Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (Paperback)
Winner of the Bancroft Prize • One of The New Yorker’s Best Books of 2022 • A Kirkus Best World History Book of 2022
One of Smithsonian's 10 Best History Books of 2022 • Longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction • Shortlisted for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction • Shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction • Shortlisted for the Mark Lynton History prize • Longlisted for the Cundill History Prize
“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.
About the Author
Kelly Lytle Hernández holds The Thomas E. Lifka Endowed Chair in History and directs the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. A 2019 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, she is the author of the award-winning books Migra! and City of Inmates. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
There is no Hollywood movie about the magonistas, although reading “Bad Mexicans” is like watching one....Like Flores Magón, Lytle Hernández’s pen is her sword; her writing is a monument to the belief that language can change the world.
— Geraldo Cadava - New Yorker
What is profound about Hernández’s portrayal is the way it reverberates outward from Mexico, through the borderlands, and deep into the interior of the United States and even Canada, casually brushing aside the notion that this era of upheaval was in any way confined by our frontier and framing it instead as part of a truly American story. . . . For a region saddled with so many grimly narrated histories, Bad Mexicans is great fun, full of the joyful resilience and tenacity that make the borderlands and its people so distinct.
— Francisco Cantú - The New York Review of Books
Hernandez’s staggering, essential study argues that 'the history of the United States as a global power' can’t be told without Mexico, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans as central actors.
— Walton Muyumba - Boston Globe
Lytle Hernández is a natural storyteller, and her writing shines throughout Bad Mexicans. And while it reads like a novel—she proves to be masterful at building narrative suspense—it's also meticulously researched, and the author provides ample context to help readers understand the history of Mexico and its relationship with the U.S.
— Michael Schaub - Star Tribune
Fantastic....absorbing....Hernández masterfully weaves it all together into a compelling narrative, parts of which I will read again and again.
— Michael Barnes - Austin-American Statesman
I’m mad at Kelly Lytle Hernández. Every time I pick up something she’s written, I can’t put it down. I’ve lost hours, days, sleep, missed deadlines and appointments, made my kids late to school reading Migra! and City of Inmates, and, now, Bad Mexicans. Her writing is like a drug, riveting, intoxicating, vivid. And she’s a damned historian! I come away from reading Kelly’s writing exhilarated and inspired.
— Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk
An award-winning, internationally acclaimed scholar, Kelly Lytle Hernández delivers historical analysis with clear relevance in today’s sociopolitical climate. A leading voice on issues ranging from immigration to policing to the criminal justice system more broadly, her work is known for empowering a wide range of communities, providing the necessary historical framing to build synergy among some of today’s most daring social movements.
— Heather Anne Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water
Kelly Lytle Hernández is one of the most compelling historians in her field. Synthesizing the complexities of race, gender, and ethnicity into the fabric of living history, her work sheds light on today’s crucial issues and her passion has the capacity to not only inform but to change minds.
— Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times best-selling author of What Truth Sounds Like
Kelly Lytle Hernández writes history and makes history. She is one of the most admired and respected historians of Mexican-American history and the United States. Conveying deep archival research in a compelling, accessible narrative, she breathes life into history.
— Vicki Lynn Ruiz, winner of the National Humanities Medal
In this sweeping cross-border narrative, Lytle-Hernández places the Magón brothers and the Mexican Revolution squarely at the heart of U.S. history—revealing not only the centrality of Mexicans to the U.S. story but also the currents of imperialism, racial violence, and political suppression that have shaped the United States as we know it today. In Bad Mexicans, Lytle-Hernández displays the skills of a deep thinker, a powerful storyteller, and an assiduous and implacable researcher.
— Natalia Molina, MacArthur Fellow and author of A Place at the Nayarit
An astute historical analysis....a gripping cross-border study....While the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) is usually discussed in the context of its influence on Central America, the author argues convincingly that it ‘also remade the United States’....The author combines a masterful grasp of archival material and accessible prose, transforming what could have been a dry academic work into a page-turner....A beautifully crafted, impressively inclusive history of the Mexican Revolution.
— Kirkus Reviews