Ignacio Matus is a public school history teacher in Monterrey, Mexico, who gets fired because of his patriotic rantings about Mexico’s repeated humiliations by the United States. Not only did Mexico’s northern neighbor steal a large swath of the country in the Mexican-American War, but according to Matus it also denied him Olympic glory. Excluded from the 1924 Olympics, Matus ran his own parallel marathon and beat the time of the American who officially won the bronze medal. After spending decades attempting to vindicate his supposed triumph and claim the medal, Matus seeks an even bigger vindication—he will reconquer Texas for Mexico! Recruiting an army of “los iluminados,” the enlightened ones, Matus sets off on a quest as worthy of Don Quixote as it is doomed.
David Toscana is one of Latin America’s leading contemporary writers, and his books have won several prestigious awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize for The Enlightened Army. The novel’s treatment of the troubled relations between Mexico and the United States makes it highly topical at a time when immigration and border walls capture headlines, while its lyrical writing and humorous take on the absurdities of everyday life offer timeless pleasures.