On the Plain of Snakes

On the Plain of Snakes Legendary Travel Writer Paul Theroux 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 Paul Theroux Has Spent His Life Crisscrossing The Globe In Search Of The Histories And Peoples That Give Life To The Places They Call Home Now, As Immigration Debates Boil Around The World, Theroux Has Set Out To Explore A Country Key To Understanding Our Current Discourse Mexico Just South Of The Arizona Border, In The Desert Region Of Sonora, He Finds A Place Brimming With Vitality, Yet Visibly Marked By Both The US Border Patrol Looming To The North And Mounting Discord From Within With The Same Humanizing Sensibility He Employed In Deep South, Theroux Stops To Talk With Residents, Visits Zapotec Mill Workers In The Highlands, And Attends A Zapatista Party Meeting, Communing With People Of All Stripes Who Remain South Of The Border Even As Their Families Brave The Journey North From The Writer Praised For His Curiosity And Affection For Humanity In All Its Forms New York Times Book Review , On The Plain Of Snakes Is An Exploration Of A Region In Conflict Paul Theroux is often lauded as potentially the greatest travel writer of his generation and with this, his latest book, he shows that his power remains undiminished.Mexico is a big country, something like eight times the size of the United Kingdom, and yet its population is only about twice that of the UK It s ethnically diverse with just over half of its people identifying themselves as mixed race It s rich in natural resources, but its wealth is unevenly distributed, with the top ten percent of the population hogging nearly half of the income and according to Wikipedia a third the countries inhabitants are forced to get by on less that 5 per day And the principle message I get from television and radio is that Mexicans are permanently queued up at it s border attempting to bust, sneak or climb their way into the promised land that lies to the north It s the message that Trump has been blasting out, the build the wall mantra he s been been espousing for years, that appears to have been Theroux s prompt to explore this land What s life really like on the other side of the fence Our intrepid traveller sets out a plan to drive along the American side of the border, from San Ysidro in the West to Brownsville in the East, slipping over into Mexico at every crossing opportunity to visit border towns and talk to people on both sides of the divide Once this exercise has been completed he will head south and drive the length of the country As always happens when I join him on his journeys, it becomes obvious from the start that he will meet interesting people, unearth thought provoking facts and stimulate a desire in me to step out of my own comfort zone and explore some of the interesting regions of this big wide world we live in Theroux s border exploration certainly threw up a few early eye opening surprises for me His experience suggests that gringos particularly those of advanced years he s now in his mid to late seventies are treated with a good deal of respect in Mexico This contrasts starkly with how Trump and his crew paint the average Mexican and therefore the way in which many who have made the journey in the opposite direction are treated or perceived People living in the border towns in both countries tend to laugh at the idea of building a bigger, better wall the standard retort being along the lines of if you big a bigger wall they ll just find a longer ladder The border is certainly very porous, though significantly less so since 911 It s also clear that there is a ready market for crossings driven partly from people coming into Mexico and travelling north from violent Central American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador Also, increasingly many from Africa, India and Pakistan fly into Mexico and attempt to cross the border into America There is a steady market for professional criminals coyotes who charge hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to transport these people across the border But than this, it s clear that thousands of Mexicans make the journey across the border daily, quite legally, to work and then return to their homes at the end of their labours In this sense the border felt to Theroux like a blur than a clean straight line In Theroux s earlier book Deep South Four Seasons on Back Roads he talked about the loss of manufacturing jobs to factories being set up in Mexico, but what I hadn t realised is that many of these these are sited literally a stone s throw from the border itself, clearly visible from the American side Mexicans working in these factories can typically work a ten hour shift for an average pay of 6.After completing the border section of his journey he heads south from Reynosa, heeding the many warnings he s received from both his fellow countrymen and most of the Mexicans he s met along the way primarily the advice he received consisted of an instruction not to travel at night and to make sure that his car his was safely protected while he slept As I read this account of his journey, the people he met and the conversations he had with them, I felt a mixture of envy at the adventurousness of it all mixed in with a pang of anxiety for Theroux s wellbeing it s clear he was taking some risks, certainly risks than I d have entertained On one occasion early on he explored the red light area of a town with the help of a local driver who was clearly reluctant to enter this dingy, threatening neighbourhood, even during daylight hours From the start, the author had heard talk of how the cartel gangs fought