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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

Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This is the story about Jeanine Lee Kitchel and her husband, Paul, who made their first trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in 1985 and fell in love instantly with the place. They had visited various parts of Mexico before that and were quite taken with the country. But the Yucatan beaches were of a different order. read more

In the Shadow of the Volcano: One Family's Baja Adventure by Michael Humfreville Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This was not to be your usual sight-seeing trip, moving from one convenient accommodation to another. Their desire was to be isolated from civilization and to live as simply as possible. An element of self discovery was also a definite part of the program. Thus it was that they found themselves a week or two later on an empty beach on the remote west coast of the Baja constructing a tiny hut that was to be their home for an indefinite period. Pacific breakers pounded the beach a few steps away. The specific area where they set up camp was between El Rosario and Guerrero Negro where a number of tiny fishing villages were located. read more

Tequila, Lemon and Salt: From Baja - Tales of Love, Faith and Magic by Daniel Reveles Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The location for these nine stories is the town of Tecate in the Baja, located 34 miles east of Tijuana. Tucked away in the extreme northwest of Mexico, it couldn't possibly be any closer to the U.S. border. The town can also boast that it is the home of Daniel Reveles, author of three attractive collections of novellas. The latest of these is the one reviewed here. read more

A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveller's Tale from Mexico by Sybille Bedford Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The first thing I should say about this book is that it was originally published more than half a century ago, in 1953. I mention that out front just so no reader assumes it is yet another recent travel book about Mexico. However, it's a good one and it's easy to see that it merits republishing. It comes with the highest kind of praise. read more

Accidental Paintings: Photographs by Carol Stein Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here's a most unusual collection of photographs and Mexico Connect is delighted to bring them to you. They are all, despite the title, photos taken in San Miguel de Allende where photographer Carol Stein visited last year. All of them exhibit odd and striking views of the town as well as the unusual abstract approach that Ms. Stein brings to her work. read more

The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This is the story of a group of men who have become known as the Yuma 14. They are the fourteen illegal immigrants who died attempting to cross the Arizona border in May, 2001. And what a terrible and upsetting story it is. Unknown numbers of these illegal immigrants die every year making the dangerous crossing on foot over one of the most inhospitable stretches of terrain in the world. But the Yuma 14 constituted the largest known number of such immigrants to die at one time. read more

The Guaymas Chronicles: La Mandadera by David E. Stuart Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Although it's about Mexico, this one starts off in Ecuador in the 1960s where the author was doing doctoral fieldwork for a dissertation on haciendas in that country. His work took him to a remote research station on the side of a mountain seventy miles from electricity, running water, telephones, etc. One day while riding his horse along the side of a gorge, with the bottom of a canyon almost a thousand feet below him, the horse stumbled and fell. On its way over the edge it rolled over Stuart and disappeared, leaving him badly crippled. He was rescued and eventually found his way to Guaymas, on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, in Mexico, where his fiancé, Iliana, lived. Thus begins the story of his recuperation and, at the same time, the exploration of Mexican society and customs which is described here. read more

Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The story line concerns a young Mexican girl, Teresa Mendoza, 23 years old, who is in love with a Chicano Cessna pilot who flies cocaine and hashish from Colombia to locations in Texas. It's a dangerous trade to be in and Teresa's lover, Güero Dávila, is well aware of the risks, not only from drug enforcement agents but also from rival narcotraficantes. With the former, the risks are imprisonment. With the latter, the penalty is death should one lose a shipment or not play the game the way the bosses want it played. read more

Mexico, a Traveller's Literary Companion by C. M. Mayo Reviewed by Allan Cogan

I've reviewed over a hundred books for Mexico Connect. These have covered the gamut of topics, all related to this country - fiction, travel, history, living in Mexico, moving to Mexico, biographies, city profiles and a few volumes difficult to categorize. I thought I had covered just about all aspects of the subject. Imagine my surprise, then, to suddenly be reminded of a sizeable slice of Mexicana that I had barely touched. Discovering it was like opening a door and walking into a brightly lit room filled with all kinds of literary treasures, all of which were produced in Mexico by active homegrown writers, many of whom are probably known to Mexican readers but not necessarily to outsiders like myself who need much more familiarity with Spanish in order to appreciate the breadth and scope of this country's literature. read more

The Salvation of La Purisima by T. M. Spooner Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The two cultures - Mexican and U.S. - come together in a thoughtful way in this interesting novel, which is set in both countries. The story concerns a group of Mexican illegal immigrants who travel north in May each year to work in the cherry orchards in northern Michigan. They are from the village of La Purísima in Michoacán. It's a community inhabited solely by elderly people and women and children during the picking season when all the men head north on what has become their annual rite of passage. It's perhaps more than that. read more

Las Cucarachas' Tails by Jerry Hesser Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Personally I don't think I've come across anything quite like Las Cucarachas' Tails. And I should also quickly add that I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable read. read more

Introducing Rick Gage: Murder in La Paz and Death Mask of the Jaguar by Murdoch Hughes Reviewed by Allan Cogan

With these two thrillers we find ourselves in the world of hard-boiled private eyes - a la Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler - but with a difference. Both stories are squarely set in Mexico. Murdoch Hughes has created a private eye, Rick Gage, who has given up his former career as a detective in Los Angeles to get away from the stress and violence he experienced there and moved to La Paz. However, with these two books, Rick encounters enough stress and violence to fill any number of careers. But he's a tough guy. He can take it. read more

