Book Review-In Plain Sight, Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908-1914.

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In Plain Sight, Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908-1914. Heribert von Feilitzsch. (Amissville, VA: Henseltone Verlag, 2012). Hardcover, 468 pages, index, biblio, notes, illus., map. $28.00. ISBN: 978-0-9850317–0-1.

Cornucopia shaped Mexico is blessed with a varied climate producing agricultural wealth and a soil filled with mineral riches. This land of plenty has, therefore, attracted explorers, entrepreneurs and adventurers who became involved in the country‘s struggle for equitable government and control of its natural resources. And, as the flag follows commerce, so do diplomats and intelligence agents. Felix A. Sommerfeld was a German born mining engineer, veteran of the Imperial German Army and an agent of German Naval Intelligence . Operating in Mexico in the early years of the twentieth century he became heavily involved in Mexico’s tumultuous history, providing security to Mexican leaders and logistic expertise to their armies, often interacting with United States authorities and citizens; all the while working for the Imperial German Government. He supported Madero against Diaz and for a while Carranza, eventually switching to Villa.

 Concluding in 1914, this volume may be followed by another detailing Sommerfeld’s activities in Mexico during World War I.

 Despite the author’s explanation that “Madero was the most viable not only in the eyes of Sommerfeld but also the broad coalition of Mexicans’ (p. 380) one wonders whether it was a judgment of Sommerfield’s conscience or in accordance with his instructions from Berlin. And of course the naïve, bumbling, racist United States, despite all the information given to them by Sommerfeld, botch their efforts to control events in Mexico. The reviewer is not inclined to accept Mr. Felitzch’s analyses of the foreign policy of Presidents Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson. And, one is left to wonder what the Kaiser’s plan for Mexico was.

 Notwithstanding, In Plain Sight gives a useful detailing of events in Mexico prior to the First World War, including a Mexican cast of thousands, in that peoples’ struggle for decent government and the foreigners who became involved.. It also provides a decidedly antipodal view of American foreign policy during the period and sets the stage for an interpretation of German machinations in Mexico during World War I.

 The author, a native of Germany graduated from the University of Arizona with an MA in Latin American History and holds an MBA

James B. Ronan II

 

 

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