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Book Review: Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution by Frank McLynn

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Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata! Those two generals — so huge a part of our history, so often wondered about, quoted and misquoted, understood and misunderstood — are brought to life in Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution by Frank McLynn.

I bought the book for research and as part of my quest for a better understanding of the Mexican Revolution, and I was not disappointed. The book chronicles the Mexican Revolution, the beginnings of these two men who went on to become so much larger than life. McLynn also portrays many of the key players, like Porfirio Diaz, Francisco Madero, Pascual Orozco, and others known and less known. There are maps, photos, and details from documents.

He manages to give the reader an insight into what it must have been like living in that time. We get to know almost personally these men and what drove them, what motivated them into their roles in this very important part of Mexican history. We learn how they changed not only their world, but the world as a whole, and how they are even now influencing us. It reads more like a thrilling novel than a history and I couldn’t put it down.

I learned about Zapata and his sense of style, his brother Eufemio, his uncanny ability with horses, how he studied all the historical documents of Anenecuilco, and other fascinating facts such as how an American woman who ran a hotel called him “The Attila of the South.” Each chapter is vividly written, chronicled in such a comprehensive and fascinating way that I couldn’t get enough of it. The book is like water to the thirsty.

I read of the battles, large and small, victories and crushing defeats, of betrayal, of in-fighting, of women and men who had such passion for their convictions, for their land, and for the cause they were fighting for. There is no glorification. McLynn ensures that the faults of both men are just as clearly delineated as their greatness.

For lovers of history, for someone with even the slightest interest in either of these men or the time they lived in, Villa and Zapata is a treasure of information. I encourage everyone to buy this book, read it and then read it again.

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