with each other over territory, how these gangs were often in cahoots with the police and that random kidnappings and murders were common place In the town of San Luis Potos he came across a demonstration concerning the kidnap and likely murder of forty three students a few years earlier, most of the bodies never found This is the dark side of Mexico In fact, as he approached Mexico City, Theroux had two run ins with the police, both as a result of minor or perceived traffic violations In both instances the police officer aggressively demanded money between 250 300 or he d have his car impounded He was later to experience this again and learn that these shakedowns are routine in a country where corruption amongst the police, local authorities and the government is rife In fact, it s a commonly held belief that there is no separation between the police, the military and the narcos On the flip side, he was to find, particularly amongst uncomplaining people who had the very least, a generosity and kindness of spirit that was restorative.Through his journey, Theroux describes the what he sees and the places he visits, drops in a little history here and there, ruminates on Mexico s art and culture and provides a regular dose of interesting and amusing anecdotes He s a chatty fellow and he clearly speaks passable Spanish, so he mixes readily with the locals and is able to provide a sense of their perspective on life in this country with its many challenges and significant perils But he also sees that there is an appreciable upside of living in a place where, for the most part, family is sacrosanct and the old ways are still valued and preserved, particularly in the poorer towns and villages In fact, as he travels south, beyond Mexico City, he points out that though the north lies in the shadow of America, teased by its rich neighbour, the south is a place apart, the poorest part of the country And his experiences confirm a phrase he d come across before the past of a place survives in its poor He d taught a class to a group of eager writers for ten days in Mexico City and now he d booked himself in as a student to buff up his own Spanish during a three week spell at a school in Oaxaca In the final sections he heads further south still, increasingly delving into the history and culture of this land.I most enjoyed Theroux s accounts of the travel itself, talking to people he met along the way, the accounts of his small adventures and his honesty regarding the worries and insecurities he experienced as he travelled His awe at the dramatic landscapes is obvious as is his displeasure at the ugly urban sprawl that is an ingredient of just about every city he passed through But above all it s the overpowering feeling of discovery that shines through How brave of him to take on such a massive and hazardous trip at an age many are lighting the fire, pulling up the comfy chair and donning the slippers He s an intelligent and insightful companion and I d urge anyone who has an interest in travel to grab a copy of this book I found it truly inspirational.My sincere thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Paul Theroux is often lauded as potentially the greatest travel writer of his generation and with this, his latest book, he shows that his power remains undiminished.Mexico is a big country, something like eight times the size of the United Kingdom, and yet its population is only about twice that of the UK It s ethnically diverse with just over half of its people identifying themselves as mixed race It s rich in natural resources, but its wealth is unevenly distributed, with the top ten percent of the population hogging nearly half of the income and according to Wikipedia a third the countries inhabitants are forced to get by on less that 5 per day And the principle message I get from television and radio is that Mexicans are permanently queued up at it s border attempting to bust, sneak or climb their way into the promised land that lies to the north It s the message that Trump has been blasting out, the build the wall mantra he s been been espousing for years, that appears to have been Theroux s prompt to explore this land What s life really like on the other side of the fence Our intrepid traveller sets out a plan to drive along the American side of the border, from San Ysidro in the West to Brownsville in the East, slipping over into Mexico at every crossing opportunity to visit border towns and talk to people on both sides of the divide Once this exercise has been completed he will head south and drive the length of the country As always happens when I join him on his journeys, it becomes obvious from the start that he will meet interesting people, unearth thought provoking facts and stimulate a desire in me to step out of my own comfort zone and explore some of the interesting regions of this big wide world we live in Theroux s border exploration certainly threw up a few early eye opening surprises for me His experience suggests that gringos particularly those of advanced years he s now in his mid to late seventies are treated with a good deal of respect in Mexico This contrasts starkly with how Trump and his crew paint the average Mexican and therefore the way in which many who have made the journey in the opposite direction are treated or perceived People living in the border towns in both countries tend to laugh at the idea of building a bigger, better wall the standard retort being along the lines of if you big a bigger wall they ll just find a longer ladder The border is certainly very porous, though significantly less so since 911 It s also clear that