Ricardo Flores Magón (1874-1922), cofounder of the Mexican Liberal party, journalist, and anarchist intellectual, has attracted increasing attention in the past few years. Though he spent most of his years of active political radicalism in the United States, in flight from the police of dictator Porfirio Díaz or at odds with Díaz’ successors, Flores Magón is recognized on both sides of the border as an important figure in the Mexican Revolution. Several excellent studies, including those by Juan Gómez-Quiñones, James Cockcroft, and Dirk Raat, either focus directly on him or discuss the movement of which he was a part. Ward Albro’s new book does some of both: the reader comes away with a good sense of the man, the movement, and the cross-border context of the times.
Albro ably discusses some of the more controversial aspects of Flores Magón’s life, particularly the question of precisely when he became an anarchist. Albro correctly points out that Flores Magón’s own writings make this question more difficult. The writings are hard to analyze because they are cast in journalistic, fragmentary form and fashioned “almost always with immediate practical purposes in mind” (p. 104). Unwilling to lose potential financial help from U.S. supporters, Flores Magón may have softened his message for several years before acknowledging his anarchism publicly in 1908. His ideas on the subject, Albro believes, did not fully develop until 1910, although he had been reading and thinking about anarchism for a long time.
Albro’s work is true to its title in that it considers very little of Flores Magón’s life beyond the focal period, from the years immediately preceding the Mexican Revolution to his death in 1922. The book draws its documentary base entirely from U.S. repositories. As a result, the sense it conveys of this very important figure remains incomplete. The book is very readable and will certainly make Flores Magón more familiar to readers in the United States. He still awaits, however, a full-fledged biography that takes account of his life and activities on both sides of the border.