Students Inspired the Book

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Students at The American School Foundation of Guadalajara with historian and educator Michael Hogan

It’s always interesting to learn what inspired an author to write a book. For historian and educator Michael Hogan, students in a history class he was teaching inspired him to research and write his latest book.

The resulting book, Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A History of Courage, Intrigue and Unlikely Friendships, is now in the Lincoln presidential library. Washington DC author and book blogger Deborah Kalb featured the book in May 2017, and here are some excerpts from her Q&A interview with Dr. Hogan:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Abraham Lincoln and Mexico in your new book? A. I was teaching an Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) class at the American School Foundation in Guadalajara, Mexico back in 2013. One weekend, my students went to see Lincoln, the movie directed by Stephen Spielberg. 

 After they came back to class, I asked them how the movie dealt with Lincoln’s speech in Congress objecting to the Mexican War. I had told the students earlier in class about how it was a very courageous act. They told me that there was nothing at all about it in the movie. 

 When I expressed my annoyance, one student by the name of Luciana Mendez, said, ‘Well, if anyone is going to tell the story about Lincoln and Mexico, maybe you should be the one to do it.’ So, I took her advice and began my research.”

You can click here to see the entire Q&A by Kalb. By the way, she’s a respected author of several books, including a history of presidential decision-making during the Vietnam War co-authored with her father, veteran journalist Marvin Kalb.

Hogan’s book was published in 2016 by an academic publisher in Guadalajara and the first edition paperback sold out, with a second edition now available in Mexico. A small press publisher in San Diego published a USA Kindle version in 2016, followed by a paperback version distributed worldwide by Ingram. The print versions are available from Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and on Amazon. It’s in several university libraries and public libraries, and has received national news media attention including a feature article in the Smithsonian magazine.

An audio book version is also available, and now, the book is available in Spanish in both paperback and Kindle versions.

So, what else did Dr. Hogan’s APUSH class inspire? Well, one thing is a play based on the second half of the book, which examines Lincoln’s role as President in helping Mexico defeat French forces and end European occupation of North America. Titled “Lincoln and Mexico: The Untold Story,” the play has wowed audiences in Guadalajara and nearby Lake Chapala. We covered that in a recent blog post, which you can see by clicking here.

The interest of Dr. Hogan’s students in learning about Lincoln’s legacy of support for Mexico also led to creation of the Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP). In January 2017, the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC embraced the international project to facilitate understanding of historical relationships between the two countries. Now, LAMP is working with Mexican consulates to contact educators and civic and business leaders across the USA and arrange presentations.

If you’re interested in becoming part our outreach efforts, just submit a comment to the blog or write an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. As always, we welcome your feedback. Thank you.

 

Lincoln Play Wows Little Theatre

 

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If you want to see the strength of mutual friendships between the USA and Mexico, look at Lake Chapala, Mexico—the largest community of USA expats in the country.

This past weekend, expats and Mexicans alike stood and applauded and cheered as high school students from nearby Guadalajara staged two performances of the play “Lincoln and Mexico: The Untold Story” celebrating bi-national friendships that helped Mexico defeat French occupation forces in 1867.

Critic Mark Sconce recommended the student play to Lakeside Little Theatre president Peter Luciano after seeing students perform it in March at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara, where historian and playwright Michael Hogan is emeritus humanities chair. After the May 19-20 performances at Lake Chapala, Sconce wrote a piece for a forthcoming issue of El Ojo del Lago magazine describing the lakeside event Saturday night. Here’s part of it:

The Little Theatre was jam-packed with gringos and Mexicans. Excited chatter filled the hall and patio. You could tell that something special was about to happen.

When the chime sounded, we all took our seats and paid attention to Peter. He said that tonight’s performance represented a major move for the 50-year-old theatre, a move to create a long-term relationship with the ASFG, one of the top 15 American schools in the world. He praised the kids, the school’s drama department, especially its fantastic director Stacy Ohrt-Billingslea, the author/playwright, and then (bombshell) announced that the Board had decided therefore that all the proceeds from the two performances would be given the school’s drama department. Cheers rang out loud and clear.