there is a ready market for crossings driven partly from people coming into Mexico and travelling north from violent Central American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador Also, increasingly many from Africa, India and Pakistan fly into Mexico and attempt to cross the border into America There is a steady market for professional criminals coyotes who charge hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to transport these people across the border But than this, it s clear that thousands of Mexicans make the journey across the border daily, quite legally, to work and then return to their homes at the end of their labours In this sense the border felt to Theroux like a blur than a clean straight line In Theroux s earlier book Deep South Four Seasons on Back Roads he talked about the loss of manufacturing jobs to factories being set up in Mexico, but what I hadn t realised is that many of these these are sited literally a stone s throw from the border itself, clearly visible from the American side Mexicans working in these factories can typically work a ten hour shift for an average pay of 6.After completing the border section of his journey he heads south from Reynosa, heeding the many warnings he s received from both his fellow countrymen and most of the Mexicans he s met along the way primarily the advice he received consisted of an instruction not to travel at night and to make sure that his car his was safely protected while he slept As I read this account of his journey, the people he met and the conversations he had with them, I felt a mixture of envy at the adventurousness of it all mixed in with a pang of anxiety for Theroux s wellbeing it s clear he was taking some risks, certainly risks than I d have entertained On one occasion early on he explored the red light area of a town with the help of a local driver who was clearly reluctant to enter this dingy, threatening neighbourhood, even during daylight hours From the start, the author had heard talk of how the cartel gangs fought with each other over territory, how these gangs were often in cahoots with the police and that random kidnappings and murders were common place In the town of San Luis Potos he came across a demonstration concerning the kidnap and likely murder of forty three students a few years earlier, most of the bodies never found This is the dark side of Mexico In fact, as he approached Mexico City, Theroux had two run ins with the police, both as a result of minor or perceived traffic violations In both instances the police officer aggressively demanded money between 250 300 or he d have his car impounded He was later to experience this again and learn that these shakedowns are routine in a country where corruption amongst the police, local authorities and the government is rife In fact, it s a commonly held belief that there is no separation between the police, the military and the narcos On the flip side, he was to find, particularly amongst uncomplaining people who had the very least, a generosity and kindness of spirit that was restorative.Through his journey, Theroux describes the what he sees and the places he visits, drops in a little history here and there, ruminates on Mexico s art and culture and provides a regular dose of interesting and amusing anecdotes He s a chatty fellow and he clearly speaks passable Spanish, so he mixes readily with the locals and is able to provide a sense of their perspective on life in this country with its many challenges and significant perils But he also sees that there is an appreciable upside of living in a place where, for the most part, family is sacrosanct and the old ways are still valued and preserved, particularly in the poorer towns and villages In fact, as he travels south, beyond Mexico City, he points out that though the north lies in the shadow of America, teased by its rich neighbour, the south is a place apart, the poorest part of the country And his experiences confirm a phrase he d come across before the past of a place survives in its poor He d taught a class to a group of eager writers for ten days in Mexico City and now he d booked himself in as a student to buff up his own Spanish during a three week spell at a school in Oaxaca In the final sections he heads further south still, increasingly delving into the history and culture of this land.I most enjoyed Theroux s accounts of the travel itself, talking to people he met along the way, the accounts of his small adventures and his honesty regarding the worries and insecurities he experienced as he travelled His awe at the dramatic landscapes is obvious as is his displeasure at the ugly urban sprawl that is an ingredient of just about every city he passed through But above all it s the overpowering feeling of discovery that shines through How brave of him to take on such a massive and hazardous trip at an age many are lighting the fire, pulling up the comfy chair and donning the slippers He s an intelligent and insightful companion and I d urge anyone who has an interest in travel to grab a copy of this book I found it truly inspirational. Rating 4 well traveled stars I was so glad to get a chance to read an eArc copy of Paul Theroux s latest work about his extensive travels in Mexico the last few years I value Theroux s perspective on a nation that I have traveled in quite a bit during the last few decades I read with sadness about the economic, political, and cartel forces that continue to make life in Mexico a hardscrabble and dangerous life for the poor and indigenous populations.Theroux takes us on a wide ranging journey He first focuses on the US Mexican