Entrevista al autora por Guadalupe Lozada
Martes 19, 17:00 horas / Entrada Libre

Carlos Mújica
Martes 26, 17 horas / Entrada Libre

Friday, February 21, 2014

Biografía (Biography) edited by Mílada Bazant (and my essay about El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano)

una colección de ensayos
compilada por
Mílada Bazant
Prólogo de Enrique Krauze
It was a delight and an honor to be able to attend Mílada Bazant's book presentation yesterday evening at the Fería Internacional del Libro in Mexico City's Palacio de Minería. The book, with a splendid prologue by Mexico's leading biographer, Enrique Krauze, is Biografía. Métodos, metodologías y enfoques
El Colegio Mexiquense, 2013. 

Other contributors include Mary Kay Vaughn, Carlos Herrejón Paredo, Daniela Spenser, Rodrigo Terrazas Valdez, Esther Acevedo, Francie Chassen-López, María Teresa Fernández Aceves, Ma. de Lourdes Alvarado, María del Carmen Collado, Susana Quintanilla, Ana Rosa Suárez Arguello, Celia del Palacio, and Yours Truly.

(Bazant is the author of a fine biography, Laura Méndez de Cuenca. Mujer indómita y moderna (1853-1928). Vida cotidiana y entorno. El Colegio Mexiquense. Gobierno del Estado de México; México, 2009.)

Fería Internacional del Libro,
Palacio de Minería,
Ciudad de México, 2014
You can read my essay, which is about the nature of the literary novel per se, and blending the fiction and nonfiction in my own novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, here. (The essay is in Spanish and refers to Agustín Cadena's Spanish translation of the novel, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano.)

You can order a copy of Bazant's Biografía here.
ISBN 978-607-7761-52-5

P.S. Please be sure to see the previous post about the excellent conference running this winter and spring 2014 about Maximilian in Mexico at the Centro CARSO in Mexico City. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Conference about Maximilian in Mexico: Esplendor y ocaso del Segundo Imperio Mexicano

La fascinación por el Imperio
(Fascination for the Empire)
Patricia Galeana
ISBN 968 6815 31 7
The Centro de Estudios de Historia de México CARSO in Mexico City is hosting an important lecture series by outstanding figures and historians. I was fortunate enough to attend the first one, held this past Monday, of the presentation of Professor Patricia Galeana's  book, La fascinación por el Imperio (Fascination for the Empire). A handsome coffee-table book filled with rare photographs and Dr Galeana's expert accompanying essays, it also includes a photographic album of both imperialist and republican personalities.

The son of historian Berta Flores Salinas also talked about the donation of his mother's library of works about the Second Empire / French Intervention-- a new treasure for the Centro.

The conference is open to the public, but they do request an RSVP since seating is limited.

Las conferencias tendrán lugar los lunes a las 18:00 hrs. en el Salón de Eventos del 
Centro de Estudios de Historia de México Carso Fundación Carlos Slim: 
Plaza Federico Gamboa No. 1-A, Chimalistac.

Centro de Estudios de Historia de México Carso
Fundación Carlos Slim
Plaza Federico Gamboa No. 1
Col. Chimalistac
01070 México D.F.

El Centro de Estudios de Historia de México Carso 
Fundación Carlos Slim 
tiene el honor de invitar a usted al 
Ciclo de Conferencias Primavera 2014
Esplendor y ocaso del Segundo Imperio Mexicano

10 de Febrero

Maximiliano Emperador
Patricia Galeana

Presentación del libro La Fascinación por el Imperio

Ceremonia de donación de la Biblioteca Berta Flores Salinas

17 de Febrero
Historia de la Casa de Habsburgo
Carlos de Habsburgo

24 de Febrero
La otra cara de la Intervención Francesa: 
la fotografía en los tipos populares
Arturo Aguilar Ochoa

3 de Marzo
Maximiliano ¿Príncipe liberal?
Erika Pani

10 de Marzo
Los jardines de Maximiliano
Aurelio de los Reyes

24 de Marzo
Maximiliano y el Museo Nacional
Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

