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Alcohol and nationhood in 19th century Mexico

alcohol and nationhoodBy Deborah Toner

University of Nebraska Press


I find great pleasure -like many of you I’m sure- in reimagining the past through the lives and adventures of literary characters and this book was quite an indulgence as I revisited for the first time in years many novels I know and love and are, of course, part of my literary heritage.

In a very inception-style narrative, Deborah plunges into a series of Mexican novels from the 19th century, all classics in their own right, that have indeed determined -at some extent- some fundamental concepts on which Mexico based its nation-building process.

tostada y guayabaExploring a slice of history from a country through its literature is already an exciting thing to do, but this book also offers a very exciting path which is alcohol consumption.

In less than 300 years alcohol went from being a heavily regulated product to become a serious social problem, self-regulation in drinking wasn’t a familiar concept at all and took some other good 100 years for Mexico to figure it out.

Deborah takes the reader on a fascinating literary tour through time and space exploring the often amusing, idealized, sometimes painful and heart-breaking realities of Mexico in a period that was transforming its predominating rural life into a modern, industrialised and uncertain future.

tequila drinking

One can learn a lot about a society by studying their pastimes, aversions, secret fears and hopes. But all those things aren’t necessarily self-evident.

I don’t think there’s a deliberate act to conceal those things that might out us in a vulnerable position, we simply are too busy keeping it all together and getting on with our lives and its own demands.

Santa federico gamboaBut then came writers, for whom their main concern is dissect, scrutinize, dig and render not only our deepest and more complex aspects of our cultures.

on the other hand there’s the authors intention when capturing the zeitgeist of their time, whether they want to educate, mock or merely provide a literary testimony of who we are, who we pretend to be and how we intertwine fiction and reality to fabricate our reality.


This book introduces the reader to the authors and thinkers whose work has helped us reconstruct and understand the many layers of Mexico’s working class reality in the 19th century, it is almost like a time-travel-guide!

Advice: always read with a good glass of…anything’s good!

My gratitud to Deborah for this gift which I enjoyed to the last drop!




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