border He jumps back and forth the border at multiple spots He describes the change in the border, the border crossing process and the border towns over the last 50 years or so Then he drives an inland route down to Mexico City where he stops to teach a class and explore Mexico City with his students He eventually travels south to Oaxaca, and the far southern state of Chiapas He visits many small villages along the way Theroux s strength is his clear description of the history and events that led up to the current situation He is at his strongest when recounting stories from the Mexicans that he meets along his travels He meets the good, the bad, and the ugly while visiting Mexico He does not sugar coat the bad and the ugly, and he does not discount the good Mexico is a complex country with longstanding economic and political issues As a US citizen, these issues are largely foreign to me This book was a clear eyed yet sobering read about a country that I have spent many happy months traveling in.I d recommend this for the armchair traveler, and anyone interested in how history and recent events have shaped the United States southern neighbor Thank You to NetGalley the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the author, Paul Theroux for providing a free e ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. On The Plain Of Snakes is such a relevant read Paul Theroux is one of my favorite travel writers, and his latest offering continues his profound observations and harsh truths Obviously, there are serious and deadly problems along the United States and Mexico border This book is sharp, insightful and disturbing Theroux tells the truth, even when so many would rather not hear it I highly recommend this book for anyone with even a slight intrest in the welfare of those who cross and protect the border It s a look at a different place and people who are almost hard to imagine Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review. 4.5 stars 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 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 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 Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to read this ARC in exchange for a fair review. I don t say this lightly, but in his seventy sixth year, at least among his travel books Theroux has written his masterpiece It s deeply compassionate, insightful, and amazingly timely It s an extraordinarily rich journey He s made me see Mexico in completely new ways and, as usual, sprinkled in bits of his own life and history that allow me to see his whole body of work differently. Paul Theroux writes beautifully and with vivid, provocative detail about a complicated place and people in this book It s literary, reflective, geographic, and cultural Just the kind of book to serve as the centerpiece for conversations about ethnography and society.Theroux s work comes not a minute too soon as we circle around questions of place and identity It s than entertainment and than literary this book is a descriptive photograph that explores many nuances. I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.In On The Plain of Snakes, Paul Theroux travels to Mexico He actually makes two journeys in this book, one along the entire length of the U.S Mexico border, and then one into Mexico, travelling through Monterrey, Mexico City, Oaxaca, and all the way to Chiapas in the south He makes both of these trips by car, in fact in his own car with Massachusetts plates, which does lead to tension at times The heart of this book are the interactions that Theroux has with those he encounters He asks many of them what they think about the United States, and I found their answers very interesting He meets people who used to live in the U.S and wish to return, those who have no desire to leave Mexico, and family and friends of people who left only to never be heard from again The border journey especially highlights the ways in which the U.S and Mexico interact with each other I was surprised by Theroux s willingness to drive off on backroads that can barely be called roads, especially when he does so in the midst of a torrential downpour I found the trip to a Zapatista enclave enlightening, as that s an aspect of Mexico that the average American hears nothing about.It s pretty stunning how little most Americans, myself included, know about Mexico, and I even live in a state that borders Mexico This book is a great way to begin to remedy some of that. I ve travelled much of the world over the last forty years, thanks to Paul Theroux s many books, which now number 56 I was especially eager to read this book since I ve made the journey through Mexico several times with my wife in a car VW bug and a pickup truck, so I was familiar with some of the challenges and dangers, not to mention adventures the author would encounter The Godfather of Travel Writing follows his own critique for what makes a superior travel book, not just a report of a journey, but a memoir, an autobiography, a confession, a foray in South America, a topography and history, a travel narrative, with observations of books, music, and life in general in short, what the best travel books are, a summing up This book includes countless memorable descriptions of Mexico s landscapes and insight into the country s history, as well as literary, including Mexican magical realism and political movements such as the Zapatistas.A book on immigrations and the border is especially timely during this period of misinformation and distrust created by the present crisis The author even admitted in an interview that his book