31 de Marzo
 La mesa del emperador 
Jose Luis Curiel

7 de Abril
La Iglesia y el Segundo Imperio
Manuel Olimón Nolasco

28 de Abril
El teatro en el Segundo Imperio I
Jorge del Río

5 de Mayo
El teatro en el Segundo Imperio II
Jorge del Río

12 de Mayo 
La colección del Segundo Imperio en el Museo Soumaya
Alfonso Miranda

19 de Mayo
La ciudad de México en tiempos de Maximiliano
Angeles González Gamio

26 de Mayo
Los fondos del Segundo Imperio en el Centro de Estudios
Manuel Ramos Medina

2 de Junio
Los fondos del Segundo Imperio en la Biblioteca de la Universidad Iberoamericana (los vencidos del 5 de mayo)
Teresa Matabuena 

9 de Junio
Adelante con el progreso
Esther Acevedo

Thursday, January 23, 2014

M.M. McAllen's Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico

M.M. McAllen has just published Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico, available from Trinity University Press. I read it in draft form and thought it a superb addition to the bibliography. If you happen to be anywhere near San Antonio, Texas, hie on over to The Twig for her book presentation on Saturday February 8, 2014 at 4 pm, and get your signed first edition. It is sure to be a gripping read-- and a collector's item.

(The Twig is a lovely little bookstore. I read there myself back in 2009 on tour for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. As I recall there are several good restaurants around the corner-- so why not make a night of it? The event at the Twig is free and open to the public, by the way, and does include refreshments.)

Check out these bodacious reviews for M.M. McAllen's opus:

"On the 150th anniversary of the installation of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian von Habsburg as emperor of Mexico, McAllen offers an authoritative, detailed, and engrossing account of the rise and fall of Mexico’s Second Empire... McAllen ably demonstrates how the Second Empire’s collapse was one of the most spectacular personal tragedies and political failures of the 19th century." — Publishers Weekly

"This is a thorough, complete history of Mexico’s second empire. The author leaves nothing untouched."
— William H. Beezley, professor of history at the University of Arizona
"Maximilian and Carlota is a deeply researched book about a period of Mexican history that, while vital for understanding modern Mexico and its relations with the United States and Europe, is of perhaps unparalleled cultural, political, and military complexity for such a short period."
— C. M. Mayo, author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
“Mexican history offers a phantasmagoria that beggars the imagination. Most writers seem to focus on three distinct eras: Conquest, Independence, and Revolution. But perhaps the most surreal, tragic, yet oddly comedic era in Mexico has gone largely unexamined, until now. M. M. McAllen has written an important book that not only reads like a novel of fantastic inventions but is key to understanding the soul of Mexico today. ” — Luis Albertio Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter

And with many thanks to Gayle Brennan Spencer, who blogs at Postcards from San Antonio, I have been alerted to what looks like an excellent show at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, to go along with McAllen's book. Here's the press release:

New Exhibit, Maximilian and Carlota: Last Empire in Mexico, Accompanies Book by Mary Margaret McAllen 
SAN ANTONIO— The Witte Museum presents a new exhibit, Maximilian and Carlota: Last Empire in Mexico, opening February 1 through March 30, 2014 in the Betty Coates Textile Gallery. The rule of Maximilian and Carlota, Emperor and Empress of Mexico in the 1860s, is examined in this exhibit and accompanies the release of the book, Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico written by South Texas scholar Mary Margaret McAllen, published by Trinity University Press. 
The exhibition features art and artifacts that have never been exhibited from the Witte’s permanent collections and several important private collections. Formal portraits of Maximilian and Carlota that were recently donated to the Witte Museum will be on public view for the first time. Newspaper articles, vintage photographs and objects from the Mexican Royal Court of the Emperor and Empress of Mexico will also be displayed.
Maximilian and Carlota: Last Empire in Mexico is generously supported by the City of San Antonio Department for Culture and Creative Development. The exhibit is included with general museum admission.
With over 400,000 visitors annually, the Witte Museum promotes lifelong learning through innovative exhibitions, programs and collections in natural history, science and South Texas heritage. For more information visit 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Memoir of Maximilian's Gardener, Wilhelm Knechtel

