Thursday, November 19, 2015

Carlota's Visit to Yucatán: VIAJE A YUCATAN por Carlota de Bélgica, prólogo de José N. Iturriaga

Por Carlota de Bélgica
Prólogo de José N. Iturriaga
CONACULTA, México, 2011
ISBN 978-607-455-680-3
[You should be able to find a copy on and/or look it up on World Cat.]

Ever since it was published in 2011 I have been meaning to post a note about this handsome little book-- little indeed at a mere 75 pages, but nonetheless a vital contribution to the literature on the period.

In November of 1865, for the monarchists, the political and military circumstances in Mexico had begun to deteriorate to such degree that Maximilian could not leave the capital for the few weeks his much-anticipated state visit to Yucatán would have required. In his stead he sent his empress, Carlota. 

Less than a year from when she would suffer a permanent psychotic breakdown, Carlota reported on this exotic, politically crucial and physically dangerous journey-- a report I had the privilege to read in her own remarkably clear and steady handwriting, preserved in the archives in Vienna and, by the way, in a copy in the Library of Congress in Washington DC [where you will find it there under "Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko" in the Manuscripts Division]. 

It always seemed strange to me that Carlota's report on the Yucatán languished in the archives. I was glad indeed to see this edition brought out by Mexico's CONACULTA and with a thoughtful introduction by Mexican historian José N. Iturriaga

(Stranger still to me was a visit to Brussels about a decade ago, to an exhibition of Aztec and Mayan artworks where I found not a single mention of Carlota's visit, nor of her report.)

Here is my translation of the book's back cover:

María Carlota Amalia Agustina Victoria Clementina Leopoldina de Saxe-Coburg y Orleáns Boubon- Deux-Siciles y de Habsbourg-Lorraine, daughter of King Leopold I and Queen Louise of Belgium, was born on June 7, 1840. Carlota was the first cousin of Queen Victoria of English and, on her mother's side, granddaughter of King Louis Philippe of France. In 1857 Carlota married the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. She arrived in Mexico with him in 1864.
Summa Mexicana here presents a series of 24 texts written by Carlota between 1865 and 1866 in which she describes her visit as Empress of Mexico to the Yucatán peninsula.
In telegrams, speeches, reports, letters and notes, some to her husband and others to diplomats and family members, we discover the personality, at times simple, of a singular woman who is remembered in Mexico in myriad ways.
Carlota of Belgium died on January 19, 1927 at almost 87 years of age in the country of her birth.
More anon. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual

As the title says, my latest book is about Francisco I. Madero's Spiritist philosophy and the Mexican Revolution, which he launched in 1910-- more than thirty years after Maximilian's infamous demise on the Cerro de las Campanas in Querétaro. So it might seem that this has zip to do with Maximilian and the so-called Second Empire. Au contraire.

Although Metaphysical Odyssey is nonfiction, and intended to represent a serious scholarly contribution to the literature of the Revolution,  it is also, to a degree, a personal memoir, for I write as a novelist, that is, as one who comes at the subject having written fiction about Mexico's Second Empire, and, as with my fiction, in this I attempt a work of literary art per se

I am happy to report that the reviews for Metaphsyical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution have been good, including a lengthy one by José Mariano Leyva in Letras Libres, and that the book won the National Indie Excellence Award for History. 

I invite you to visit the book's website in English or in Spanish.  Both sites offer excerpts, links to find the book on amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc, as well as extensive resources for researchers. Among them are the podcast of my recent talk for UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies and an interview with the leading esoteric podcast, "Occult of Personality", hosted by Greg Kaminsky.

Leyva, by the way, is the author of the excellent El ocaso de los espíritus. El espiritismo en México en el siglo XIX. Ediciones Cal y Arena, 2005. It seems that Kardec's books on Spiritism came to Mexico with the French Intervention of the 1860s. More about that anon. 

Also in the pipeline for this blog: a note about Empress Carlota's state visit to Yucatán in 1865 and an in-depth interview with Mary Margaret McAllen, the author of Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico.


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