Rosenblum sets out to teach young readers about “the land and people of Mexico” as one way to bridge the gap in understanding between “Americans,” presumably Anglos, and the five million Mexican Americans who lived in the United States at the time of the book’s writing. In the book’s introductory chapter, he notes, for example, that many Mexican Americans “are very poor. They work for little pay and live in miserable houses. They are Americans but feel they are treated as if they were not part of this country.”
Yet “heroes” of Mexican descent were already known to American fans of film actors Dolores Del Rio and Anthony Quinn, golfer Lee Trevino, or the comedian Cantinflas. In addition, despite Rosenblum’s observation that there are everyday heroes who have never led a battle or achieved fame, his book is mostly a collection of the stories of figures who had attained near-legend status in their own country.
In his writing style and approach to his subjects, Rosenblum’s book is aimed clearly at young readers. His stories are uncomplicated and bloody, and they revolve mainly around important military and social events. The image of Mexico that emerges is one of nearly constant war and revolution. Of the seventeen figures profiled in the book, more than half are treated in connection with war. It is the charismatic or courageous leader who most often is celebrated; these are characters of legend who rose up against injustice or despotism, often with only their idealism as a weapon.
With the possible...
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Rosenblum correctly judges in his first chapter that many North Americans have a long way to go in learning about and appreciating the cultural contributions of Mexico and its heroes. The importance of a book such as Heroes of Mexico is that it introduces figures whose historical significance is well established in Mexico but who may be widely unknown in the United States, where the population and culture are becoming increasingly Hispanicized.
Rosenblum’s book is likely to secure a surer place in the North American consciousness for its subjects. Through the artists who are profiled, for example, Rosenblum undoubtedly has awakened many readers to an underrepresented side of Mexico and its worldwide importance as a source of creative innovation. The book also offers a more serious historical presentation of figures such as Zapata and Villa, whose sombrero-and-bandolier popular images have been projected in the United States primarily through films or folklore.
In his attempts to close the gap in understanding between many young readers and their fellow Americans, Rosenblum has expressed the emerging appreciation of cultural diversity in the United States. More important, perhaps, is Rosenblum’s presentation of Mexico’s heroes from the perspective of their importance to Mexico, and not primarily through their relationship—as ally or enemy, bandit or folk hero—to the United States.