An important and very handsome book has just been published by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropolía e Historia: Las Memorias del Jardinero de Maximiliano, the personal memoirs of Maximilian's gardener, the botanist Wilhelm Knechtel, of his years in Mexico, 1864-1867. The text, originally published in German a century ago, has been translated for the first time  by noted scholar Susanne Igler (author of Carlota de México) and introduced by one of Mexico's leading experts on Maximilian and the Second Empire, Ampáro Gómez Tepexicuapan. The edition also includes a cornucopia of rare photographs, cartes-de-visites, full color illustrations, maps, and an extensive bibliography.

As Tepexicuapan writes in her introduction (my translation into English here), "to be the Gardner to the Court was, and surely will continue to be, an enviable title. The garden is the recreation of Eden and, at the same time, an expression of power." Maximilian, an avid botanist himself, considered his gardens a public display of elegance, order, and learning, and in almost all his many residences, he worked closely with Knechtel: herein lies the importance of this wonderful, anecdote-filled book.

Knechtel was first employed by Maximilian as gardener for his and Carlota's rustic retreat on Lacroma, a small island in the Adriatic. Later, for some five years Knechtel worked under the head gardner, Antón Jelinek, at Miramar, Maximilian's main residence in Trieste. Upon Maximilian's acceptance of the throne of Mexico, Knechtel was named Maximilian's chief gardner, and as such, accompanied the imperial party on their voyage to Veracruz. 

Knechtel's memoir provides a bouquet of detail about the imperial voyage to Mexico, an odyssey of over 50 days that included sailing near Stromboli, a visit to Rome, and stops in Madeira, Martinique, and Jamaica. Of the many episodes of the voyage, he records a vividly peculiar one: the crew's ceremony to "baptize" those crossing the line of the Tropics for the first time (my translation from the Spanish translation):

The carnival began at about 2 in the afternoon. The voice of Neptune, which boomed from the front of the boat, requested permission to board, which the official guard granted, and the boat stopped. The curtain fell and the god's entourage slowly marched toward the aftercastle. The line was headed by the Master of Ceremonies, a sailor of Hurculean stature, wearing a tricorne with gold decorations, furthermore, with an impressive beard and a wig of cigar butts painted black, and wearing only a red loincloth. His entire body was painted very artistically with a mixture of soot and vinegar so that it was impossible to distinguish him from a true Negro. In his hand he carried a long rod. Following after came three fantastically dressed musicians playing happy melodies. Then came the triumphal carriage which consisted of a gunstock of a cannon festooned with banners and baubles, pulled by eight devils who were also painted black and with golden horns and dressed in loincloths. The climax was the divine family: the god Neptune, his wife and child. Neptune, who was fantastically dressed as a sailor, was a short and fat crew member who wore a golden crown, a white beard, long and wavy and made of hemp, with a fishing harpoon as his trident in his right hand and in his left, a thunderous horn. Neptune's consort, the beautiful Amphitrite, was represented by a very tall and thin waiter, a sailor from the Dalmatian coast dressed in tresses of hemp, a tiny crown on his head, and bare chested and bare shouldered as god made him, but dressed in an enormous crinoline. In his arms he carried the child: it was the smallest cabin boy, dressed in diapers, with a tiny crown on his head and purple cape on his shoulders. Frequent pinches produced the desired baby cries.   

