On the Plain of Snakes

On the Plain of Snakes

A Mexican Journey

Book - 2019
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"Legendary travel writer Paul Theroux fearlessly drives the entire length of the US-Mexico border, then goes deep into the hinterland, on the back roads of Chiapas and Oaxaca, to uncover the rich, layered world behind today's brutal headlines."--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, [2019]
ISBN: 9780544866478
Characteristics: 436 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : photographs ; 24 cm

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megaculpa
Aug 16, 2020

As with all Theroux's travel books, this presents a somewhat idiosyncratic depiction of the country, enlivened by the people he meets and his extensive knowledge of literature about Mexico.

Theroux's elliptical style is not to everyone's taste. He tends to explore his perspectives as he travel and reads, often revisiting certain themes. This can be repetitive, at times, but I think it works in this case. Mexico is a large, complicated country -- 60 official languages, for example -- with really serious problems. This book is a heartfelt attempt to understand the people and their circumstances.

I skimmed a couple of longish sections about Mexican writers -- few of whom I've read -- and the emergent cult of Santa Muerte -- the saint of death -- too creepy for me. But other parts are fascinating -- visits to the US border towns, meetings with Zapatistas in Chiapas, being shaken down by the police. leading a writers workshop in Mexico City. Theroux was 75 when he began the trip, a testament to his vigour, courage and relentless curiosity.

r
RicardoRedLion
Mar 27, 2020

Humanity pours out of each chapter, ending with a glimpse of hope. Mr. Theroux’s book replaces images of an embattled country with thoughtful empathetic vision. A mix of travel, adventure and education. His best book, yet, I think.

u
Urbano
Nov 17, 2019

Feeling old and unappreciated, Paul Theroux decides to undertake two journeys through Mexico: one along the contentious U.S./Mexico border, and then one into Mexico, traveling through Monterrey, to the central highlands on to Mexico City then to Oaxaca, and down south to Chiapas. Along the way, he talks to a wide variety of Mexicans: the destitute to the wealthy, those integrated into the Spanish language speaking mainstream, and those belonging to far more ancient indigenous cultures. He meets with corruption and with incredible kindness, generosity and welcome. He investigates the history of many of the issues troubling the country: the vast inequality and narco violence and he also delves into Mexico's incredibly rich artistic and cultural heritage. He heads back north to his home country feeling revitalized and fortunate to have had so many rich encounters.

This book is Theroux at his best, writing with passion and soul. Though I personally found the book about 75-100 pages too long, this is probably due more to my lack of interest in politics in general than to any flaw in the writing. Highly recommended to those wishing to understand the complex culture and history of Mexico.

debwalker Nov 02, 2019

How to not be a ratbag in Mexico. So much more complex than the version depicted by trump.

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