So you might — as I did — come to Lomnitz's book expecting to find a comprehensive answer to the question 'what is it about these Mexicans and death?', but instead what you get is a response to two alternative and largely competing previous answers to that question.
Undergrad historians, typically one step removed from original research, learn this trick early on. So-and-so said this, but so-and-so said that, and so my own interpretation is either going to be a gutless hedge (aka "fence sitting") or an attempt to create some new and distinct synthetic third position using bits of both.
Faced with a dense literature on the Mexican death-obsession falling into two broad churches — that it descends from pre-Colombian roots in either ancient Mesoamerica or medieval Iberia — Lomnitz contends that it was in fact the cataclysmic meeting of these two cultures and the need to re-establish the hegemonic order after the holocaust which resulted in an apparently unique nationalisation of the death-cult in Mexico.
There is much that is compelling in Lomnitz's argument, but there are always going to be gaps when your answer to a specific question is essentially a response to earlier viewpoints. For instance, my friend Antonio in Brazil believes the candy skulls on sale at the start of November in Mexico must somehow descend from Aztec tzompantli (skull racks), for if there wasn't something very specific in the native culture squished by Cortés and co, why would Mexicans be any more death-obsessed than the rest of Latin America? Lomnitz's hegemonic whiplash argument can only provide the most indirect sort of parry to the thrust of Antonio's intuition.
And frankly, the greater issue for me is that I did not pick up this hefty volume in search of a sociological history of the Days of the Dead in Mexico. I really did want a comprehensive answer the question 'what is it about these Mexicans and death?' — one that delved a bit more into popular psychology and its localised peculiarities for this, at least as far as the topic of mortality is concerned, is my current topic of greatest interest.