An excerpt from

Inside the Statues of Saints: Mexican Writers On Culture and Corruption, Politics and Daily Life
by George Szanto

A decade ago I discovered Mexico, a different Mexico, and it was great affection at first sight. Over the years my passion grew, maturing to love, respect and fascination. Its people are more generous than any I have known. At one moment their values resemble our own, in the next they elude understanding. Mexico's cultures are indigenous and European, American and pre-Hispanic, occult and telecommunicational. Its values, animating the memory and actions of its citizens, often perplex even those who have lived its history and culture. We norteamericanos, "distant neighbors" in Alan Riding's phrase, when we care to think of Mexico at all beyond its sunny beaches and steep pyramids, are often baffled. Here, so close, is a remote civilization.

México Desconocido, a glossy Mexican magazine, explores the byways of the nation, taking its readers to strange places and unexamined corners–natural sites, archeological discoveries, gastronomic wonders, historic settings. Much of this Mexico is inaccessible to its own people; to North American eyes, it is invisible.

Inside the Statues of Saints is a series of conversations with Mexican writers. I chose to speak with writers, mainly fiction writers, because in telling their stories they disclose a civilization. More–they reclaim, they sometimes create, their civilization. For example, many Mexicans believe their political and social consciousness was forged on October 2, 1968, in the Plaza of Tlatelolco, with the massacre, arrest and subsequent "disappearance" of thousands of protesters against the Mexican Summer Olympics. But only memorialized catastrophes retain power; the tragedy of Tlatelolco would long have faded without Elena Poniatowska's La Noche de Tlatelolco, a collage of images and taped/transcribed testimonials of its victims and perpetrators. Without this single book, now in its fifty-first edition, the form and force taken by Mexico's political self-awareness over the last quarter-century would be unthinkable.

In less dramatic ways the work of the other writers I spoke with has brought to and kept on the surface a range of hidden patterns in daily Mexican experience--novels, documentaries, stories and crónica that, with the clearest of strokes, sketch out segments of those beliefs, fears and hopes by which Mexicans perceive and practice their lives. My intent has been to provide, through these profile-conversations, some insight into the daily life of Mexico's people, and perhaps too, an inkling of some of the patterns that give that life its shape and meaning.