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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Justo Armas

My fellow Mexico aficionado, author Michael Hogan, sent me this curious link he came upon about Justo Armas. Fun reading for anyone intrigued by the many Maximilian legends of yore.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

La Sociedad and La Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada

La Sociedad was the newspaper of Mexico's Second Empire. For my research for my novel, I had the privilege-- as can you, should you visit Mexico City-- of reading the originals in the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada. (I had to use gloves and wear a mask...)

This truly extraordinary library is run by Mexico's Ministry of Finance (SHCP) and it is open to the public. Watch this brief overview and introduction by director Juan Manuel Herrera:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

El Cerro de las Campanas

The Cerro de las Campanas (Hill of the Bells) was where Maximilian was executed in June of 1867-- 45 years ago. Pictured left, as I snapped it in the local museum, is the coffin used to transport his body from there to the embalmer's.

>>Mexican writer Araceli Ardón, who lives in Querétaro, posted the essay, "Cerro de las Campanas," on her blog.

>>Click here for a few photos of the Cerro de las Campanas and the chapel to Maximilian's memory.

>>A translation from the Hungarian about the fiasco of the embalming is here.

>>Lots more about Maximilian on the dedicated webpage here.

>>"From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion," my award-winning essay about a visit to Maximilian's (yes) Italian castle, originally published in the Massachusetts Review, is available here.

I aim to post more regularly on the coming weeks. Several interesting items are awaiting...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

José Luis Blasio Papers in Mexico City

The author of the dishy-- and classic-- memoir, Maximiliano Intimo, José Luis Blasio served in Mexico as a secretary to Maximilian von Habsburg, and in Europe 1866, to the Empress Carlota, witnessing many of the most dramatic events of the Second Empire / French Intervention. I was delighted to learn that his invaluable archive now has a home at the Centro de Estudios de Historia de México Carso in Mexico City.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New in Kindle: El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano and "From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion"

The Spanish edition of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), as El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano, beautifully translated by Mexican poet and novelist Agustín Cadena, is now available on Kindle.

>>Watch the trailer:

Also now available on Kindle from Dancing Chiva is my long essay about a visit to Maximilian's castle in Italy, "From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion" by C.M. Mayo, originally published in the Massachusetts Review.

Light posting on this blog for a spell because I've been busy with the publication of my trtanslation of Francisco I. Madero's Spiritist Manual and a new podcasting project that launched this month. But I will be posting here again soon; I still have a lot of research to share.

P.S. If I owe you an e-mail, my apologies, but please know I do read my e-mail and, though behind, I am doing my best to catch up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dr Konrad Ratz Event Today in the National Palace, Mexico City

Dr Konrad Ratz has translated a profoundly important work for understanding Maximilian's Mexican adventure and unfortunate end: The reports of the Prussian Ambassador to Mexico, Baron von Magnus, to Otto von Bismarck.

Those who are aficionados of the period will know that Baron Magnus was the only diplomat who witnessed Maximilian's execution in 1867.

Dr Ratz found Magnus's reports in the archives in Berlin and has translated them into Spanish as El ocaso del Imperio de Maximiliano visto por un diplomático prusiano: Los informes de Anton von Magnus a Otto von Bismarck, 1866-1867.

It has been published by Siglo Veintiuno Editors and there will be a formal presention TODAY at 17:00 hrs in the Biblioteca Homenaje a Benito Juárez, Palacio Nacional (free and open to the public).

Dr Ratz is also the editor and translator of several (yes several) other vital and paradigm-changing works, including Tras las huellas de un desconocido and Correspondencia inédita entre Maximiliano y Carlota.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Letter of Warning from Don Pedro Montezuma XV to Maximilian, 1864

Some people have written to me asking about the letter I quote in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, from Don Pedro Montzeuma XV, the sole legitimate descendant of the Aztec emperor, to Maximilian von Habsburg in 1864. Here is the excerpt in the novel-- my translation, edited:

French cannon have cowed some into submission; once tranquility reigns, however, there will rise up all of a sudden a terrible counter-revolution. . . Your Highness has been too precipitous in accepting the Mexican throne . . . Those who today form the regency are of the most impious stripe . . . depraved evildoers, usurpers, they rob the Treasury, they rob even the Holy Church . . . they will supplant Your Highness perhaps after a tragic end.

