The last of the formal essays in the book considers the preferred music of urban Mexico, the bolero. That musical genre, says Monsivais, has the sadness of melodrama but, incongruently, makes Mexicans happy. Cultivated in Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, the bolero is the epitome of the romantic song and a genre that refuses to die and everyday finds itself being reinvented.
"The Catechism for Reluctant Indians" is an obscure exercise in rhetoric that borrows a bit from the Mexican picaresque tradition and satirizes the way ideas about life are taught and accepted. It is a wry comment on the church and unquestioning allegiance to its principles.
To attempt the translation for this book was a courageous enterprise. John Kraniauskas does a competent job. He should be praised, although there are paragraphs in which one may disagree on the choice of words or on his interpretations of well-known phrases. Overall, and considering the difficulty of Monsivais prose and syntax, the translation is more than satisfactory. That, unfortunately, is not the case with the hideous and vulgar cover of the book, which perpetuates stereotypes of Mexico by using symbols of Chicano culture. Even more offensive is the audacity of the translator in dedicating a book he did not write.
No other country in the world affects daily life in the United States as does Mexico. And even though most Americans believe they know our Southern neighbor well, that is not the case. Monsivais' "Mexican Postcards" helps bridge that gap. It is an honest chronicle of life in a land that is all too often for Mexicans, as it is for Americans, an enigma.