Jun 182014
 

José López Portillo y Rojas (1850-1923) was born in Guadalajara. He graduated as a lawyer in Guadalajara in 1871, before spending three years traveling in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. On his return, he published his first book: Egypt and Palestine. Notes from a trip (1874).

portillo-y-rojas-jose-lopezHe began an illustrious political career as deputy for Jalisco to the national Congress from 1875-1877. Shortly after that first experience of national politics, he returned to Guadalajara and became a journalist, teacher of law, and member of that city’s literary circle.

The group included other young Jalisco writers such as Antonio Zaragoza and Manuel Álvarez del Castillo, one of whose sons, Jesús, would later start the El Informador newspaper in Guadalajara, which remains one of the city’s most important dailies.

In 1880, López Portillo y Rojas returned to Mexico City as a deputy. In 1882, he became a state senator. In 1886, he joined with Manuel Álvarez del Castillo and Ester Tapia de Castellanos to start a new publication in Guadalajara. La República Literaria, a magazine of science, art and literature quickly became nationally famous, but only lasted until 1890.

In 1891, López Portillo published the first transcription, albeit partial, of Father Antonio Tello’s invaluable 17th century account relating to Lake Chapala. In 1892, he published his only book of verse Transitory harmonies. By 1902, López Portillo was living in Mexico City and had joined the Partido Científico (Scientific Party). After the fall of Díaz, he held various federal government posts before becoming Governor of the State of Jalisco (1912-1914). For a brief period in 1914, he was appointed as Foreign Relations Secretary in the government of Victoriano Huerta, during the time when the U.S. invaded the port of Veracruz.

He left politics shortly afterwards and dedicated himself to teaching and writing. He left a vast body of work, ranging from travel accounts, poems, and literary criticism to historical and legal essays, short stories and novels. His best known collection of short stories is Stories, tales and short stories (1918). His best known novel, The parcel (1898), relates the fight between two hacienda owners for a worthless parcel of land.

At the time of his death in Mexico City on 22 of May, 1923, he was director of the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua (Mexican Academy of Language). One of López Portillo’s grandsons, José López Portillo y Pacheco (1920-2004), served as President of Mexico between 1976 and 1982. In Guadalajara, the Casa-Museo López Portillo, a museum and exhibition space honoring the family, can be visited at Calle Liceo #177.

A short story about Lake Chapala, entitled “José la garza morena” (“José the Great Blue Heron”) was published in Cosmos (a monthly magazine published in Mexico City) , in June 1912, pp. 401-405. It is a tale about someone finding a heron that has been shot and wounded, and trying in vain to cure it.

The story starts by remembering the times before Lake Chapala’s shores has been altered by civilization:

When I visited the lakeside hamlet of Chapala for the first time, now many years ago, I found everything in an almost primitive state, better than now from some points of view, but worse from others.

The author compares the Chapala of earlier times with the situation during the Porfiriato (when he was active in politics as a supporter of President Díaz):

Not a sign back then of the picturesque villas that today adorn and decorate these shores from the town to the Manglar, which is the house where Don Porfirio Díaz used to stay during the time, happy for him, of his all-embracing command; but everywhere was thick scrub, cheerful orchards with severe rocky places, which were in harmony with that rustic and unspoiled landscape.

The scene is set; the action begins with an evening trip in a rowboat on the lake. The beauty of the lake, as depicted by the author, creates an impression of decadence and morbidity, because there are no signs of life out on the water:

But that scene of glorification seemed dead and desolate, without any bird to make it cheerful; not a stork, nor a crane, nor a duck stained the burnished horizon with its graceful silhouette.

Further on, the author continues:

The lake appeared magnificent and solitary under that divine show, as if it were another asphalt lake, a new Dead Sea. But it was not always thus; and the recollections of better times engraved in my memory transformed this most unhappy spectacle, because before the rising tide of civilization invaded these places with platoons of armed hunters with shining rifles, flocks of ducks would rise suddenly into the air from the marshes as the boat approached.

The second part of the short story is about someone finding a heron that has been shot and wounded, and trying in vain to cure it.

Credit and reference:

My sincere thanks to Dr. Wolfgang Vogt of the University of Guadalajara for bringing this short story (and his analysis of it) to my attention. The extracts above are translations by Tony Burton.

Vogt, Wolfgang (1989) “El lago de Chapala en la literatura” in Estudios sociales: revista cuatrimestral del Instituto de Estudios Sociales. Universidad de Guadalajara: Year 2, Number 5: 1989, 37-47. Republished in 1994 as pp 163-176 of Vogt (1994) La cultura jalisciense desde la colonia hasta la Revolución (Guadalajara: H. Ayuntamiento).

Jun 082014
 

Ramón Martínez Ocaranza was born in Jiquilpan, Michoacán, 15 April, 1915, and died in Morelia 21 September 1982.

He was a poet, essayist, social fighter and teacher, who used to joke that only a wall had stopped him from becoming President of Mexico–this was because Lázaro Cárdenas (President of Mexico 1934-1940) had been born in the house next door!

ocaranza-ramonMartínez christened his native city of Jiquilpan as the “city of jacarandas”, a name that is still widely used today on account of the city’s many blue-flowering jacaranda trees.