The actual letter is in Maximilian's archive, and a reprint can be ordered from the Austrian Staatsarchiv in Vienna. There is also a copy of this letter in the Library of Congress's Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko archive (box 117, chalked on spine, box 118, pages 25-37).

Here is the original excerpt with original spelling and accents:

Porque el canon frances los tiene a algunas amedrentados, mas despues cuando se crea que todo se halla sozegado, estallará de repente una contrarevolucion terrible. V.A. [Vuestra Alteza or, Your Highness] me permitirá le diga que es preciso usar de otros medios que yo conozco como Mexicano, que amo deveras a mi pays y a mis patricios para llegar al fin deseado, pero V.A. ha sido demasiado precipitado en acceptar la oferta al trono de Mexico. V.A. debe refleccionar bien antes de abandonar su patria, a donde se halla feliz y respectado, para emprender su marcha a un pays enteramente desconocido, y que desde 1812 no ha habido un Gobierno ni de hecho ni de derecho, y que tan solo se ha alimentado en una continua guerra interna causada por caudillos ambiciosos y sin principios de ninguna clase; y de manera alguna clasificados para hacer la felicidad de aquellos pueblos. Puedese decir sin escrupulo que los que compenen en el dia la regencia son la estirpe la mas desapiadada y entre ellos hay algunos, o casi todos, que por pruebas autenticas se pueden calificar de malhechores, de deprarados y usurpadores, que han estafado el tesoro publico robado la hacienda ageno, y hasta el culto divino; encadenando la libertad de todo ciudadano tanto Mexicano como estranjero, insultando del modo mas infame las banderas y representantes de todas las potencias estrangeras.

V.A. antes de aceptar cargo de tanto peso, deberia estar sastifecho ue son los pueblos que lo claman que de ellos espontaneamente ha nacido la exigencia que V.A. los Gobierne; y no de tan solo un pequeño numero de aspirantes que su deseo no es mas que la ambición; y que despues de fundada una Monarquia (en caso que asi suceda) ellos mismos sean los primeros que desaprueben al Estrangero que los Gobierna para entre ellos escoger el que mas convenga a sus miras de desolacion y rapiña suplantado a V.A. quiza despues de un tragico fin.

The letter goes on for some pages, and is signed PEDRO MONTEZUMA XV, 17 feb 1864, 116, Rua de meio, Porto

For more about the descendants of Moctzeuma (modern spelling of the name), try wikipedia. Not the best source, I know. I would very much appreciate any references.

One of the highest ranking ladies-in-waiting to Carlota was also a descendant of Moctezuma, Josefa Varela. She makes a couple of brief appearances in the novel. More about her anon.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Entrevistas en el Palacio Nacional

Some news re: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Today, October 18th @ 5 pm, I'm doing an unusual event for my book, the Spanish translation (beautifully translated by Agustín Cadena), El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano: a live interview by Bertha Hernández in Mexico City's National Palace (Palacio Nacional), as part of a series hosted by Random House Mandadori and SHCP about the historical novel of Mexico.

All events are free and open to the public.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 18, 2011, Interview - Entrevista en el Palacio Nacional

Light blogging here because I've been away from my files and also I'm racing against the clock to prepare my introduction to and the website for my translation of Francisco I. Madero's Spiritist Manual, which was originally published in 1911, (yes, long after the Second Empire / French Intervention), and will be published this November, on its centennial, as an e-book from Dancing Chiva. I'll be reading from and discussing this very unusual book on November 10th as part of the Author's Sala Reading Series in San Miguel de Allende. (Click here for my events page.)

As for the Second Empire / French Intervention, I'll be doing a formal interview about my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire / El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano and the original research behind it on October 18th in Mexico City's Palacio Nacional, as part of the series on historical fiction.

If you can't make that event, my talk at the Library of Congress is available here, and a reader's guide is available in both English and español.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Joan Haslip's The Crown of Mexico: Maximilian and His Empress Carlota

In the decades after the publication of Maximilian und Charlotte von Mexiko, Conte Corti's 1924 magnum opus, the first to rely on Maximilian's archives, several works covering the same period and personalities were published in English. The best of them is Joan Haslip's The Crown of Mexico: Maximilian and His Empress Carlota (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971).

