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MEXICO RPHCIE p art journalistic travelogue, part political manifesto, Mexico Unconquered recounts some of the more bewildering revolts and upheavals that have roiled Southern Mexico from the turn of the 20th century through contemporary times. In the author’s view, the conquest of Mexico never ended and neither did the revolts. Gibler, a former Austinite, is a young journalist and photographer who has covered Mexico since 2006 for various publications \(New Politics, Yes! and radio traveling from remote villages to the streets of the capital. His on-the-ground observations, rich with detail, are deepened by his consideration of a larger question: Why, given how increasingly divided Mexico is, does it remain unconquered? The book begins with a valiant attempt to summarize 2,500 years of history in the first chapter’s 30 pages, emphasizing the diversity of indigenous cultures and languages already in place by the time of the Aztecs. And while the Aztecs themselves were conquerors, in Gibler’s view, the arrival of Europeans was a “turning point in the evolution of imperialism.” Spanish imperialism prevailed through the spread of lethal new diseases and the dispossession of indigenous groups. The dispossession continues to this day, perpetuated by what the author calls “internal colonization:’ aided and abetted by U.S. designs on Mexico. Gibler argues that “colonial authority in New Spain laid the foundations for several pillars of contemporary Mexican politics: centralized power, monopoly, capitalism, corruption and cronyism, caciquismo [the domination and influence of a local political boss, or cacique], racism, class stratification, and labor exploitation:’ He then sets out to delineate Mexico’s rich history of revolt, the uprisings by which Mexicans particularly indigenous peopleshave responded to centuries of exploitation. Seeking solutions to the “Indian problem” has been an urgent matter for Mexico’s ruling elites since the time of the Spanish Conquest. This was probably never quite so apparent as when trouble erupted in Chiapas in 1994, just as thenpresident Carlos Salinas de Gortari was about to announce Mexico’s entrance into the 20th-century global village by signing on to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Gibler paints a sobering picture of countless abandoned towns in the Mexican heartland, byproducts of NAFTA, and the resulting mass migration to the United States. Some of this section’s most insightful comments come from one Dr. Lopez, a 40-year-old native of Cerrito del Agua, a bare-bones village in the state of Zacatecas. “The whole culture now is that people grow up and go to the United States: their parents, their uncles, their brothers and sisters, everyone goes:’ Lopez tells Gibler. “The kids who are strong and smart, they all go … they come back and spend their dollars on American products. It’s a nice, round business. Everyone here depends on the United States. If this isn’t a colony, then how do you define colony?” Gibler also offers a passionate account of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, but of course this struggle has already been well documented and thoroughly discussed elsewhere. This book’s real contribution to the issue of indigenous revolt may be in providing up-to-date information about lesser-known resistance struggles in Oaxaca and Guerrero states, along with an examination of their theoretical underpinnings. No book on contemporary Mexico would be complete without a mention of the ongoing war on drugs and the heavy toll it exacts on multiple levels of Mexican and American society, but Gibler’s approach is to discuss the conflict in the context of rule of law. Drug trafficking is Mexico’s No. 1 source of revenue, ranked above oil and immigrant remittance both. Mexican police and government officials have been involved in the drug trade for decades, but since the 1990s they’ve gone from turning a blind eye to direct participation. Gibler wonders whether it makes any sense to speak of corruption and violence as an aberration of the system: “…arbitrary detention, systematic use of torture by all levels of police and the armed forces, and total impunity for officials. Can such widespread and enduring practices be considered irregularities of the system? No. They are the system!’ It could be argued that a purely journalistic account would be incomplete REVIEW Still Standing BY LILIANA VALENZUELA Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt By John Gibler City Lights 356 pages, $16.95 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 1, 2009