was inspired by everything that Donald Trump and other people were saying during the presidential campaign about Mexico, Mexicans, and the border their uninformed opinions and stereotypes He refers to the Wall as our great national paranoia and goes on to say, One of the great reasons for traveling is to destroy stereotypes, to see people and things as they really are, to see the dynamics and the complexity of a country As soon as he started saying things like, There s too many of them, they re coming over the border, they re rapists, I had a great reason for taking a year or two to get to the bottom of it As is often the case, the author reveals something about himself and his state of mind when starting this project At 76, he felt he wasn t getting enough respect, I d observed for years that the whole of American life caters to the 18 35 year old s Books, music, educational TV shows, movies it s all for them Youth have become empowered by their spending, and that s created a kind of contempt for older Americans The author reveals that this feeling of rejection made it easy to identify with migrants and Mexicans, who knew that same feeling of being despised As befits this obstinate traveler and author, his response was, My work is my reply, my travel is my defiance And I think of myself in the Mexican way, not as an old man, but as most Mexicans regard a senior, an hombre de juicio, a man of judgement Theroux starts his journey crisscrossing the border interviewing a diverse group of migrants detained in Mexico, and then driving south to one of the poorest states of Mexico, Oaxaca As one would expect of a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and world traveler who has used every mode of transportation imaginable to meet those off the tourist s beaten path, his focus on the common man is reflected in who he meets and gets to know throughout his journey One lady, Maria, who touched his heart, was a middle aged woman praying before her meal in a migrant shelter, the Comedor of the Kino Boarder Initiative She was Zapotec, from a mountain village in Oaxaca State, who had left her three young children with her mother, intending to enter the United States and so she said become a menial in a hotel somewhere and send money back to her poor family But she had become lost in the desert and was spotted by the U.S Border Patrol, seized, roughed up, and dumped in Nogales The image of her praying did not leave my mind, and it strengthened my resolve On my trip, whenever I felt obstructed or low, I thought of this valiant woman, and moved on As someone who has ridden on a few of the back roads in Mexico and is aware of the constant threat of carjacking, I was amazed that the author actually drove down from Cape Cod in his own car and kept going on to isolated villages outside of Oaxaca where there were some narrow escapes, Some of the boulders had sharp edges, as though they d been split by a lightning bolt I wondered whether at some point a rockslide would broadside my car, toppling it and my passengers into the deep ravine to my left, or whether the whole unstable road would give way in a stupendous landslide of mud and stones, dropping my car into the abyss, and burying us But his low tech approach to travel is based on a desire to meet the common people, which means dressing down In the introduction of the book he provides insights into what makes a good travel writer, such as seeing the underside, its hinterlands, its everyday life if you want to get at the truth of a country, which is what he strives to do in many of the stories of this book He also cautions not to be in a hurry when traveling through a new country and always go low tech You have a lot of mobility in a car that is unavailable to anyone waiting for a train or bus you need mobility Theroux quotes Kerouac from On the Road to express what it is like to start this road trip, joy verging on euphoria Behind us lay the whole of Americana and everything Dean and I had known about life, and life on the road We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic Although the majority of Theroux s Mexican journey was in rural areas, he did spend ten days in Mexico City with 13 million inhabitants and all the chaos and police shakedowns which that entails Of the 28 students in his class of authors, he agreed to teach for free, only one had never been to the U.S., but Theroux was struck by how few wrote about places like Oaxaca, where the per capita income is the same as Bangladesh In the Mexican literary tradition, he says, almost no one writes about the rural areas There s no William Faulkner, no Wright Morris, no Robert Frost His advice to the class was, If you want to do something, go live in a small village in Chiapas Live there like a Peace Corps volunteer and write about the people there Mexico City is connected to the big world than to the hard up hinterland Theroux would attend a number of celebrations in small villages in Oaxaca and Chiapas, which reveal much of the Mexican culture and mindset Where protest was mingled with the fiesta, the fiesta with ritual and many of the ritualized masquerades had their origins in ancient Aztec culture, an empire of blood sacrifice and skulls and glittering masks He d attend a number of The Days of the Dead fiestas, which he describes as a solemn ritual It was a vigil in graveyards, it was a masquerade, it was a binge, it was an occasion for dressing up and looking fabulous, it included political protest, and it was a party Disputations on death are a national pastime in Mexico, says the author, and Octavio Paz sums it up best, The Mexican chases after