Then it was Dr. Hogan’s turn, and beside him stood a young woman of perhaps 21. A thunderous applause ensued and continued and got louder with sustained cheers. A somewhat embarrassed Hogan thanked us all and introduced Luciana Mendez, one of his longtime students, who had just flown in from Chicago where she now attends DePaul University. He explained that without the nagging of Luciana, he would never have completed the book or begun the play. She was his muse. The Luciana character actually appeared in the play, and yes, she nagged and cajoled.”

The play focuses on the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Matìas Romero, the Mexican ambassador to Washington without portfolio after the French Imperial Army forced Mexican president Benito Juárez into exile in 1862. As president, Abraham Lincoln was preoccupied with the US Civil War, with little time for anything else.

From Romero’s journals, playgoers learned that Mrs. Lincoln was happy to have Romero squire her on frequent shopping trips. Lincoln thanked Romero for that, befriended Romero, and rewarded him with access to General Grant who was sympathetic to Mexico. That led the US to supply Juárez with military equipment and troops, and opened doors to bankers from Boston to San Francisco who bought Mexican bonds. Here’s a little more of Sconce wrote:

“The play itself was better than the performance I saw in Guadalajara, in this writer’s opinion. Of course, the kids knew their lines cold, so the acting was better. Mary Todd in Susie’s Millinery Shop was a thigh-slapper. The play was a huge hit, the ovations rolled on. Hugs and kisses and tears of joy prevailed. It was a Triumph of the first water for Dr. Hogan. He was caught up in the evening and he was celebrated…What a night!”

We salute Sconce for his efforts to arrange for the play at Lake Chapala, because the play informs and educates–and entertains–people about Lincoln’s legacy of support for Mexico. If you’re interested in looking at the play script for a possible performance at your community theatre, or perhaps your college or high school, we would be happy to send a review copy. Just submit a comment to this blog post, or send an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. Since the play debuted in March, we’ve received inquiries from local theatre groups in Arizona and California.

The whole story of Lincoln’s support for Mexico, including a factual history of Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican-American War as Congressman, is in the book “Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A History of Courage, Intrigue and Unlikely Friendships” authored by Hogan. It’s based on archival documents in both the US and Mexico, and it’s in the Abraham Lincoln presidential library and many university libraries.

We believe the book, and now the play, can promote better relations between the two countries. Paperback and Kindle versions are available online from Amazon in English http://amzn.to/2jQRPnI and Spanish http://amzn.to/2n7minY, and the paperback is available from Barnes&Noble and other bookstores.

P.S. Here’s another interesting tidbit: In 1974, Mexico recognized the importance of Romero’s contributions to foreign affairs by naming its formal foreign service training academy Instituto Matìas Romero. Retired Mexican Emb. Carlos Gonzalez-Magallon revealed this fact to the LLT audience just before curtain time in his brief remarks praising the book and the play. ¡Bravo!

Slideshow: photos from Lakeside Little Theatre at Lake Chapala, Mexico — oldest English-language stage theatre in Mexico.

In the Heart of Texas

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Slideshow photos from May 4 Texas-Mexico Summit in Austin, Texas

If the book Abraham and Lincoln in Mexico can make it in Texas, it can make it anywhere (to paraphrase Frank Sinatra’s song about New York).

That’s why we appreciate the warm welcome in Austin May 4 at the 2017 Texas-Mexico Summit, hosted by AEM, Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos Austin. The event featured 16 stellar speakers who received the book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico as a gift.

“I can’t wait to read this book,” Jeff Moseley, CEO, Texas Association of Business, told the audience as he received the book from Jorge Euran, President of AEM Austin. Euran presented books individually to each speaker at the podium after they spoke.

The book uses original archival documents to examine Lincoln’s support for Mexico as Congressman and President, and it’s in the Lincoln Presidential Library and in a growing number of university libraries. It helps understand historic relationships between Mexico and the USA, and facilitates discussion of how to build better relationships between the two countries.

More than 125 people attended the sold-out Austin event to discuss building stronger binational businesses, including Carlos Gonzalez Gutiérrez, Consul General of Mexico in Austin. The keynote speaker was George P. Bush, Texas Land Commissioner – the AEM Facebook page even has a video of Bush receiving the book https://www.facebook.com/AEMAUSTIN/videos/1913715565509767/.

