Wednesday, January 19, 2011

First Stop in the New World by David Lida

I've never been to Mexico, even though I lived about four hours from the border for several years. After reading this dissection of the culture, politics, and mindset of Mexico City, I'm interested in checking it out, though I'm pretty sure I don't want to live there.

The author, David Lida, did just that--an American journalist, he decided to do some sightseeing during a layover at the airport, fell in love with the city, and within a few years he had moved there permanently. That was in 1990; the book is written with 18 years of experience, from the unique perspective of one who is both an insider and an outsider--someone who deeply understands the place and its inhabitants, yet who is not really of them exactly. From the lively outdoor markets and cantinas to the wave of kidnappings by people posing as taxi drivers (this happened to Lida, though he got lucky) to extreme sexual harassment ("I have heard three separate stories of women whose backs were the recipients of the ejaculate of guys who masturbated while riding [the subway]") to the cult of Santa Muerte, Lida portrays a place that sounds completely insane, in both good ways and bad.

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