Juan Villoro – Arrecife

9786078126736

My rating: 4 1/2 stars

La Pirámide is the only successful hotel in a resort area that failed disastrously when all the others gave up fighting the engineering catastrophe that required constant import of sand from Cuba to replace the entire beach that washed away on a weekly basis.

The key to the resort’s unique success is “extreme tourism” in which visitors can engage in daredevil sports activities, but can also find themselves kidnapped and beaten by guerillas, or risk encounters with deadly snakes. The genius behind the concept is Mario Muller, but he has to be careful, because the hotel could easily be worth more to the owners as a money-laundering vehicle.

When Mario reaches out to his lifelong friend, ex-rocker Tony Góngora, and brings him to this fantasy land, Tony thinks he has found a safe refuge from reality, much safer than the drugged half-life he had been living for many years. Tony is holding on in the midst of the ruins of his life, much as the hotel is holding on in the midst of the ruined resort area. Even in this unreal environment, he still remains isolated, refusing to become involved, until an act of violence strikes rather close to home. And it turns out Mario has a much grander plan to up the ante, and force Tony into the bright glare of reality and personal engagement.

This is literary writing at its finest, as we have come to expect from Juan Villoro. It is a difficult task to make a story of a failed life in a failing environment interesting, even if the possibility of redemption lies at the end, but Villoro is more than capable of pulling it off. I first discovered him when a reviewer called his novel El Testigo “the great Mexican novel.” I’ve read many Mexican novels since then, and I know I’m not alone in placing Villoro at the very top of his profession.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Hubo un tiempo en que las playas eran un sitio de descanso. En la época del turismo extremo los viajeros necesitan otras emociones. El ex rockero Mario Müller descubre una visionaria posibilidad en el Caribe: los placeres del miedo. Y a orillas de un inmenso arrecife de coral edifica La Pirámide, resort que ofrece peligros controlados hasta que un buzo muere fuera del agua. Reflexión sobre los daños que elegimos para intensificar la vida, esta apasionante novela describe una nueva ecología: el cambio climático vacía los hoteles y el lavado de dinero los regenera como emporios fantasma. Pero Arrecife también es una historia de amistad, amor y redención. Villoro, uno de los mejores escritores latinoamericanos, otorga realidad a una utopía: los problemas de ese paraíso son las virtudes de una novela excepcional.

«Esas atmósferas ominosas que tanto nos recuerdan por momentos a las ficciones apocalípticas o fantasmagóricas de Ballard. Los diálogos tienen esa sequedad irónica de las mejores respuestas y observaciones psicológicas de un Chandler. Arrecife es una novela perfecta a la hora de sincronizar el desdén por la vida que se inflige el narrador y el esfuerzo casi titánico, agónico, de un moribundo Mario, el amigo capital, por indicarle la ruta de su salvación definitiva. En esta magnífica novela de Juan Villoro no hay tiempos muertos» (J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip, El País).

«Lúcida y poderosa lectura del pasado y presente, donde el terror, el sacrificio de los dioses y el mito se confunden» (J.A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia).

«La prueba irrefutable de que uno está ante un escritor de fuste reside en esa envidiable capacidad para cambiar de temas y registros cuando todo parecía dirigido a volver sobre lo mismo» (Ricardo Baixeras, El Periódico).

«Villoro se ha basado, para su libro, en ese fenómeno sadomasoquista de nuestra civilización que lleva a ciertos turistas del mundo desarrollado a disfrutar de un fin de semana en un campo de concentración o en una mazmorra de la Inquisición. Lo que él ha hecho es darle a su ficción unos tintes étnico-mítico-telúricos que la hacen totalmente verosímil… Una magnífica novela» (Iñaki Ezquerra, El Correo Español).

Advertisements

Diana La Cazadora

459-002

414-001

When I heard on the news that a Mexican criminal is calling herself Diana the Huntress after the Greek goddess, I thought about how often I’ve seen statues of her in various Mexican cities. She seems to have captured the national imagination. This one is in the Zona Rosa in Mexico City.