Throughout the book Knechtel treats the reader to vivid anecdotes-- I was astonished to find so many scenes and personalities and episodes well known yet rendered fresh and surprising through his point of view. One more example: the visit of the Kickapoos in March of 1865:

...five men and four women, one of them with a child. They were wrapped in red and blue serapes, fantastic head ornaments of feathers, leather, ribbons and glass, and they walked with solemnity through Chapultepec Park, the women with their heads bare. The chief was an old man. From his neck hung a symbol of his authority: a great silver medallion with an engraving of a jaguar and a commemorative coin of Louis XV of France. .. They brought with them three black men from Texas as their translators. These spoke the Kickapoo language, but no Spanish nor French, only English, a language which the emperor and empress spoke perfectly. The emperor received them very kindly and then had them served a meal in the park, at the entrance to the grand boulevard; the plates were put directly on the ground. In a circle, the Kickapoos knelt down and ate with their hands.
Though this memoir is one any armchair reader might savor for its wealth of colorful detail,  its author takes his place among the rare company of those who have left us invaluable eyewitness testimony to this strange, violent, theatrical, and fleeting episode in Mexican history: Dr Samuel Basch, Charles Blanchot, José Luis Blasio, Marie de la Fere, Henry R. Magruder, Prince von Khevenhuller, Prince and Princess Salm-Salm, Sara Yorke Stevenson, Countless Paula von Kollonitz, journalist William Wells, and the reports of Baron Magnus to Bismarck. In short, Knechtel's memoir is both enjoyable and essential reading for anyone interested in Mexico's Second Empire / Maximilian / French Intervention.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Massimiliano e Carlotta, an Italian blog

Today a correspondent sent me to this link to a picture-rich Italian blog at facebook:

As many Mexicans do not know, Maximilian and Carlota served as vicroy and vicereine of Lombardy Veneto-- as Massimiliano e Carlotta-- with their palace at Monza. That did not work out, as the Italians were none too happy with Austrian rule and the Kaiser, Maximilian's older brother, did not consider the youthful Maximilian sufficiently heavy-handed. Maximilian and Carlota then retired to Trieste, and from there, received Louis Napoleon and the Mexican monarchists' offer of the so-called "cactus throne."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Twin Mermaid Fountains in Veracruz, Mexico and Concepción, Chile

It turns out that the mermaid fountain in Concepción Chile is an exact copy of the one Carlota gave to the city of Veracruz (destroyed in 1915). Read all about it (in Spanish) and view pictures over at the Veracruz Antiguo blog. (Hat tip to Carmen Boone de Aguilar).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Los viajes de Maximiliano en México by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan (Comentarios de C.M. Mayo en la presentación)

Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan
From the CONACULTA website
about the presentation
Herewith (below), my comments for the presentation of Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan's Los viajes de Maximiliano en México (Maximilian's Travels in Mexico) in Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle yesterday. A magnificent, meticulously researched and beautifully designed book, Los viajes de Maximiliano en México is a major contribution to our understanding of not only his government but the period, and as such it deserves to be in any and every collection of Maximiliana.

Presentación del libro
Martes 12 de febrero, 2013
Castillo de Chapultepec

Comentarios de C.M. Mayo
Querida Amparo; compañeros comentaristas; Señoras y Señores:

Antes que nada, quisiera agradecer la muy amable invitación para participar en la presentación de este magnífico libro, sin duda en un inmejorable escenario. Para mi tiene un doble significado este evento: primero, es un tributo a los autores, a quienes respeto profundamente en lo profesional y personal, y aprovecho este instante para mandarle mis mejores deseos al Dr Ratz , quien no ha podido estar presente aquí por motivos de salud; y segundo, por la profundidad con que se aborda el tema mismo del libro.

Como dice el refrán, nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena. Pero esto no quita que hubiera apreciado inmensamente haber tenido a mi disposición este libro, investigado meticulosamente y documentado e ilustrado maravillosamente, cuando estaba en el proceso de escribir mi novela.

