When Sybille Bedford set out for Mexico immediately after the second world war, she was hoping to satisfy “a great longing … to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible”. She would not be disappointed. As “the oldest country in the New World”, Mexico seemed to have achieved the impossible feat of being both locked in history and innocent of it. As Bedford was to write of her host, “Don Otavio has seen so many changes that he has failed to notice them.”
Don Otavio’s failure to apprehend change was not simply the insouciance of a sequestered aristocrat, though he was certainly that. Rather, it was broadly symptomatic of the Mexican experience of a revolution that had started in 1910 and, more than three decades later, couldn’t stop revolving.