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Mexican Kaleidoscope - Myths, Mysteries & Mystique. A review of Tony Burton's newest book. Reviewed by Rita Pomade

Tony Burton’s recently published Mexican Kaleidoscope is a whirlwind trip through some of the underpinnings of Mexican culture, told with humour, affection and well-documented facts. This readable compendium of little known stories made me want to revisit many places I’d already seen. How much richer my experiences would have been had I been able to take this user-friendly and easily carried tome of gems with me when I was in Mexico. read more

I Love Baja! Reviewed by James Tipton

I Love Baja book cover
The title of Mikel Miller's new book, I Love Baja!, was inspired by locals who again and again told him, "I love Baja!". These same locals, reading this new edition of I Love Baja!, are probably saying, "I love Mikel's book," because it is written by a former resident who indeed knows and loves Baja... but it is also useful to those already living there and, in fact, fascinating to all Mexico aficionados... read more

The Girl from Veracruz Reviewed by James Tipton

Girl from Veracruz book cover
The Girl from Veracruz is the twelfth and latest novel in John Scherber's Murder in Mexico mystery series. Like most of the others, it is set largely in San Miguel de Allende (although there is a trip to Veracruz).

It features the same team of detectives that we have come to care for in the preceding novels: Paul Zacher, age 40, a reasonably popular local artist; the lovely Maya Sanchez, his life partner (for the most part) and now head of the Paul Zacher Agency; and Cody Williams, a retired homicide detective from Peoria, Illinois. We also meet again Licenciado Diego Delgado, their contact with the San Miguel Judicial Police.

The story begins at the morgue... read more

Mexican mezcal in the global spirits market: Unrivalled complexity, innumerable nuances Reviewed by William B. Kaliher

Mexican mezcal in the global spirits market: Unrivalled complexity, innumerable nuances,
A Mexico book by Alvin Gary Starkman, M.A., J.D.
© Alvin Gary Starkman, M.A., J.D., 2014

Derived from the agave plant, mescal — or mezcal — has been enjoyed since before the Spanish conquest.

Most is produced in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and, as with so many distilled spirits, reveals distinct nuances in smoothness, smokiness and flavor.

How each producer distills is also unique to his facility and likely his family history of making mezcal. ondenser is kept cool through circulating it or by continuously using new cool water, and so on. No two traditional clay distillers or copper pot distillers use exactly the same recipe unless they are close family members.

A friend said, Alvin Starkman has written the best book on mezcal in the English language.... read more

Tears from the Crown of Thorns: The Easter Passion Play in San Miguel de Allende Reviewed by Allan Cogan

"People unfamiliar with the Latin culture are curious, confused, and sometimes repulsed by the emphasis on suffering in religious figures. During Easter in North America, the focus is on the resurrection and the delights of spring. The event is concerned with the awe of transformation. There is resistance to facing the suffering that is a major part of this epic…." read more

Let the Water Hold Me Down Reviewed by James Tipton

Let the Water Hold Me Down has the makings of a classic.

It is written with skill and with grace, and the old verities that are at the heart of being human are here: loss and grief, guilt and longing, loyalty and love.

Set in modern-day Mexico, it tells the story of Hank Singer and is also about his relationship with César Lobos de Madrid, whose "family was one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most politically connected in Chiapas, if not in all of Mexico."

Hank has arrived just a few weeks before the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, led by Subcomandante Marcos, who on January 1, 1994, declared war against the government and the military... read more

Migration Reviewed by James Tipton

Migration by Bill Frayer
Bill Frayer just can't stop cranking out poems based on his two favorite themes: his new life in Mexico and his old life — particularly family memories — in the States.

Migration is his third book in a little over three years. Now collecting belongings has been replaced by collecting experiences, and collecting memories of past experiences.

I am reminded a bit of one of my dad's favorite tee-shirts, which reads: "The less you own, the more you have." read more

Down and Delirious in Mexico City: Memoir by Daniel Hernandez digs deep into youth culture Reviewed by Dean Gallagher

Mexican-American author Daniel Hernandez has hit a fresh nail on an old head by exploring different youth cultures in Mexico City. Youth is a favored subject for a modern mass media obsessed with this ... read more

Flirting in Spanish: What Mexico taught me about love, living and forgiveness Reviewed by James Tipton

Flirting in Spanish: What Mexico taught me about love, living and forgiveness
Flirting in Spanish is not a "how-to-do-it" book. It is the true story of Susan McKinney, the 33-year-old daughter of former NBA coach Jack McKinney, who moved to Mexico to write, but soon met and "fell hopelessly and utterly in love" with Carlos, a poor Mexican teenager.

