I have this pattern I now recognize to my chagrin. A topic grabs my attention, preferably one about Mexico, even better one about our area, and I mean just to read a bit about it, talk to a few people about it, maybe look around and look at pictures and tell you about it. But in the end I follow threads -- glittering threads which I can't let go of and which lead me to this nexus and that, to that thread and yet another. And I spend hours and hours on these journeys, and the information from them> only a bit of it makes it into blog posts.
I guess I have to say "so be it." Or maybe "So what."
The last topic, and the one at least theoretically lighting my way, was/is Jews in Mexico, particularly the Yiddish poet Yitzhkok (Isaac) Berliner whom I discovered in an article in Tablet Magazine. I wrote several posts about him. Richard Grabman picked up on him and wrote a good, concise biography. I'm not so good at concise. Anyway, through Berliner I discovered the Diario Judio de México (who knew?) which had a series of portraits of Jews who were either Mexican, immigrants to Mexico, or involved in some significant way in the life of Mexico as residents, at least for awhile. I read a number of the portraits, and for some reason I don't understand, fixed on Samuel von Basch, Maximilian's personal physician in 1866 and 1867, the year in which he was executed.
But to understand this sliver of time, I found I wanted to know how von Basch's Jewish family got to Austria, how he became a doctor, what he was like. Vienna is the city which embraced him, medicine is the field in which he excelled. And of course how did he get to Mexico? First to Puebla where he was a physician to the French troops billeted there, and then to emerge to become not only the personal physician but a close confidante of Emperor Maximilian first in Mexico City (with an important short side trip to Cuernavaca) and finally in Querétero where the Emperor met his end?
While I suspect his time in Mexico was the most intense of his life, von Basch returned to Austria and became an extraordinary physician and researcher considered now the father of the blood pressure measurer (sphygmomanometer is its proper name) and of circulatory system medicine. Doing these things is what he spent most of his life at.
I am, of course most captivated by the Mexican period. I hope I can put down my reading long enough to share some stuff with you before I find myself rushing down another path.