Como saben todos quienes se meten a estudiar este periodo, el Segundo Imperio o Intervención francesa, fue un episodio de la historia mexicana verdaderamente transnacional: ahí tenemos al archidique austriaco, el ejército francés, tenemos empresarios y banqueros ingleses, norteamericanos, todo tipo de mexicanos, tanto condes como indígenas y belgas y húngaros y hasta la reina Victoria y el Papa... Para poder investigar a fondo, uno tiene que leer cartas, informes y libros no solamente en castellano, francés y alemán, sino también en inglés y en ocasiones sería deseable—y en mi casi no fue posible— en portugués, italiano o húngaro. Aparte de esta Torre de Babel, las costumbres, filosofias e incentivos de tan diversos protagonistas, tanto mexicanos como extranjeros, son muy dificil de tomar con seriedad. Nada más para dar un ejemplo entre cientos, para quizá cada uno nosotros, nacidos en el siglo XX, ciudadanos de una república, ya sea Mexico o en mi caso, los Estados Unidos, cuando leemos el tomo escrito por Maximiliano y Carlota durante su traslado a México, nuestra inclinación natural es de reír. Estoy hablando del Reglamento y ceremonial de la corte en el cuál se especifica hasta el color de los calcetines de los meseros, a quién le toca un cojín de terciopelo en tal ceremonia y a quién no. No obstante, en el contexto del mundo de esta pareja, es decir, el Europa de aquel entonces en donde los rituales monárquicos, con su énfasis en demostrar y hasta intimidar con su riqueza, orden y poder, dicho reglamento tiene un perfecto sentido.

A esta complejidad más que bizantina de este periodo añadimos el hecho de que Maximiliano y Carlota viajaban casi constantamente. . . .  CONTINUAR

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Los viajes de Maximilian (Maximilian's Travels)

Read my comments about this book, given for its presentation on Feb 12, 2013.

On Tuesday February 12, 2013 @ 6:30 pm
I will be on the panel presenting the new book by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan,
Los viajes de Maximiliano en México
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
(In Spanish, entrada libre)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Recollections of Maximilian by Marie de la Fere

A free book-- download it here. It's been in rough form on-line for sometime but I've updated the introduction and formatted it as an ebook. (Tip: If you're using an iPad, click on "open in iBooks.")

From the new introduction:

It was the distinguished historian of Mexico, Robert Ryal Miller, who told me about this circa 1910 English language handwritten manuscript long-languishing in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Very generously, as was his way, he wrote to me, knowing that I was doing archival research for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, and recommended that I look it up on my next visit to the Bancroft.

There is always something magical about touching old paper, running one's finger along the faded ink, but it turned out that I had to read "My Recollections of Maximilian" on microfiche-- reeling a tape through a cranky old machine in a dark room. The handwriting appeared to be that of an older person, elegant but cramped, smallish, and set down in a first draft, as if jotted one afternoon on whatever paper might have been handy, and only after being repeatedly pressed by some younger friend. In places, here a word, there a sentence fragment, were impossible to make out. But reading it was well worth the trouble, for, among so many other things, it gave me insight into the Mexican monarchists' passionate feelings for their unlikely emperor,
Maximilian von Habsburg.

Younger brother of Austria's Kaiser Franz Josef, Maximilian was shanghaied by pie-in-the-sky promises into serving as the puppet emperor of Louis Napoleon's so-called Mexican Expedition. For Mexicans, this Austrian with the beautiful uniforms and splendid red beard who ended his young life in 1867 before a firing squad in Querétaro, shouting, "Viva México!" is a figure of endless fascination, ridicule, scholarly reconsidersations, gossip, paintings, operas, musicals, movies, and, of course, novels. Adding to the beguilement, his wife, the arrogantly beautiful Carlota—granddaughter of France's King Louis Philippe (the one who abdicated in 1848), daughter of King Leopold of Belgium, sister of Leopold II (of Congo fame), and first cousin to Queen Victoria— went raving mad in the Vatican and spent the rest of her long life—she died in 1927— sequestered in a castle in Belgium. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Book by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan

Leading historians of Mexico's Second Empire or French Intervention, Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan, have just published an invaluable resource for anyone studying the period-- or writing a novel: the Spanish translation of their work originally published in German, Los viajes de Maximiliano en México (1864-1867) with a fine introduction by Salvador Rueda Smithers, director of Mexico's National Museum of History (Chaputlepec Castle).

