Longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction
One of The New Yorker’s Best Books of 2022
A Kirkus Best World History Book of 2022
“Rebel historian” Kelly Lytle Hernández reframes our understanding of U.S. history in this groundbreaking narrative of revolution in the borderlands.
Bad Mexicans tells the dramatic story of the magonistas, the migrant rebels who sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution from the United States. Led by a brilliant but ill-tempered radical named Ricardo Flores Magón, the magonistas were a motley band of journalists, miners, migrant workers, and more, who organized thousands of Mexican workers—and American dissidents—to their cause. Determined to oust Mexico’s dictator, Porfirio Díaz, who encouraged the plunder of his country by U.S. imperialists such as Guggenheim and Rockefeller, the rebels had to outrun and outsmart the swarm of U. S. authorities vested in protecting the Diaz regime. The U.S. Departments of War, State, Treasury, and Justice as well as police, sheriffs, and spies, hunted the magonistas across the country. Capturing Ricardo Flores Magón was one of the FBI’s first cases.
But the magonistas persevered. They lived in hiding, wrote in secret code, and launched armed raids into Mexico until they ignited the world’s first social revolution of the twentieth century.
Taking readers to the frontlines of the magonista uprising and the counterinsurgency campaign that failed to stop them, Kelly Lytle Hernández puts the magonista revolt at the heart of U.S. history. Long ignored by textbooks, the magonistas threatened to undo the rise of Anglo-American power, on both sides of the border, and inspired a revolution that gave birth to the Mexican-American population, making the magonistas’ story integral to modern American life.
MacArthur fellow Hern ndez (Migra!) explores in this stellar history the legacy of Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Mag n (1873 1922) and his magonista movement. Dubbed malos Mexicanos, or "bad Mexicans," by President Porfirio D az, the magonistas and their political party, the Partido Liberal Mexicano, paved the way for the 1910 Mexican Revolution, according to Hern ndez. Combining exhaustive research with dramatic storytelling, Hern ndez chronicles D az's seizure of power in an 1876 coup and the ensuing rush of foreign investment that saw U.S. citizens take control of the Mexican railroad, oil, and mining industries. The exploitation of ordinary Mexicans sparked rebellion, and some activists, including Mag n, fled over the border to plot D az's overthrow. Hern ndez vividly details how the "brilliant and ill-tempered" Mag n "cultivate the support of Anglo-American radicals" including Eugene V. Debs, while "outrunning and outsmarting" U.S. law enforcement, and paints a harrowing picture of the harsh treatment Mexicans faced in the U.S. Touching on long-running themes in the U.S. government's relationship with Latin America including the prioritization of corporate profits over human welfare and the propping up of autocrats in order to protect allegedly vital economic and security interests Hern ndez offers a vital reconsideration of American imperialism and the Mexican American experience. This is history at its most elucidating. Photos.