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Harris, a specialist on Mexico at the University of Wisconsin, describes and tries to explain the vast historical pageants that take place in Mexico and Spain to commemorate medieval Spanish victories over the Muslims. He attended a reenactment in Zacatecas, the silver-mining capital of colonial Mexico, in which almost five thousand persons participated; Harris calls it "one of the world's most powerful theatrical events."

The drama they presented was a complex one that clearly celebrated a famous Catholic, Spanish victory over the hated Moros. In a post-modern style, however, Harris dismisses this obvious meaning. He insists it is not what it appears to be – a recollection of a triumph over the Moorish enemy – but a "barely veiled" form of pre-Hispanic ritual of human sacrifice. Its purpose he sees not as a burnishing of the memory of these medieval achievements but a means to resist present-day challenges such as globalization.

Whether one agrees with the author or not about the purport of these festivals for Mexican and Spanish life (this reader finds his speculations highly unconvincing), the remarkable thing from a Middle Eastern point of view is that battles fought nearly a millennium ago in another part of the world resonate in Mexico to this day. If one needed it, here is yet another confirmation of the depth and endurance of the Muslim-Christian enmity through the ages. Whatever sophisticated spin one wishes to gloss it over with, the underlying sense of confrontation remains remarkably in place.