The event featured a panel discussion titled Strategic Importance of Mexico to Texas Trade & Economy with panelists Samuel Pena, Undersecretary for Investment & Industry of the State of Nuevo Leon, Mexico; Bryan Daniel, Executive Director, Economic Development & Tourism for the State of Texas; Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, President & CEO, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation; and Olivia Varela, Executive Director, Laredo Development Foundation.

Other featured speakers receiving the book included Rafael Herrera, Chairman at AEM USA; Adriana Cruz, President, Greater San Marcos Partnership; William Hurley, American entrepreneur; and Raul Allegre, legendary professional football player and sportscaster. Special guests included Jorge Salcido Zugasti, Consul Asuntos Politicos y Economicos, Consulado General de Mexico Austin.

Cindy A. Medina, PR and News Media representative for the Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP), arranged for the complimentary books from historian and educator Michael Hogan and spent all day networking with attendees. It’s part of her ongoing outreach to build support for LAMP activities, including speaking to business and civic groups in Austin, El Paso, and other Texas cities, and across the border in northern Mexico.

In January of this year, the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC embraced LAMP activities, and former Mexican Emb. Carlos Gonzalez-Magallon is helping coordinate LAMP contacts with Mexican consulates across the country. This summer, LAMP will enter a new phase to identify surrogate speakers for events in key cities including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, and New York City.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in LAMP outreach activities, maybe even become a surrogate speaker, just send an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. We welcome your interest and your support.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Photo credits: Battle of Puebla courtesy of Wikipedia; White House South Lawn celebration with Bush from Time magazine; East Room celebration with Biden and Obama from AP.

People celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the United States may not know the history of the date, and the special significance in Mexico. Here’s a quick look at both.

In the USA, historians at the University of California at Los Angeles have traced origins of observances in California to the 1860s. Time magazine traces the rise of popularity in the mid-1900s to the Chicano movement. According to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo celebrations of Mexican culture and heritage spread from Los Angeles and San Jose to other cities with large Mexican-American populations, such as Houston and Chicago. By 2006, the Journal of American Culture reported official Cinco de Mayo events in more than 150 cities across the USA.

In Mexico, it’s a day to commemorate El Día de la Batalla de Puebla on May 5, 1862, mostly through ceremonial military events. The battle was an important military victory by ill-equipped and out-manned Mexican troops over French invasionary troops. In 1862, Mexican president Benito Juárez declared the date a national holiday, as verified by the Congressional Record.

However, the victory was short-lived. The French regrouped, captured the Mexican capital within a year, forced Juárez into exile, and installed a French puppet monarchy. Nowadays in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a major event celebrated in the historic city of Puebla. Many schools throughout Mexico close for the day, but government offices and banks and other businesses remain open because it’s not a statuary national holiday. Historian Christopher Minster has an overview.

Historians and educators including Michael Hogan rightfully recognize the importance of the day in Mexico history, and the importance of ensuing events. His book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico examines how Juárez in exile sought and received help from Lincoln as president to oppose the French occupation.

Based on archival documents, Hogan examines why and how Lincoln refused to recognize the French monarchy in Mexico as the legitimate government, and tacitly approved providing military support for Juárez in Chihuahua across the border from El Paso.

US civic and business leaders from Boston to San Francisco raised $18 million in war bonds to help Juárez, and Generals Grant and Sheridan sent more military equipment and former Union troops from the Civil War to Mexico to fight alongside Mexican troops. After Lincoln’s death in 1865, president Johnson continued the support. Eventually, Mexico forced the French troops out of Mexico in 1867, ending European presence in the Americas.

In the early 21st century, US political and civic leaders boosted Cinco de Mayo activities as a way to honor Mexican heritage and traditions. President George W. Bush hosted annual events at the White House complete with Mexican folkloric dancers, and in 2005, the Congress approved a resolution calling for national observances. President Obama continued the tradition of White House observances.

Despite such efforts to pay homage to history, the day in the USA has also become another opportunity for merchants to cash in on ethnic celebrations—not much different than St. Patrick’s Day. As Wikipedia notes, further: “Commercial interests in the United States have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on alcoholic beverages.” In fact, Time magazine even ranked Cinco de Mayo #4 on its 2011 list of “Top 10 Drunkest Holidays.” Sad.

The book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico is in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and in many university libraries. It’s available from Barnes&Noble, at independent bookstores, and also available from Amazon in English and Spanish.