Sunday, March 26, 2023

Q&A with Michael Hogan



Michael Hogan is the author of the new book Mexicans and Mexican Americans: Remarkable Lives, Unforgettable Stories. His many other books include Abraham Lincoln and Mexico. He lives in Guadalajara, Mexico.


Q: You begin your new book by discussing the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. How did the repercussions from that horrific event affect your writing this book?


A: When I read about the events in which 46 people were shot and 23 died, I asked myself why. Further investigation disclosed that the 21-year-old shooter from a Dallas suburb traveled all the way to El Paso with an automatic rifle and 1,000 rounds of ammunition to “stop the Mexican invasion.” He got this idea from a pundit on Fox News who used that language.


My immediate thought was: How absurd! First, the recent incursions on our southern border were from Central America (mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) where they had been displaced from their lands by global warming, violence from gangs deported from the US during a hurricane, and a massive destruction of land by American agribusinesses. Mexican immigration, meanwhile, had dwindle to a mere trickle.


My second thought was: How could a young man graduate from high school and attend several years of college and not know that the Southwest of the US as we know it today, including El Paso, was originally part of Mexico, which the US invaded in 1846 in what Ulysses S. Grant called “a wicked, wicked war” and which Abraham Lincoln called “clearly unconstitutional.”


So, I wrote a long editorial for the Dallas Morning News, the city’s largest newspaper. It was twice as long as their recommended 500 words and I thought they would ask me to edit it. Instead, the editor gave it a full page spread in the Sunday edition.


A few days later, I received a call from two people in the US, Rodrigo Aguilar and Juan Massey, who had created a new online site called the North American Project. Its purpose was to show audiences in the US the positive contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans have made to our history, to our economy, and to our rich culture.


The hope was the more thoughtful Americans would see the positive side of Mexicans in our country, and not focus on the hate and lies that had fostered this horrific incident.


Q: How did you choose the people you focused on in the book?


A: I wanted the readers to see Mexicans from all disciplines and all walks of life, not just men but women as well. Not only Mexican Americans, but also those who stayed in their own country but contributed to both cultures and economies and to our mutual security.

The book begins with the friendship between Matias Romero, a Mexican envoy, and Abraham Lincoln and shows how the two worked together to prevent the French from joining the Confederacy in the 1860s and how, even after Lincoln’s death and the Union victory, that relationship continued to bear fruit as American volunteers (including the African American “Buffalo soldiers”) joined the Mexicans to finally defeat the last empire in the Americas.


Q: As you researched the book, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I love oddities and this book is filled with them. For me the highlights were the woman who kissed Lincoln, the US Army camels used by the Mexican infantry for transport, and the Mexican brakeman who saved a whole town in Texas when a train loaded with dynamite went out of control.


This book has a bit of everything, and it makes the point that Mexicans and Mexican Americans have enriched the cultures of both nations and in several cases those of the world beyond the Americas.


Q: What do you hope people take away from the book?


A: Well, first, it is a fun book to read. Each chapter is illustrated; there are also links to all the sources. No chapter is longer than four pages and folks can read a bit when they have a 10-minute break. So, I hope the reader will find something of genuine interest that leads them to read more.


Second, as they read, I hope they will see that our culture, our literature, our cuisine, our music, even our inventions (color TV) and the space program have all been positively influenced by Hispanic contributions. They have helped to make us and the North American continent a more vibrant, more interesting, and more colorful place to live.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My most recent work, which I hope will be published in 2024, is now under consideration at Trinity University Press. It is called Walking Each Other Home. In this book I share my encounters with many of the world’s finest authors, including four Pulitzer Prize recipients, and three Nobel laureates.


Some of these I studied under when I was in the MFA program, others I hosted when they visited the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona, still others I read with on stage performing throughout the country and abroad. They shared with me not only tips for writing which I have passed on to my own students, but intimations for living a fuller and more meaningful life.


There were both humorous and tragic moments along the way, including an unexpected on-camera kiss from Allen Ginsberg on television in Pennsylvania, an interrupted publicity event in Memphis when Elvis died, and an all-nighter with Ethridge Knight during which he called his ex-wives and exchanged poetry selection on the phone speaker.


There were quiet walks with Joe Bruchac in the Adirondacks, and in the Sonoran Desert with Richard Shelton. There were the philosophical exchanges with Marge Piercy and Ed Abbey, and a political tiff with Seamus Heaney.


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: Well, I would like to thank you, Deborah, for all the support you have provided to writers like me, and the gift you give to your readers by introducing them to works they likely might not have seen in mainstream promos. I have personally enjoyed many of the books which you have recommended and authors you’ve profiled.


Second, I invite readers who would like to know more about me or my 28 books to visit my home page at or my Wikipedia profile at


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Michael Hogan.

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