Modern Mexico. By James D. Huck, Jr. Understanding Modern Nations. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017. 362 p. Acid-free $97. (ISBN 978-1-4408-5090-5). E-book available (978-1-4408-5091-2), call for pricing.

Modern Mexico is the latest volume in the ABC-CLIO Understanding Modern Nations series, which aims to provide concise topical reference sources in a thematic encyclopedia format focusing on representative countries of world regions. Recent volumes in the series cover China and Spain, with forthcoming volumes planned for Japan and Russia. Each volume includes thematic chapters on Geography, History, Government, Economy, Religion, Social Classes and Ethnicity, Gender, Education, Language, Art, Music, Food, and other cultural subjects. In addition to the thematic coverage in these areas, series volumes include “A Day in the Life” of typical people in the country and appendices covering terminology, economic and social data, and a reference bibliography.

This new resource by Latin Americanist scholar James Huck of the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University is a welcome update to the reference literature on Mexico. Articles provide current information on fast-changing topics in the area of Mexican national politics, economics and trade, migration, organized crime, and international relations with the United States and the world. In fact, Mexico’s proximity to the United States, and the rich and often conflictive history with the larger and more powerful country on its northern border, forms a central theme in many of the thematic articles. As Huck writes, “The world cannot help but see Mexico in the shadow of the United States; and everyone responds accordingly, even the Mexicans” (xiii).

The thematic outline makes the book easy to use as a ready-reference work and, taken as a whole, it can be a quick way to learn the basics about the country’s history and culture. As with any work that attempts to cover a huge topic in relatively few pages, important details may be left out. The book provides a somewhat rosy view of the longstanding dominance of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as well as glossing over the extreme violence experienced by Mexicans in the past decade as a result of the militarization of the fight against drug cartels and organized crime. These shortcomings are more than made up for by the engaging presentations of many aspects of Mexican history, politics, culture, and everyday life available in this new reference work.

Modern Mexico is a welcome complement to Eric Zolov’s Iconic Mexico (ABC-CLIO, 2015), which provides more traditional A–Z encyclopedic coverage of Mexican life and popular culture. Huck’s Modern Mexico also provides a needed update to David Dent’s Encyclopedia of Modern Mexico (Scarecrow, 2002). Another unique contribution to the Mexican reference shelf, The States of Mexico: A Reference Guide to History and Culture (Peter Standish, Greenwood, 2009), gives readers detailed portrayals of the thirty-two political entities that make up the United States of Mexico and provides historical and cultural information with subnational details not usually included in one-volume reference works on Mexico. Mexico: The Essentials, by William Beezley and Colin MacLachlan (Oxford, 2016), is a brief introduction to Mexico with an emphasis on social and popular history and culture.

As border issues such as immigration, trade, and organized crime become ever more contentious in US domestic political discussions, reference works such as Huck’s Modern Mexico will be welcome additions to public, high school, and university libraries in the United States.—Molly Molloy, Border and Latin American Specialist, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico


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