Journey to the United States of America / Viaje a los Estados Unidos del Norte de América
by Lorenzo de Zavala
English translation by Wallace Woolsey, Edited
Introduction by John-Michael Rivera
Publication Date: April 30, 2005
First published in Paris in 1834, Journey to the United States of America / Viaje a los Estados Unidos del Norte América, by Lorenzo de Zavala, is an elegantly written travel narrative that maps de Zavala’s journey through the United States during his exile from Mexico in 1830. Embracing U.S., Texas, and Mexican history; early ethnography; geography; and political philosophy, de Zavala outlines the cultural and political institutions of Jacksonian America and post-independence Mexico. de Zavala’s commentary rivals Alex de Tocqueville’s classic travel narrative, Democracy in America, which was published in Paris one year after de Zavala’s.
The narrative presents the first account of U.S. political culture from a Mexican point of view and constructs the first comparative political and historical framework for the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
In passionate prose, de Zavala argues for the incorporation of the true democratic ideals of the enlightenment in the fledgling Republic of Texas. He hoped Texas would meld the best of both Mexican and American cultures. de Zavala believed that if his colleagues who helped frame the Texas Constitution understood the complexities of democracy and the ideals that their state could achieve through a liberal, federal government that gave equal rights to all of its constituents: Native Americans, Mexicans, Euro-Americans, and free African Americans.
The original text is accompanied by eight pages of maps and historical photos, John-Michael Rivera’s critical introduction, and an English translation based upon Wallace Woolsey’s deft translation, expanded and revised for the purposes of this volume.
LORENZO DE ZAVALA (1788-1836) was the first vice president of the Republic of Texas. Born near Mérida in the Yucatán, de Zavala founded and edited several newspapers. In 1822, he embarked on a fruitful political career in Mexico, for which he was exiled in 1830. He returned briefly to Mexico in the early 1830’s before settling in Texas and becoming active in Texas politics, helping to draft the constitution and serving as interim vice president of the new republic.
JOHN-MICHAEL RIVERA is an assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado and the editor of The Real Billy the Kid by Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr. (Arte Público Press, 1998).
Learn more by visiting his faculty page.