From the dust jacket:

Joan Haslip is the daughter of the late George Ernest Haslip. M.D., the original planner of the British Health Service. She was educated privately in London and on the Continent and grew up in Florence. During the Second World War, she was editor in the Italian section of the European Service of the BBC. Miss Haslip has traveled extensively in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East and has lectured for the British Council in Italy and the Middle East. She is the author of Out of Focus, Lady Hester Stanhope, Parnell, Portrait of Pamela, Lucrezia Borgia, and The Lonely Empress.

Haslip died in Florence in 1994 at the age of 82. (Read an obituary here.)

Alas, I'm away from my files and shelves for the summer; I'll have more to say about this splendid book after Labor Day.

Next post: October 11, 2011.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Emperor's Little Pears by Maruja González

With each passing generation, whole cliff-sides worth of things and memories crumble away. Yet in 2011, many from the 1860s still survive. A friend from San Miguel de Allende, in fact one of the translators I most admire, Geoff Hargreaves, sent me this story by Maruja González (alas, untranslated). The author very kindly gave her permission for me to include it here on this blog. It is part of what she describes as a collection of family stories and anecdotes, nostalgia and criticisms, for-- my translation-- "at times I want to laugh, for you see, we are all, myself included, very provincial." It is a true story, a family story, and I am delighted to include it here not only because it made me smile, but because I believe it is representative of so many stories about Maximilian, many of which may never appear in print, but are still alive in Mexican families today.

For those who don't read Spanish: As part of his tours of his empire, in 1864, Maximilian visited San Miguel de Allende. He stayed in the house of the author's great grandparents, where a great banquet was prepared including, for dessert, a family recipe of little pears in syrup. Praised by Maximilian himself, the recipe was handed down until... one day... it was served to the author herself. I won't give away the ending! (For more about Maximilian's Mexican travels, see Ein Kaiser Unterwegs by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez.)


By Maruja González

…apreciamos en todo su valor los sacrificios que
Vuestras Majestades han hecho para venir a
regenerarnos; comprendemos la magnitud
de esta difícil pero gloriosa empresa…

Regidores del Ayuntamiento de San Miguel de Allende
a Maximiliano de Habsburgo en 1864
(Diario del Imperio)

Ya he hablado de lo anacrónicos que éramos y en muchos asuntos creo que seguimos siéndolo, es un mal del país y más aún de San Miguel y de mi familia aunque muchos nos creemos muy modernos y librepensadores. Qué se le va a hacer, las plumas se nos asoman a veces. Esta anacronía como forma de perduración, aunque inconsciente, se refleja en hechos de la vida cotidiana como hacer los pacholes en el metate o cerrar los ojos al salir del cine para que no nos de la gota serena que quién sabe qué será, también en el pensar, en el habla con modismos y palabras no solo pueblerinas sino arcaicas y, como ya he contado por ahí, en esa convivencia con los fantasmas añosos enredados en la trama de nuestra vida. Ya las nuevas generaciones se han librado de este lastre pero también han perdido aquella gracia tan provinciana que tenían las tías viejas (creo que yo ya ocupé el lugar de esas tías, pero sin gracia). Aún así, los jóvenes de ahora no se libran de oir de vez en cuando relatos qué, pasados por el tamiz del tiempo, han variado poco de una generación a otra.

Ahora voy a hablar de nuestra relación con Maximiliano de Habsburgo, (nótese que digo nuestra) sí, el merito Emperador austriaco que los mexicanos trajimos porque supuestamente no sabíamos gobernarnos (a lo mejor tenían razón los conservadores). Este honor que tuvimos los sanmigueleños de ser visitados por tan insigne personaje no se nos ha olvidado en más de siglo y medio de acontecido y cualquiera de mis familiares y otros paisanos entrados en años les podrán contar con gran orgullo la opinión que tuvo el Emperador al conocer la cripta de la Parroquia: patitieso y boquiabierto comentó con entusiasmo: ¡Esta cripta es digna de reyes! Yo no sé si el Archiduque austriaco era muy educado (que seguramente lo era, nomás faltaba, pero se excedió) o muy hipócrita, o adulador, para ganarse adeptos, o simplemente padecía de cataratas pero hay que visitar nuestra cripta para sospechar que alguno de estos padecimientos lo aquejaba.

