Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

C.M. Mayo < About C.M. Mayo < Interviews <
or The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire < Q & A <

Amigos de la Universidad de Chicago (University of Chicago Alumni Association, Mexico)

Apropos of the presentation of the novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, in Mexico City, September 2009
>>Click here to view photos.

C.M. Mayo. BA '82 y MA'85

¿Por qué decidiste estudiar en la Universidad de Chicago?

Because, on multiple levels, I was bored with highschool and as the University of Chicago had a long-standing policy of accepting younger-than-usual students, I could skip my last year and start in the College at seventeen. My grandfather, Frank R. Mayo, who earned his undergraduate degree and PhD in chemistry from the U of C, was delighted that I chose his alma mater, but I have to admit, at the time, this wasn't a factor in my decision. Later, I developed many more thoughtful reasons for appreciating the U of C and I feel very fortunate to have been able to study there.

¿Qué y cuándo estudiaste en ella?

I have a BA (1982) and an MA (1985) in economics (as Catherine Mansell C.M. Mayo is my pen name). As an undergraduate, though I majored in economics, most of my courses were in other subjects, everything from French to Asian history to astrophysics. I recall a strong emphasis on critical reading and writing. Once I toted up the number of papers I'd been obliged to write as an undergraduate I think it was more than fifty. In sum, I don't think of my college years as being all that much about economics; it was more a very eclectic liberal arts education.

¿Quién fue tu mejor amigo durante tu estancia allá?

My husband, Agustin Carstens (PhD 1985), whom I met in the graduate program in economics.

¿Cuántos mexicanos había en tu programa?

As an undergraduate, I don't recall meeting any Mexicans. However, there were many Mexicans in the graduate programs in economics and business. I also had Mexican friends in the graduate programs in history and statistics.

¿Qué tan difícil es para un mexicano estudiar en los EEUU?

You mean once he or she has been accepted? It depends on the individual's characteristics (personality, habits, preparation, goals) far more than his or her country of origin. The U of C is not a place with any strong pressure to conform; there are students from all social and ethnic backgrounds and, probably, all the continents other than Antarctica. I have the impression that most of the Mexicans I knew in the graduate programs at the U of C thrived because they were well-prepared, ambitious, and extremely hard-working.

¿Por qué recomendarías la Universidad de Chicago?

It's one of the few places where there is a genuine "life of the mind." Many of the graduate programs are among the best in the world and the college is in the shadow of the graduate programs, rather than the other way around. Plus the campus is beautiful and the libraries and facilities superb.

¿Cuál fue tu mejor profesor y qué materia te impartió?

In economics, Gary Becker (Economics of the Family), Arnold Harberger (Project Evaluation), and also, Harry Harootunian's courses in Far East Studies, which got me interested in Japanese fiction.

¿Qué tanto te ha servido lo estudiado en Chicago en tu vida profesional?


¿Qué te gusta de Chicago?

The skyline as seen from Lake Michigan. The deep-dish pizza. The Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

About your book: As a distant mirror, how do you see Mexican society in that period?

It had a very different, hazier, and less confident self-image than it does today. Not all certainly, but a substantial number of Mexicans then believed that the only way to stability and prosperity was to have the monarchical form of government, and for a sovereign, a European. For we (I mean both Americans and Mexicans) who have been born and raised in Republics, it is easy to forget that in centuries past there was a profound, if not universally shared, respect for the monarchical form of government. For most of us today, royalty are little more than a subspecies of celebrity we might happen upon in Hola or People, posing rigidly in a funny hat or, perhaps, skiing, or apologizing for some all-too-human naughtiness. But Mexicans today are not subjects; they are citizens. It is an incandescently different thing to be a citizen.

As long-time observer of Mexican society, what do you think is most interesting and worrying characteristics?

Interesting: The endless labyrinth of its diversity and complexity.
Worrying: You know, maybe what we all need to be worrying about is the honeybee. I am not kidding.