This is a study which seeks “to substantiate the growth of Mexican self-awareness as an intellectual foundation of nationalism” (p. ix). Beginning with an account of the growth of Mexican consciousness, Professor Schmidt skillfully narrates the story of the Mexican’s search for identity from the colonial era and the nineteenth century, through the era of waning positivism between 1900 and 1910, to the Revolution of 1910 and after (1910-1934). The author especially emphasizes the intellectual and cultural nationalism of the 1920s, and the “precursor” roles of José Vasconcelos, Antonio Caso, Alfonso Reyes, and Daniel Cosío Villegas.

In this historical context, Samuel Ramos’ Perfil del hombre y la cultura en México (1934) is the culmination of the lo mexicano tradition which preceded it. According to Schmidt, Ramos’ most significant contribution to Mexican thought lay not in his summarizing of themes relating to the Mexican ethos, but in his development of a Mexicanist methodology which synthesized Mexican history; an historical awareness which was able to “transcend the nationalistic-cosmopolitan conflict in Mexican history” (p. 165)—that is, the reaffirmation of Mexico’s humanity in a universal context.

Schmidt’s analysis, while distinguishing Ramos’ work from that of his predecessors, bears strong testimony to the continuity of ideas in the history of lo mexicano. Interestingly, and contrary to the views of the “Pro-Revolutionary School of Mexican Historiography,” Schmidt argues that many positivists of the late Porfiriato were avid Mexicanists, a reflection of Porfirian nationalism, nativism, and populism. Indeed, it was the last positivist intellectuals who evoked Mexicanism and made lo mexicano an intellectual preoccupation of the 1900-1910 era— for example, thinkers like Porfirio Parra, Ezéquiel Chávez, Julio Guerrero, Telésforo García, and Agustín Aragón. In fact, it was one of Mexico’s greatest positivists, José Torres Orozco, who turned Ramos to philosophy, and who, in the twenties, encouraged Ramos to challenge and break with Antonio Caso and the doctrines of Christian Idealism.

Lo mexicano continued in the post-positivist era of the Revolution, as it became the preoccupation of Mexico’s greatest pensadores of the 1920s. These thinkers set the stage for Ramos. Among others, the ideas and concerns of the 1920 generation included the concept of the duality of Mexican culture (indigenismo and hispanism), the Indian-creole-mestizo triad, race mixing and mestizaje, xenophobia (and Yankeephobia), machismo, Adlerian psychoanalysis and self-analysis, and above all, a philosophical approach to history.

Thoroughly documented and well-written, Professor Schmidt’s book gives us an important study in the autonomy of ideas; ideas as symbols of an attitudinal relationship between intellectuals and their country’s history. Through these pages a very human story emerges of a people’s search for identity—the psychological and historical process of discovering one’s self through the transformation of tradition to myth.