The story began in 1992 in San Miguel de Allende. Susan, in Mexico less than three months and having "decimated whatever savings I once had," supplemented her meagre but easy-earned modeling income by teaching English.

Carlos, the poor Mexican teenager, was indeed wise for his years; after her first class was over, he alone "remained, still seated at the second desk in the middle row, watching me." read more

Infernal Drums Reviewed by James Tipton

Our protagonist Jonah crosses the border at Nuevo Laredo — the year is 1996 — and heads over to the coast and down to Mazatlan.

"He found a cheap room at a dive called Hotel Milan in Old Town — the historic center of a coastal metropolis split into neatly demarcated districts of progress and poverty on a peninsula snaking up the coastline of Nayarit."

In Mazatlan he joins up with three New Zealanders, harmless jerks, introduces himself "and played at acting the chum." In San Blas — "on a spit of white land divided by estuaries, surrounded by jungle" — they buy some cheap dope, but the transaction turns out to be a set-up read more

The New World Mexican Women of Tecalpulco, Mexico Reviewed by Rita Pomade

New World Women is a native women artisan group in Tecalpulco, Guerrero who decided to form a production cooperative. These skilled artisans are the original designers and producers, creating beautiful jewelry. Theirs is a cottage industry with a goal of perpetuating the region's craft tradition and creating a source of work that can keep their people at home — an alternative to migrating to urban centers or to the U.S. These enterprising women utilize modern means of communication. They communicate through their web page and via romantic novelas serialized on blogs. They write e-mail, post videos on YouTube, and have published an unusual book: The New World Mexican Women Workbook: How to Make Your Own Traditional Mexican Jewelry. read more

100 Love Sonnets Reviewed by James Tipton

"Well," you might be asking, "just what does a book titled 100 Love Sonnets have to do with Mexico?" "A lot," I might answer, "because this is a collection 100 sonnets, the first 50 of which were written after the break-up of a fifteen-year marriage" and include fantasies of a future relationship.

The final 50 were written after the author meets Gioia in San Miguel de Allende. They become lovers and "The second half of the sonnets, from 51 on, were inspired by and written for her."

Both halves, though, are about extraordinary women. read more

A Pillow Stuffed with Diamonds: Tanka on La Vida Mexicana Reviewed by Rob Mohr

When poet, accomplished musician, champion swimmer and a writer/editor who developed innovative Florida arts curricula entered Mexico, her experiences were deftly transformed into finely-nuanced poetry.

Margaret Van Every's bilingual lyric poetry, following the seventh century Japanese five-line Tanka format, affords the reader one pleasurable moment after another.

With well-honed sensibilities she unveils her day-by-day confrontation with Mexican culture and its people — a confrontation that soon became a love affair. read more

Driving Baja: A Guide for First Timers Reviewed by James Tipton

This short book tries to answer questions that first-time Snowbirds who are thinking about driving (perhaps with RVs) down the Baja are likely to ask: "…could we really do it? Is it safe to drive there? Are the roads OK? What if the car breaks down? How do we buy food? Can we take the dog? What if we get sick? Can we drink the water?" Baja California is a peninsula, over 1,000 miles long. read more

Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail Reviewed by James Tipton

This is a powerful book! Four thousand people — men, women, and children — over the past ten years have died trying to cross the Arizona desert in search of better lives.

This is the story of some of those courageous people from Mexico and Central America, and it is also the story of some equally courageous people from the United States... read more

Modern Mexico: Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans Reviewed by James Tipton

Modern Mexico: Through the Eyes of Modern Mexicans
"Most Mexicans don't live on dirt farms, wear sombreros and eat only beans and tortillas. Most Mexicans stay in Mexico because they think the quality of life is better than in the United States. … These are their stories." To write Modern Mexico, "Mexico" Mike Nelson talked with lots of people... read more

Paradise Valley Reviewed by James Tipton

"Paradise Valley — five thousand acres of prime, flat, fertile farmland nestled in the Sierra Madre of northeastern Mexico, only a hundred miles from the American border."
Inspired by actual events, several Amish families — finding new state laws impossible to live under because they undermined their faith and way of life — set off in 1922 to begin a new life in Mexico. read more