death, mocks it, courts it, hugs it and sleeps with it He thinks of it as his favorite plaything and his most lasting love Theroux asked his students in Mexico City to visit La Capilla of Santa Muerte Saint of Death He learned that the government had targeted some shrines that were associated with drug cartels As the cult had grown in popularity, so government disapproval increased The Santa Muerte would become the fastest growing faith in Mexico with millions of believers Offerings of hope to the desperate which included drug dealers, prostitutes, smugglers and gangsters provided a spiritual shield from authorities Although much of the book includes anecdotes about the families who live in rural Mexico, the author s acute observations offered some eye popping political and social analysis Mexico s quagmire of impunity has also been affected by the American drug and gun control policies The U.S has criminalized the economy that services its vast appetite for drugs The consequence is that Mexico pays a disproportionate share of the cost of the American gun and drug habits, further weakening the state.He goes on to reveal that Americans are, the world s largest consumers of illicit drugs, spending than 100 billion a year on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines smuggled across the border, according to the 2014 RAND Corporation report No surprise when the author reveals that El Chapo ran the largest airborne operation in Mexico, with almost 600 aircraft seized, while Aeromexico had a piddling fleet of 127 planes Other revealing statistics include that than 200,000 people have been killed or have disappeared since December of 2006, and in the first ten months of 2017 there were over 17,000 murders in Mexico By the end of 2017, Mexico would record over 29,000 murders, the majority of them cartel related The book ends in the southern, mostly Mayan Indian populated states of Oaxaca and Chiapas According to Theroux, who profiles many of the local residents throughout the book You re dealing with people who have very little money and get very little help from the government But they have a great culture they re very proud of, their family values are very strong, and they re very self sufficient and creative They mend their clothes, they fix their shoes, they re actually able to take something that s broken and repair it, they have a lot of cottage industries I admire that, and I admire the ones who pick up and go to the border Most of the people I ve met who crossed the border just wanted to earn some money to send back and then go home they weren t here to go on welfare or be the parasites they re identified as.The author manages to connect with Subcomandante Marcos, the Mexican insurgent and former military leader of the Zapatista, which in 1994 was fighting for the rights of indigenous farmers throughout Chiapas, and whose base of operations was in the Lacadone jungle Much to the authors surprise, not only was he invited to one of the group s camps, but was asked speak at an event Theroux was nervous, since he respects what this leader represents, and when he approached the stage for the event, Subcomandante Marcos shouted, Venga Compa ero Escritor come fellow writer , and with a strong handshake and a hug welcomed him The hug calmed in a way that went beyond helpful reassurance The Comandante did not release me immediately, as I expected He held me and said, Welcome As they departed, he shook hands with the other key leaders, They were not the hands of commissars or bureaucrats They held on, gripping my soft writer s hands with their crusty workers hands Their strong handshakes made the men seem bigger somehow, their grip conveying power During his presentations, he connected with the audience of local Zapatista followers by revealing, To you, I am sure I seem like just another gringo But in fact, I am also part indigenous the proudest part of my secret being My paternal grandmother was a Menominee, a nation of people who lived in what is now Wisconsin, a people who lived in that region for six thousand years This knowledge helps me understand your struggle a little better, because the indigenous people of the U.S have been massacred and cheated and pushed to the margins ever since the first colonizers arrived on the continent I share your defiance, and for this I am happy to be among you He went on to say, Being welcomed in this way by the Zaptistas embraced, accepted, listened to I felt I had been admitted to a band of brothers and sisters who had resisted all that was negative and destructive n Mexican life As was the case in his last book, Figures in a Landscape , the author struggles to accommodate the impact of groups that are purportedly helping the isolated communities in Southern Mexico, All my adult life, beginning with my teaching in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have tried to understand how to reconcile the nature of poverty, the role of charity, the intervention of aid organizations, and the maneuvering of governments, especially those in the third world After repeated visits to Africa over fifty years, I concluded that foreign aid as it is conventionally practiced is essentially a failure, futile in relieving poverty, and often harmful relieving the ills of a few at the expense of the many Most charities are diabolically self interested, proselytizing evangelists, tax avoidance scammers with schemes to buff up the image of the found often someone in disgrace or mired in scandal or obscenely rich..and the charities do the government s work and in doing so, prevent oppressed people from understanding how they are