Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 208
As in many of Michener's epic novels whose titles are the singular names of specific places, the main theme of Mexico is the history of the country from the beginning of time until the bullfight fiesta in 1961. There are references to a time at least twenty thousand years ago when people from Siberia migrated across the Bering Strait through Alaska and southward to Mexico. About A.D. 600 the descendants of these migrants began building the pyramid that still dominates Toledo in 1961. The novel chronicles the wars between various Indian tribes until the Spanish conquer Mexico in the sixteenth century and leave their architectural mark on Toledo by constructing the cathedral. Michener's chronology is comprehensive, but he does emphasize the significance of certain events, such as the Mexican Revolution of the early twentieth century.
Besides simply presenting Mexican history, Michener develops the bullfight as a complementary theme in the novel. The bullfighter Victoriano Leal has Spanish ancestry and personifies Mexico's European heritage, while Juan Gomez has Indian ancestry and represents Mexico's indigenous influences. The competition between these two men of diverse heritage in the violent spectacle of the bullfight becomes a metaphor for the violent series of conflicts between various peoples that has resulted in Mexico's rich cultural tapestry.