Speaking Spanish like a Native by Brad Kim and Erika Dominguez Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here's a rather unusual approach to learning Spanish. It's not intended for beginners but rather for people who have already spent some time studying the language and want to go further, especially in the direction of becoming more adept at conversation. What Brad Kim has done here is to give us a collection of everyday expressions, exactly like the expressions we use when we speak English, which will enhance conversational skills. Start using a few and you'll sound more down-to-earth and impressive to your listeners. read more

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Back in 1940, just before Pearl Harbour, John Steinbeck and his marine biologist friend, Ed Rickets, chartered a fishing boat, the Western Flyer, in Monterey, California, and sailed down the coast around the Baja into the Sea of Cortez. Their six-week mission was to collect specimens of marine life in the area. They jointly wrote a book about the voyage, largely about marine biology, which was published in 1941. A decade later, Steinbeck himself wrote this more personal book. The result is a mixture of travel writing, journalism, diary-keeping, philosophy, meditation and, yes, there's a lot of stuff about the marine life of the area. After all, the author was something of an authority in that field. read more

The Dark Side of the Dream by Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The story begins in 1941, at the time America went to war with Japan and Germany. It concerns the Salazar family, poor farmers in Chihuahua. The grandfather, Sebastian, knows he is dying and he advises the family to move to the United States. He reasons that because of the war the Americans will want lots of people to work in their country as their men go off to fight. Their farm is a ruin. Only expensive fertilizer could bring it back to life. And they don't have any money. read more

Travel Advisory: Stories of Mexico by David Lida Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Lida's writing and his choice of material cast a powerful spell. read more

San Miguel and the War of Independence by Mamie Spiegel Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Ms. Spiegel's account mainly covers what she calls the viceregal period, also known as the colonial era, which lasted from 1521 to 1821. Mexico at that time was the richest and most populous of Spain's overseas dominions. It was at the end of this period, in 1810, that the War of Independence erupted with San Miguel and the nearby town of Dolores being the focal points of that outbreak. The war was to last eleven years. read more

Agave Marias: Border Crossers, Boundary Breakers by the Lake Chapala Women Writers Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here's an unusual volume with ten individual authors, each of whom is independent of the other nine except for the fact they all reside - either full or part-time - in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. Their book consists of some 45 or more pieces of fiction and non-fiction plus a poem or three. The non-fiction includes travel tales, accounts of significant events in the authors' past lives, recollections of interesting people and other offbeat memoirs and anecdotes. read more

Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy by Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here is the history of Mexico in the last two or three decades - and what a history it is. It's the story of how a dictatorship eventually found its way toward becoming a democracy. As stories go, this one has everything - political corruption, student demonstrations leading to a massacre, earthquakes, citizen crusades, an Olympics and, as they say, much, much more. It looks as though it might even have a happy ending. read more

Only Once in a Lifetime by Alejandro Grattan Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here's a story that takes in a complete life, from childhood well into adulthood, and from rags to riches. It's a story that is of interest to we residents in the Lake Chapala area as it starts out in Ajijic and covers a fair number of years there - or should I say here. On page one we encounter ten-year-old Francisco Obregón, a homeless barefoot orphan outside the Old Posada on the Ajijic waterfront. It's 1940 and Francisco is hustling for odd jobs and tips. It's the only way he can manage to survive. read more

The Insider's Guide: Mexico's Lake Chapala and Ajijic Reviewed by Allan Cogan

I'm filled with admiration and respect for The Insider's Guide. Its 368 pages are so complete and comprehensive and so well thought out and so well organized. Teresa Kendrick and her colleagues have done a wonderful job of providing and packaging a full authoritative range of information, not only for long and short-term residents of the Lake Chapala area but also for those many people who seem to be contemplating coming here either to live as permanent retiree-residents or as snowbirds. read more

Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Mary Morris is an intrepid and courageous lady. She was living in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, in the Mexican part of town, when she decided to take off on her exploration of Central America. The trip took her to countries such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras and San Salvador. Just about all of the transit was on local buses and very little of it seemed to be very tightly planned. Most of the time she seemed to be traveling the back roads. read more

The Cooking School At Zihuatanejo by Daniel Kennedy Reviewed by Allan Cogan

The story is related to us by Jeff Farrell who, with his wife, Mia, purchases a property high above the rooftops of Zijhuatanejo, overlooking the famed Playa de la Ropa beach with the Pacific Ocean beyond. They fulfill an ambition and turn the place into a restaurant, Casa Blue. And it's not your ordinary everyday restaurant. This is a cooking school where you can join other diners around the cooking island and help prepare your meal under the tutelage of Jeff and Mia. read more

Mexico Magic by Dru Pearson Reviewed by Allan Cogan

.Dru Pearson begins her account of her first four seasons in Ajijic starting in the summer of 2000 when she loaded or, rather, overloaded her VW van with as many belongings as it would hold, and she and her dog, Bailey, drove (slowly, she emphasizes) to Laredo. However, before she even reached the U.S./ Mexico border, the vehicle broke down and she found herself by the roadside in 110 degree temperatures, unloading twelve boxes of belongings, plus a TV, a computer complete with monitor and printer and other sundry items. However, a mechanic answered her call and the car was repaired and she made it across the border at Laredo, starting the 750 mile stretch to Ajijic on the shores of Lake Chapala. read more
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