Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica (Lecturas Mexicanas, 41), 1984. First edition. Paperback. 191p., ilus., indices, wrps. Good. Item #125022
Paula Kolonitz arrived in Mexico in 1864 as part of the imperial entourage of Maximiliano and Carlota, which was made up of 82 people from the royal houses of Austria and Belgium. In the tradition of other travelers such as Alexander von Humboldt and Madame Calderón de la Barca, the countess took advantage of her six-month stay to take note of everything she saw. Back in Vienna she wrote her book, which was published in Austria in 1867 under the title "Eine Reise Nach Mexico im Jahre 1864". The book was an immediate success. Of all the first-hand accounts of Maximilian's empire, Kollonitz's book deserves attention for the writer's sensitivity, insight, and poignancy, as well as her ability to portray Maximilian's precarious position in 1864. Various Austrian and British sources praised the book's ingenuity and faithfulness to reality, though to French readers it was biased and disrespectful. In Mexico it is a semi-unknown work. Kollonitz did not hold back to criticize the reprehensible and praise the wonderful of the country where he was visiting. Perhaps it is his harsh opinion of some Mexican customs that has condemned this work to unfair oblivion. "I never saw a book in the hands of Mexican ladies, except the book of prayers," he writes. “I never saw them busy with any work. They have no idea what history and geography are. For them, Europe is Spain, where their origins come from; Rome, where the Pope reigns, and Paris, where their dresses come from.” Nonetheless, The countess was a sensitive observer who marveled at the astuteness of the Mexicans who overcame adversity with ease and were certainly not disturbed by impatience for progress. For the reader who knows how to appreciate an objective and somewhat scathing look at Mexicans, this book will be a true time machine to the time of the Second Empire.