Death in the City makes important contributions to the social and cultural history of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mexico City. The author argues that suicide played a central role in the social imaginary of urban Mexicans during this period and that a careful study of suicide's cultural meanings reveals that while death—self-inflicted death in this instance—was indeed a subject of considerable concern, Mexico City residents were far from indifferent, callous, celebratory, or cavalier about it. This conclusion flies in the face of the accepted view of Mexican attitudes toward death popularized by prominent intellectuals like Octavio Paz and, more recently, Claudio Lomnitz.

The book engages a wide range of historical sources—statistics, newspaper reports, editorials, popular broadsides, suicide notes, literature, medical treatises, clinical records, and forensic reports—to tease out the variegated and sometimes contradictory meanings of suicide during this period. The richness...

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