From the Stacks: Five Exceptional Books About Mexico (Gringo Edition)

Books about Mexico

As you may have suspected, the life of a freelance writer is no cake walk. But there are perks. Like getting free books in the mail. The other day I received the latest from Tony Burton, Mexican Kaleidoscope: Myths, Mysteries, and Mystique. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I have high hopes. Burton is one of the best. Which got me thinking about my  favorite Mexico books and reminded me that it’s been some time since […]

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Book Review: Diana Kennedy, Rendered Lard, and the Late, Great Steve Rogers

Originally published in June of 2012, republished in 2017. My dad Steve Rogers was a good cook, maybe even a great cook. He could turn a few wilting odds and ends  into a memorable lunch, and his obsessive interest in traditional methods and ingredients was matched by a fearless creativity that led him far off the beaten path. When I was a little girl, I loved to sit and watch him in the kitchen. Watching Steve cook was like watching […]

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Book Review: Mexico City Noir

Reading a short story is like a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you on the Greyhound: the getting-to-know-you process is accelerated to an uncomfortable pace and then you never see the guy again. A compilation of short mysteries, Mexico City Noir doesn’t offer many exceptions to this problem. Several of the tales seem slight; you can sense the authors stretching for meaning and falling back on cheap tricks to make up for the necessarily slender plots. The book gets off to […]

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Saint Good Adventure

San Judas de Tadeo

  As usual on a border crossing day, I woke up with a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement at the thought of Mexico and dread at the thought of dealing with customs agents and paperwork. From my late father I inherited a phobia of police officers and other government officials, which means that I work myself up into a state every time we need to cross an international border. As it turned out, my sense of foreboding was not […]

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Book Review: Narcocorrido by Elijah Wald

note: Click on links for music. Would you rather listen to gangster rap, country music, or polka?  If you cringed in horror at any of the three options, well, brace yourself. If you answered, “All three!” then you probably already know your Tigres from your Tucanes. Whatever your musical tastes, the blood-splattered accordion-happy world of the Mexican narcocorrido is a fascinating place to visit. In Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerillas, folklorist and musician Elijah Wald explains […]

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From the Archives: On the Road at Nine and Ten, 1988-89

drawing of van in Mexico

  As I was working on my book about my nomadic hippie childhood, I unearthed a travel journal that covered two trips to Mexico in the late 80s. The odysseys included research for “The People’s Guide to RV Camping in Mexico,” extended stays at Tenacatita, and my first visit to Guatemala. We also drove some Huichol friends on a pilgrimage to their sacred lands in Central Mexico. I’ve chosen a few excerpts for your amusement. You can read the first installment here.  Dec 26, 1988 […]

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From the Archives: An Eight-Year-Old’s Travel Journal, 1987

Map of baja drawing

Churpa writes: While researching for a memoir of my childhood on the road, I’ve been digging through old family photographs and journals, and I found this very detailed illustrated travel journal that I started when I was eight, in 1987. The journal is canvas-bound with a sweet splatter paint design on the cover, and spans from November 1987 to the spring of ’89. It covers two long trips, from Oregon to Baja to Guatemala and back again. At the time, […]

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Returning to Tenacatita

Have you ever loved a place? I mean really loved a place? With the same intensity that you’ve loved a person? The other night, I was  sitting in a palapa on a beach in Mexico talking to my friend Mary Ann. Is it strange to love a place as much as you love the people in your life, I wondered. Solar-powered Christmas lights twinkled along the fringe of the thatched roof and the air smelled like the pounding surf. “But […]

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Traveling with Children and Water Quality

hippie family in van

A reader writes: This summer, my wife and I wish to travel and stay for a month or so to San Miguel or Guanajuato with our children ages 4 and 1 (right around 12-13 months). Our itinerary will be light:  just stay in a city and get to know it intimately. However, we’re concerned about issues like water: brushing teeth, when washing food, etc, especially with our younger child. Wondering if there’s a risk of him becoming ill even if […]

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Grand Adventure or Foolish Mistake?

A reader writes: We have planned to rent a car in Guadalajara and to drive to Guanajuato, Leon, San Miguel, Mexico City, Patzcuaro, Ajijic and back to Guadalajara. We are monolingual English speakers. We plan to only drive during the day. We are old lesbians. Does this seem like a great adventure or a foolish mistake? Churpa responds: I’m going with grand adventure, with two caveats regarding Mexico City and Michoacan. I highly recommend driving around Mexico in general, but […]

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