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    Goodbye, if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags, please
    know that I think it a pretty good way to depart this life.  It beats old age, disease, or falling down
    the cellar stairs.  To be a Gringo in Mexico--ah, that is euthanasia!
                -Ambrose Bierce in a letter to a friend

In 1914, the great American journalist and short story writer (see review) Ambrose Bierce, age 71, traveled to a Mexico that was in the midst of Revolution and promptly disappeared.  He thereby fulfilled the dark prediction above and provided one of the great literary mysteries of the 20th Century.

In The Old Gringo, Carlos Fuentes offers his take on Bierce's fate.  An "Old Gringo", carrying just a couple of his own books, a copy of Don Quixote, a clean shirt and a Colt .44, joins a group of Mexican rebels under General Tomas Arroyo.  In turn, they meet up with a young American school teacher named Harriet Winslow, who was supposed to tutor the children of the wealthy landowner who illegally holds Arroyo's family property.  The three become enmeshed in an unlikely romantic triangle, which necessarily ends in tragedy.

Fuentes uses the story to explore a plethora of themes, some of which I followed and some of which I could not.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is the degree to which it reflects Latin American obsession with the United States, an obsession which it must be admitted is met by only a fleeting interest on our part.  Fuentes and the tragic chorus of Mexican characters elevate the tale of the Old Gringo to the status of myth; ironic, since Bierce is barely remembered here, but then one of his themes is that we are a people without memory, while the very soil of Mexico carries memories.

It all adds up to a diverting speculation about an interesting historical puzzle, but I'm not sure that the story will bear all of the psychological and political weight that Fuentes loads upon it.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C+)

  

Websites:

See also:

Carlos Fuentes (2 books reviewed)
Latin American
Book-related and General Links:
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: NY Times Book Review
    -PROFILE : The Guardian Profile: Carlos Fuentes
    -ARCHIVES : "carlos fuentes" (NY Review of Books)
    -BOOK SITE : The Years With Laura Diaz (FSB Associates)
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of The Years with Laura Diaz by Carlos Fuentes
    -ESSAY : WHEN DON QUIXOTE LEFT HIS VILLAGE, THE MODERN WORLD BEGAN (Carlos Fuentes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of REVOLUTIONARY MEXICO The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution. By John Mason Hart (Carlos Fuentes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of STARING AT THE SUN By Julian Barnes (Carlos Fuentes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of I THE SUPREME By Augusto Roa Bastos (Carlos Fuentes, NY Times Book Review)
    -Carlos Fuentes (b. 1928 México)(reading guides, links, etc)
    -LINKS : Carlos Fuentes (About.com)
    -Fuentes Links (About.com)
    -ESSAY: A victim of Pinochet by Carlos Fuentes
    -How Zurich Invented the Modern World: A DISTINGUISHED MEXICAN NOVELIST REFLECTS ON THOMAS MANN, ZURICH AND THE IMAGINATION OF EUROPE (Carlos Fuentes, Salon)
    -INTERVIEW : Travails with Time: An Interview with Carlos Fuentes (Debra A. Castillo, Center for Book Culture)
    -INTERVIEW: Carlos Fuentes searches for  Spain's cultural past in 'The Buried Mirror' (Julie Braun Kessler, Book Page)
    -PROFILE:  REBEL, INTERNATIONALIST, ESTABLISHMENTARIAN: THE MEANDERING ROAD OF CARLOS FUENTES (Jim Tuck, Mexico Connect)
    -PROFILE : CARLOS FUENTES: LIFE AND LANGUAGE (Nicholas Shrady, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: Carlos Fuentes Has Made Mark as Writer, Diplomat (BARBARA YOST, The Arizona Republic)
    -The Day I Met Carlos Fuentes (TOMAS ELOY MARTINEZ, New York Times Special Features)
    -Carlos Fuentes Talks about Migrants, Democracy and More (Cox News Service)
    -Carlos Fuentes: Bawdy verse to elegant prose (Nando.net)
    -ARTICLE : Fuentes In a TV Film, On Life And Himself (JEREMY GERARD, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : CARLOS FUENTES TURNS TO THEATER  (Arthur Holmberg, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Years with Laura Diaz (Richard Eder, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Years with Laura Diaz (Rudolfo Anaya, Washington Post Book World)
    -REVIEW : of Laura Diaz (Bill Vourvoulias, Newsday)
    -REVIEW : of The Years With Laura Diaz (Alan Michael Parker, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Years with Laura Diaz (Book Browser)
    -REVIEW : of 'The Years With Laura Diaz' By Carlos Fuentes (Brian Bouldrey, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Years with Laura Diaz by  Carlos Fuentes ( Alex Clark, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of The Years with Laura Diaz by  Carlos Fuentes (David Robson, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Years with Laura Diaz (Eileen Battersby, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Years with Laura Díaz by Carlos Fuentes  (Emily Banner, Pif Magazine)
    -REVIEW : The Crystal Frontier: a Novel in Nine Stories by Carlos Fuentes (David Horspool, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW: THE OLD GRINGO By Carlos Fuentes Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden and the author (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: THE OLD GRINGO (Earl Shorris, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes (Thomas R. Edwards, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: THE CAMPAIGN By Carlos Fuentes Translated by Alfred MacAdam (Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Christopher Unborn By Carlos Fuentes  (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of CHRISTOPHER UNBORN By Carlos Fuentes (Suzanne Ruta, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of DIANA The Goddess Who Hunts Alone. By Carlos Fuentes (Paul Theroux, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins By Carlos Fuentes (HERBERT MITGANG, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of CONSTANCIA And Other Stories for Virgins. By Carlos Fuentes (Denis Donoghue, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE CRYSTAL FRONTIER A Novel in Nine Stories. By Carlos Fuentes (Jay Parini, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of DISTANT RELATIONS By Carlos Fuentes (Guy Davenport, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of A New Time For Mexico By Carlos Fuentes (Peter Canby, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of MYSELF WITH OTHERS Selected Essays. By Carlos Fuentes (Wendy Lesser, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE BURIED MIRROR Reflections on Spain and the New World. By Carlos Fuentes (Nicolas Shumway, NY Times Book Review)
 

GENERAL :
    -Rethinking History and the Nation State : Mexico and the United States (Indiana U)
    -Webliography : Rivera & Kahlo
    -Diego Rivera Virtual Museum
    -Mural Museum : Diego Rivera
    -Frida Kahlo & Contemporary Thoughts
    -REVIEW : of THE DIARY OF FRIDA KAHLO An Intimate Self-Portrait. Essay and commentary by Sarah M. Lowe (Deborah Solomon, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Diary of a teacher's last year  : Artemio Cruz is just a character in a book Gen. Obregon really happened!  (David Alford, Salon)

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