Here's hoping it sees publication in English. As I wrote about the original German edition, Ein Kaiser unterwegs:

Maximilian accepted the throne of Mexico without ever having seen it-- he was crowned Emperor in 1864 in his residence in Trieste (then part of Austria, now Italy). Once he arrived in Mexico, however, he made strenuous efforts to tour the country and get to know its people, its moneymen and other key players, its natural wonders and, of course, the silver mines. As anyone who tries to write about Mexico's Second Empire soon discovers, Maximilian's (and his consort Carlota's) incessant travels make any chronology of the period headscratchingly complex. 
Enter the indispensable Ein Kaiser unterwegs: Die Reisen Maximilians von Mexiko 1864-1867 nach Presseberichten und Privatbriefen* by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan (Vienna: Böhlau, 2007), which details Maximilian's multitude of journeys in Mexico during the Second Empire. These include his inaugural tours of 1864 and then 1865 to the silver mines; 1865 and 1866 to Cuernavaca; October 1866 through January 1867 to Orizaba and back to the capital; and the final journey to Querétaro in 1867. 
A hardcover edition with many rare photographs, documents, and new maps, a bibliography, and an index of biographical names, this is an essential addition to any collection concerning the period.  

Here's my translation of the Spanish edition's back cover:

Maximilian's travels in Mexican territory have been the object of speculation but not any in-depth research. The authors of this book aim to fill this gaps and present historical evidence of the liberal "coup d'etat" Maximilian did not achieve in nearly three months of his first tour as emperor. In detailed analysis, they also examine the activities of his second, third, and fourth tours. 
Maximilian traveled the territory of his Empire intending to govern in situ. For the first time, this work shows his activities, ideas, decrees, by a day-by-day description of the receptions, and his meetings with political figures, as well as his programs of visits to schools and other public institutions.

>>Get your copy here:
Fondo de Cultura Económica
Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA)
ISBN 978 607 516 052 8

Read my comments given for this book's presentation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Celtic Cross, Gift from the Pope to Maximilian

With thanks to my Austrian correspondent Herbert Brindl, and many apologies for my terrible delay, a link to page of (alas, old) news of the auction of the cross given by the Pope to Maximilian. It's quite something, no? Anyone aiming to a make a movie starring the ex-Archduke had better feature this very luxurious object. Apparently, according to the auction house, Maximilian wore it on all state occasions.

PS The Pope's wedding gift to Maximilian and Carlota of an inlaid table is on display at Miramar Castle.

I'll be back posting something about the two (yes, count 'em) editions of Maximilian and Carlota's book of protocol... anon....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Amor por México, Maximiliano y Carlota, an Alebrije by Raúl Santos Ramírez

This is a post I meant to make back in (gulp) October of 2010. Thanks to sharp-eyed Rubén Pacheco, some fun snaps from the monumental alebrijes show in Mexico City, of the work titled "Amor por México, Maximiliano y Carlota." What's an alebrije? I think of them a combination of Chinese dragon and a display piñata or maybe a sculpture and an intricately hand-made candy-wrapper. This is a playful interpretation of Maximilian and Carlota's love for Mexico by Raúl Santos Ramírez. Here is a translation of the artist's own description of the work:

An homage to the foreigners who love our country and have taken root in our culture. 
Emperor Maximilian von Habsburg is personified by a hawk, which represents his Austrian origin and with a glimpse of a crown to invoke his renouncing the crown in order to govern our country. His clothing merges with a charro's suit, a tradition in which he was a pioneer, and the long roots are the deep love he felt for Mexico. 
Empress Carlota Amalia of Belgium, is embodied as a fairy, which symbolizes the madness she suffered until her death and the hope she had of being together with Maximilian. 
Three hearts, the largest symbolizing Mexico and the way in which both sank roots in a brief time in our country, the hearts in the hands  represent the love story between them  and the heart formed by the wings the hope for this nation's prosperity.


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