He published numerous volumes of poetry, including:

Al pan, pan y al vino, vino, 1943; Ávido Amor, 1944; Preludio de la muerte enemiga, 1946; Muros de soledad, first part 1952, second part 1992; De la vida encantada, 1952; Río de llanto, 1955; Alegoría de México, 1959; Otoño encarcelado, 1968; Elegía de los triángulos, 1974; Elegías en la Muerte de Pablo Neruda, 1977; Patología del Ser, 1981.  Works published after his death include the poetry volumes La Edad del tiempo, 1985; and Vocación de Job, 1992, which formed part of El libro de los días (1997).

He also wrote an autobiography, finally published twenty years after his death in 2002. He studied (and later taught) at Colegio de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (Morelia) and studied at UNAM. His poems contain many pre-Columbian element and he researched and wrote about Tarascan literature.

Sadly, a campaign in 2010-2011 to turn his former house (Río Mayo #367, colonia Ventura Puente, Morelia)  into a small museum and exhibition space has apparently failed, owing to lack of funds.

 Posted by at 6:56 am  Tagged with:
Nov 012013
 

Give a book!. The Kindle editions of

are only a click away. The recipient will have the book within minutes!!

For Kobo enthusiasts,

Regular softcover versions of both books are available via amazon.com and amazon.ca

 

 Posted by at 9:33 am
Sep 142012
 

Several of our books, as well as our Lake Chapala Map Set, can now be purchased via amazon.ca [they have always been available via the US site amazon.com]
We don’t make as much from each book as if you bought it direct, but, hey, on the other hand you have the chance of discounts and free shipping on most items!

Happy shopping!           Sombrero Books

Links to our amazon.ca products:

Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico

Western Mexico, a Traveller’s Treasury

Lake Chapala Through the Ages, an anthology of travellers’ tales

Lake Chapala Map Set

and

El Occidente de México, un tesoro para el viajero [translation of Western Mexico, a Traveller's Treasury]. Buy both versions, English and Spanish, for an inexpensive way to build your Spanish vocabulary and increase your fluency!

 Posted by at 6:15 pm
Jan 312010
 

It is impossible to do justice in these few lines to the brilliance of Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, aptly described by Charles Darwin as “the greatest scientific traveler who ever lived”. He was born in Berlin, Prussia, in 1769 to a very well-connected family.

He studied political economy before turning to science at the University of Göttingen in 1789. One of his friends there, George Forster, had been scientific illustrator on Captain James Cook’s second voyage. This friendship undoubtedly reinforced Humboldt’s determination to undertake his own long distance travels. Humboldt systematically prepared himself for a life as a scientific explorer, first studying commerce and foreign languages at Hamburg, then geology and mining at Freiberg, followed by anatomy at Jena, as well as astronomy and the use of scientific instruments.

Humboldt spent five years in the New World, from 1799 to 1804. His visit to Mexico began in Acapulco on March 22, 1803, and lasteed until he set sail from Veracruz for the United States on March 7, 1804. In the intervening months, Humboldt measured, recorded, observed and wrote about anything and everything, with remarkable industry and accuracy. He climbed mountains, burned his boots on active volcanoes, descended into mines, recorded geographical coordinates, and collected specimens and antiquities. He also drew a large number of maps, drawings and sketches. Humboldt’s Political essay on the kingdom of New Spain was the first systematic scientific description of the New World. It appeared in 1811, and marked the birth of modern geography in Mexico. His figures and ideas were used and quoted by writers for many many years.

On his return to Europe, he spent more than twenty years, mainly in Paris, writing and publishing his results. The crowning glory of Humboldt’s career was his five-volume Cosmos. Begun at age 76, it turned out to be a masterpiece, proposing conceptual generalizations, supported by the observations of the physical world he had made decades earlier.

Humboldt’s work was the foundation for the subsequent development of physical geography and meteorology. Developing the concept of isotherms allowed climatic comparisons to be made. He recognized that altitudinal differences in climate echoed latitudinal differences. His essay on the geography of plants related the distribution of plant forms to varying physical conditions. Finding that volcanoes fell naturally into linear groups, Humboldt argued that these presumably corresponded with vast subterranean fissures. In addition, he demonstrated the igneous origin of volcanic rocks for the first time.

Humboldt’s work awakened considerable European interest in the Americas and caused many later artists to travel to Mexico to draw and paint.

Humboldt died, at the age of 89, on May 6, 1859. His travels, experiments, and knowledge had transformed western science in the 19th century. Humanist, naturalist, botanist, geographer, geologist: Humboldt was all of these, and more.

A brief extract from Humboldt’s “Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain” is included in Tony Burton’s “Lake Chapala Through the Ages, an anthology of travellers’ tales” (Sombrero Books 2008).  This book has extracts from more than 50 original sources covering the period 1530-1910, together with short biographies of the writers, and an informative commentary setting the extracts in their historical context.

Jan 042010
 

The new site of Sombrerobooks.com is currently under construction.

Please revisit in a few days – when we should have all our listings activated and we will be ready to provide even better service than we have over the past decade.

Thanks for visiting and have a great New Year!

 Posted by at 5:30 pm