Los festejos que se hicieron en San Miguel para recibir a tan importante personaje, que llegó a la una y media de la tarde del trece de septiembre de 1864, en su periplo para ser conocido y conocer sus nuevas posesiones, cuando iba de paso hacia Dolores Hidalgo a echar el Grito de Independencia (la primera conmemoración después de la arenga del Padre Hidalgo en 1810), fueron festejos muy fastuosos y todo mundo se alborotó para agasajarlo: repiques en todas las iglesias, multitudes vitoreándolo, un imponente Arco Triunfal de origen romano en la esquina de la Plaza, misa solemne, saraos, jamaicas populares, fuegos artificiales y cohetes, muchos cohetes porque esos sí nunca nos pueden faltar, los arcos romanos los dejamos de hacer pero sin el coheterío no podemos vivir, y siguieron con cuanto mitote se les ocurrió para el pobre Maximiliano que siempre estuvo muy enfermo y lo deben de haber acabado de amolar.

No sé por qué causa hospedaron a Su Majestad en la casa de mis tatarabuelos (de la familia Lambarri, en la esquina de San Francisco y Corregidora) y ahí se le hizo solemnísimo banquete con música y solistas y las señoras encopetadas lamentaron mucho la ausencia de la Emperatriz, Carlotita, como ya le decían de cariño. Todas estas señoras de la crema y nata de San Miguel se pulieron haciendo rebuscados manjares a cual más exquisito y lucidor. Una de mis tías tuvo a bien preparar unas peras en almíbar que encantaron al monarca, quien se volcó en elogios a tan maravilloso postre. Esta anécdota, como se comprenderá es otro de los orgullos de la familia junto al de la tía Tita, que componía poesías a la Virgen del Tepeyac y el de mi tía Lupe la cristera.

A mi hermana y a mí esa historia nos embobaba, era nuestro único contacto con la realeza aunque mediara un siglo entre nosotros y nos transportábamos a un cuento de hadas propio. –Un día de estos les voy a hacer las “Peritas del Emperador”—nos decía mamá y esperábamos y esperábamos y ese día tardaba en llegar. Tras muchos ruegos llegó el momento ansiado: --Hoy hay de postre “Peritas del Emperador”--.Ilusión, suspenso… Llegó a la mesa el platón con unas tristes peras de San Juan también nadando en un triste almíbar que tenían un sabor soso más triste aún. – ¿Y esto le ofrecieron a Maximiliano? -- Nos ganó una risa de no parar. Mamá se enfurruñó y nunca volvió a hacernos el cacareado platillo.

Ahora pienso que el pobre visitante real, que padecía una disentería galopante desde antes de llegar a México, debe haber estado harto de comilonas y la sencillez de las peritas le cayó muy bien al estómago y sí debe haber sido sincero en sus elogios. En los de la cripta, bueno…quizá tenga yo que ir de vuelta a visitarla uno de estos días a ver si me pasmo como el Emperador.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dancing Chiva's Maximiliana, Richard Salvucci on How Google Disrespected Mexican History, and Catherine Clinton on Mary Chestnut

This blog has been quiet lately because I've been preparing the launch this fall of several e-books, including a few works of Maximiliana, and the e-book of my novel in Spanish translation, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. (View the complete catalog here and watch my brief video about e-book cover design here.) My original intention with this blog, to share my research on (most) Tuesdays, remains firm, and to be sure, I still have many books and archives and individual documents to comment on-- so be sure to check back again next Tuesday.

This Tuesday, two notes in one. First, I'd like to recommend an article by Professor Richard Salvucci about the unfortunate fate of a very important archive of Mexican newspapers. It's news in itself, but in a broader sense, it illustrates the fragility of digital archives.