Revolutionary Days: A Chronology of the Mexican Revolution Reviewed by James Tipton

Revolutionary Days: A Chronology of the Mexican Revolution
Ray Acosta is a second generation Mexican-American His grandparents came from four different parts of Mexico… having fled during the height of the Mexican Revolution. After watching Ken Burns' TV epic on the U.S. Civil War, Acosta was struck by Burns' concluding with "something to the effect that the Civil War still has a profound impact on our lives." read more

The Through Line: A Journey from Darkness into Life Reviewed by James Tipton

Popular Ajijic photographer Jay Koppelman has two things to celebrate this winter: one, the recent opening of Studio 18, on Colón 18 in Ajijic, which features exclusively his photographs; and two, the recent publication of the first collection of his Mexico photographs, in a handsome coffee-table format, The Through Line. read more

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in poetry — Shooting Script: Door of Fire Reviewed by James Tipton

Shooting Script: Door of Fire is a sequence of poems about several "heroes:" Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, with bit parts from Trotsky's wife Natalia, actress Paulette Goddard, surrealist Andre Breton and others.We see them — Diego, Frida, Leon — as if we are watching them through a camera lens. Three people driven by obsessions. read more

Temples of the Mist: Mayan 6th Sun Reviewed by James Tipton

Temples of the Mist: Mayan 6th Sun
Seventeen-year-old Caleana's parents go to Mexico to camp out in the jungle near the Palenque ruins, but in the jungle mist the pilot of their small plane loses control and crashes. The father — a gifted archaeologist — is killed and possibly the mother, although because the mother's body had not been found, no one is sure.
Uncle Aiden, Aunt Bette, Caleana and her brother fly back to identify the body of their father, and while there Aunt Bette takes the children to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Aunt Bette places in Caleana's hand "a beautiful amulet of green jade and crystals around a circle. In the middle of the circle was an ancient Mayan woman with a serpent on her head, and jaguar ears and claws." It had been found at the crash site and it was believed to be Caleana's mother's. read more

The Lacuna: A Novel Reviewed by James Tipton

Tha Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
"Mexico admits you through an arched stone orifice into the tree-filled courtyard of its heart, where a dog pisses against a wall and a waiter hustles through a curtain of jasmine to bring a bowl of tortilla soup, steaming with cilantro and lime...."

Barbara Kingsolver seduces us once again into a tale well told, a tale of passion and intrigue, of politics and despair, of conspiracy and love. Much of her latest novel, The Lacuna, is set in Mexico, during the still turbulent decades that followed the Mexican Revolution. read more

Sweet Spot: A novel about Mazatlan Carnival, Dirty Politics, and Baseball Reviewed by James Tipton

book cover of Sweet Spot: A novel about Mazatlan Carnival, Dirty Politics, and Baseball by Linton Robinson
I've read a lot of novels in the first ten years of this new century, and I must say that Sweet Spot is one of the three or four I like the best.
The story is set during seven spectacular days of Carnival in Mazatlán, the second largest Carnival in the world. A lot happens during those seven days, including scandal, murder, amoral politics, drug lords searching for our protagonist "Mundo," and bed time with a desirable young revolutionary, the amoral Mijares.
Sweet Spot is incredible. Linton Robinson should be catapulted to the top of the pile of contemporary authors. Why didn't this novel win the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize? read more

Geo-Mexico: The Geography and Dynamics of Modern Mexico Reviewed by John Pint

Colima's Volcan de Fuego
Did you ever wonder why rain usually falls in the late afternoon or night during the summer in western Mexico? Can you figure out why the death rate for Mexicans is four times higher than for US-born workers in the southeastern USA? Do you know why "harmless" organic fertilizers washed into a lake can eventually kill every living thing in it? If you find these questions intriguing, you're going to want to own a copy of Geo-Mexico by Richard Rhoda and Tony Burton. read more

Siqueiros: Biography of a Revolutionary Artist by D. Anthony White Reviewed by Rita Pomade

  Siqueiros: Biography of a Revolutionary Artist is a fascinating read for anyone looking for a great story with fascinating characters. It's also an enlightening read for anyone interested in Mexi... read more
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