being exploited On his way back to the U.S border, a sense of melancholy descended on the author I guessed this was because of the self I remembered from being here long before, the defected man who had no idea where he was going But I was a different person now, because I knew where I had been Instead of being purified by suffering sometimes the consequences of a travel ordeal I had made friends on the road through the plain of snakes, and that had lifted my spirits My spirits were raised, as well, after reading this edgy but ultimately hopeful story, which mixes visit reportage and emphatic political commitment and includes a well informed prescription for improving the situation between the U.S and Mexico Product details Hardcover 448 pages Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt October 8, 2019 Language English ISBN 10 0544866479 ISBN 13 978 0544866478 Product Dimensions 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches Shipping Weight 1.5 pounds View shipping rates and policies Average Customer Review 4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews Best Sellers Rank 2,423 in Books See Top 100 in Books o 1 in General Mexico Travel Guideso 8 in Travel Writing ReferenceWalker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world He came to Phoenix as a Senior Director for Food for the Hungry, worked with other groups like Make A Wish International and was the CEO of Hagar USA, a Christian based organization that supports survivors of human trafficking.His book, Different Latitudes My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association for Non Fiction and, according to the Midwest Review, is than just another travel memoir It is an engaged and engaging story of one man s physical and spiritual journey of self discovery Several of his articles have been published in Ragazine and WorldView Magazines, Literary Yard, Literary Travelers and Quail BELL, while another appeared in Crossing Class The Invisible Wall anthology published by Wising Up Press His reviews have been published by Revue Magazine, as well as Peace Corps Worldwide, and he has his own column in the Arizona Authors Association newsletter, The Million Mile Walker Paul Theroux is that rare author whose books I can say directly affected me and my way of life Theroux is the kind of traveler I try to be to a much less adventurous degree , a traveler who enjoys straying off the beaten path to explore the places that tourists never get to see, someone who takes the time to meet a few of the locals, eat where they eat, and get a feel for what makes a community tick Paul Theroux has done that all over the world, often placing himself into dangerous situations in the process But even those of us who do our traveling in less exotic locales, or even from our own armchairs, consider the man to be a role model.Theroux s latest, On the Plain of Snakes A Mexican Journey, proves that the man has not lost a step despite his admittance to himself that his future traveling days are limited by his advancing age The now 78 year old Theroux who was 76 during his travels through Mexico realizes that younger people see him as an old man well past his prime the way they see everyone who manages to make it to seventy To them he is invisible and easily ignored Well, Theroux is not playing that game He does concede, however, that his days of driving the backroads alone could end the very next time he has to pass the eye exam needed to renew his driver s license As Theroux puts it, his driver s license now has a use by date on it So, if not now, when Theroux has been in some tight spots before during his travels, but his almost foolhardy decision to travel alone into the heart of Mexico has to rank somewhere among the most dangerous situations he has ever inserted himself into The author began his Mexican journey by traveling from west to east the entire length of the U.S Mexico border, hopping back and forth between U.S and Mexican border towns He crossed into and out of those border towns than a dozen times, the places most prone to the kind of random violence orchestrated by the several drug cartels that control the Mexican side of the border and some would say also the American side From the border, Theroux proceeded to Mexico City, where he spent some time teaching a course on writing, before heading further south where he would end up near the Guatemalan border And the best part about all of this Theroux went where the roads took him, figuring all the while that it was best to keep moving no matter how bad or how deserted the next road he turned onto might prove to be Along the way, he spent time with peasants, artists, writers, students, the leader of a twenty year long rebellion, and indigenous inhabitants of the country whose Spanish was worse even than his own That he was willing to take the time necessary to earn the trust and the friendship of so many Mexicans explains how Theroux survived an adventure that everyone warned him against including the Mexicans with whom he discussed his general plan beforehand His friends took good care of him.Theroux may have been plagued by dejection and self pity when he began his trip through Mexico, but he ended it on a high note and with a smile on his lips He proved one time that there is a huge difference between traveling as a tourist and traveling as a lone observer of the world and its people Paul Theroux is a role model for real travelers everywhere.

[Epub] ➚ On the Plain of Snakes  ➟ Paul Theroux – Rarefishingbooks.co.uk
  • Hardcover
  • 448 pages
  • On the Plain of Snakes
  • Paul Theroux
  • 28 March 2017
  • 9780544866478