Second, a note about Mary Chesnut, author of a diary, first published posthumously in 1905 in a bowlderized version as A Diary from Dixie, and later in expanded and annotated editions, including the Penguin Classics edition introduced by Catherine Clinton. While Mary Chestnut had nothing to do with Mexico, as a writer of historical fiction, I needed to immerse myself in the vocabulary and syntax of the time. Some of my characters, most notably, the American mother of the prince and Mrs Yorke (mother of Sara Yorke Steveson), would have been contemporaries of Mary Chesnut, so hers was one of and certainly the most vivid of several memoirs I read, taking careful note, as might a poet. (As I like to say, a novel is a poem.) I had long planned to make a note about Chesnut's memoir in this blog but historian Catherine Clinton's splendid essay about her, "Queen Bee of the Confederacy," came out recently in the New York Times Opinionator, so, that covered, I warmly recommend that to you... and I'll move on to other subjects. Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry Into Some Strangely Related Families by Jeremy Paxman

When I present my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, one of the inevitable questions I get is, how long did it take you to write it? It took over a decade, on-and-off, and according to my best calculations, full-time, about seven years. Why so long? Apart from actually writing it, I had to do the mountainous reading to even begin to make sense of 19th century Mexico and the French Intervention; extensive original archival research; and-- this is what surprised me the most-- get my head around the concept of royalty. And one reason it took me so long to get my head around the idea of royalty is that, for more time than I'd like to admit, I didn't realize that I needed to.

I grew up in California in the 60s and 70s, so of course, between school and the movies, I'd heard and read and seen all about the Kings and Queens of Europe, and especially, British royalty. Before our hero George Washington strode onto the colonial scene, there were the parade of Tudors, Henry VIII and those unfortunate wives, Elizabeth, and then a hop-skip-and-a-jump to wacky George III. Later, still culturally speaking very close to home, came Victoria and Albert; in the 20th century, that errant Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson (bless their pugs), and then of course, spanning my grandparents' latter lifetimes, my parents', and my own so far, Queen Elizabeth, always smilingly impeccable in her marshmallow-shaped hat du jour. Then came Princess Diana, her marriage, escapades, and horrifying early death. Now we have William and Kate gracing the covers of People and Hola... Never mind Americans: who on this planet isn't familiar with the British royal family?

My family background is party English but mostly Irish and Scottish with a strong tradition of, well, to put it politely, not taking royalty very seriously. In fact, my sister used to always make me laugh with jokes about the "Chuck and Di" show and, on seeing any photographs or TV on same, "Ah yes, that's why we had a revolution!" In sum, when I started my novel, I didn't think I had anything more to learn about royalty, other than the relevant dates and facts about Maximilian and Carlota, and I cannot say I felt even a shred of reverence for the institution. Alas, this was a woefully inadequate approach.

What a novel can do is give the reader the delight and the privilege of experiencing the world from someone else's point of view. Towards this end, the novelist need not ask for the reader's sympathy for the characters, but he or she does need to ask for, and earn, the reader's compassion. With a novel based on the true story of a pair of monarchs and their unlikely heir presumptive, how could I begin to construct believable characters without fully comprehending the point of view, the deeply rooted-feelings of people who were, in their blood and bones, monarchists?

And in working towards that comprehension, I believe the novelist needs to treat the characters, however imperfect they may be, with dignity for, if not, how can the reader be expected to feel the full impact of tragedy? A novel filled with nothing but snotty-silly cartoon characters is about as appetizing as a plate of sawdust. (Unless, of course, the plot, twisty puzzle, is the whole point. I don't write those kinds of novels and I don't read them either).

I don't want to write an essay here, just a blog post, so I'll wrap it up in a word: mystic. The monarch--- and by extension, all members of his or family-- play a mystic role in providing their countrymen a self of themselves. When Mexico, so briefly, was a monarchy for a second time under Maximilian von Habsburg, he and his Mexican supporters saw him as the living symbol of the nation and as such, more than a human being. In many of the histories of Mexico's Second Empire, the Empress Carlota's refusing to allow Maximilian to abdicate, even as their empire crumbled around them, is taken as evidence of her incipient madness. But I now believe, having immersed myself in reading and meditating on it for long, that given her education as not only the daughter of the King of the Belgians, but granddaughter of Louise Philippe of France, first cousin of Queen Victoria, and sister-in-law of the Kaiser Franz Josef, she understood the role, and understandably so, as far larger than her own, merely human life.

Then, shortly afterwards, Carlota did go mad, but that's another blog post.

One of the ways I found the beginnings of a path into understanding what was to me a very foreign point of view was reading contemporary British books about royalty. I'll be providing a list of those shortly. Among the most entertaining, and for me very helpful, was Jeremy Paxman's On Royalty, an affectionate, witty, and unusually perceptive meditation on the whys and wherefores of this peculiar but very human institution.

More anon.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...