April 14th 2011

Different books for your Mexican trip. Stones for Ibarra, A Trip to the Light Fantastic, Mexican Days.

Coat of arms of Mexico.

Image via Wikipedia

Different books for your Mexican trip. Not your normal travelogues.  I discovered a few off beat books on Mexico from the eclectic folks who have found their way to this tiny non gringo part of S. Mexico. Part of the attraction of Cuyutlan is that you need to integrate with the Mexicans here, they really have not needed to learn much english (if any ) to have their life go on as before, since the place is popular as a Mexican resort.  Thus the reading material here tends to explain life more from the Mexican point of view.

I especially enjoyed that these books reflect the authentic (non tourist) Mexico vs what the fear mongering US press is making us read. The normal US resident is fearful of venturing to Mexico, when what is being reported goes on in most large US cities every week.  A good way to keep the US tourist dollars in the US. (If one subscribed to conspiracy theories)

Stones for Ibarra, Harriet Doerr. 1984. ISBN 0140075623.  What would possess an average American couple, Richard and Sara Everton, to sell everything they had to move to a tiny village in Mexico to re-open a mine owned by Richard’s deceased grandfather. They had never seen the mine, house, or village ever.  However the story unfolds around stories of the locals and what has transpires in their lives for the eight years the Everton’s stay.  The stories are clearly written, with good local flavour.  I enjoyed the humanity of the lives, without pandering to politically correct language.

A Trip To The Light Fantastic. Travels with a Mexican Circus. Katie Hickman. 1994. ISBN 0006377157.  The author specializes in offbeat travel (that you would likely never do) that she will write about and her husband does photo journalism around the travels.  For this one, she literally joins a Mexican circus in Mexico city and travels, initially as a spectator then a performer as the troop moves slowly around the countryside. Since circus performers are not highly regarded she sees the country from the bottom up. Interspersed with the circus performers personal stories, she adds some side trips to very offbeat spectacles that would be very hard for the casual visitor to even know about.  She struggles with what appears to be magic (and it may be that) and the juxtaposition of Mexicans unique Catholicism with long standing Indian beliefs.   Clearly written, and not your normal travel guidebook.

Mexican Days. Journeys Into the Heart of Mexico. Tony Cohen. 2006. ISBN 0767920901.  The first book I read down here on what has turned into a fascinating learning experience ( which I have just touched) on what it is like to “live” in Mexico (vs translating the US amenities lock stock and barrel to a different geography). The author has found peace  for years in a small Mexican village with his artist wife ( A  Japanese textile specialist) when he arrives back to find the town invaded with the likes of Johnny Depp, Selma Hyack, Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffiths and Edward Norton.; plus all their hangers on.  The noise and hubbub  drives Cohen to take an extended trip  through many different parts of Mexico to sample life there  as well as write about it (This just after 9/11 , so the travel editor suggests Americans will be less likely to travel outside the continent and interest in Mexico will rise – which was true) .  Each town visit is  richly described with great detail so you feel the damp , cold or heat and learn what each location brought to the mexican experience through history and culture. His descriptions reminded me at times of  DH Lawrence, they were so clearly.  thought through.  It feels like you are really seeing Mexico through his eyes.

So lesson learned- do not take everything you read in the press to heart- they never venture away from the main resorts anyway.There is way more to Mexico than resort visits!

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