Jesús Malverde Chapel – Culiacán

Mexicans will sometimes adopt folk heroes, and raise them to near-saint status. They are not saints recognized by the church, but some people pray to them as if they were. Jesús Malverde is a well-known example from the Sinaloa area. I first became aware of him, and his Culiacán shrine, from Arturo Perez Reverte’s novel La Reina del Sur, which was virtually an homage to Sinaloan writer Elmer Mendoza.

Sinaloa is the historic center of the Mexican drug trade, and Malverde has become especially popular among traffickers and traders in the area. The walls of the chapel are covered with prayers for future transactions, and thanks for the success of previous endeavors.

I visited the Malverde chapel on my recent visit to Culiacán, and here are some of the photos I took. I’m also including a picture of a Malverde statue that I took through a store window in Los Angeles. Appropriately, he is holding a big bag of marijuana, and a fist full of dollars.

IMG_9806-001

IMG_9811-001

IMG_9816-001

IMG_4376-001

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Jesús Malverde, sometimes known as the “generous bandit”, “angel of the poor”,[1] or the “narco-saint”, is a folklore hero in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He is celebrated as a folk saint by some in Mexico and the United States, particularly among those involved in drug trafficking.[2] He is not recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

The existence of Malverde a.k.a. ‘El Rey de Sinaloa’ is not historically verified,[3] but according to local legends he was a bandit killed by the authorities on May 3, 1909. Accounts of his life vary – sometimes he was a railway worker, while others claim he was a construction worker. There is also no agreement on the way he died, being hanged or shot.

Since Malverde’s supposed death, he has earned a Robin Hood-type image, making him popular among Sinaloa’s poor highland residents. The outlaw image has caused him to be adopted as the “patron saint” of the region’s illegal drug trade, and the press have thus dubbed him “the narco-saint.”[4] However, his intercession is also sought by those with troubles of various kinds, and a number of supposed miracles have been locally attributed to him, including personal healings and blessings.

A series of three Spanish-language films have been released under the titles Jesus Malverde, Jesus Malverde II: La Mafia de Sinaloa, and Jesus Malverde III: Infierno en Los Angeles. They all feature tales of contemporary Mexican drug trafficking into California, with strong musical interludes during which the gangsters are shown at home being serenaded by Sinaloan accordion-led Norteño bands singing narcocorridos.

Spiritual supplies featuring the visage of Jesús Malverde are available in the United States as well as in Mexico. They include candles, anointing oils, incense, sachet powders, bath crystals, soap and lithographed prints suitable for framing.

“Always & Forever” is a dramatic stageplay that features Malverde as a prominent character. The play examines various aspects of Mexican-American culture, such as quinceañeras, banda music, and premiered in April 2007 at the Watts Village Theater Company in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. A revival production opened in May 2009 at Casa 0101 Theatre in another Los Angeles neighborhood, Boyle Heights.

A brewery in Guadalajara introduced a new beer, named Malverde, into the Northern Mexico market in late 2007.[5]
A Malverde bust is featured in AMC’s Breaking Bad television series, in the episode entitled “Negro Y Azul”.
A popular Mexican hip-hop artist performs under the pseudonym Jesús Malverde.
Several important scenes of the telenovela La Reina del Sur take place at his chapel in Culiacán and Malverde’s name is mentioned many times during the show.

Diego Rivera Murals in Detroit

mural-rivera-600x274

There are 12 Diego Rivera murals in the Detroit Institute of Art. They were commissioned by Edsel Ford in 1932, when he was president of the city’s Arts Commission. There is concern that Detroit’s recent bankruptcy will reduce funding for maintenace of these important works.

Here’s the link to the Aristegui Noticias article: http://aristeguinoticias.com/2507/kiosko/n-peligro-obras-de/

Daniel Krauze – Fallas de Origen

9786070714511

My rating: 4 stars

Winner of the Premio Letras Nuevas 2012, Krause’s new novel takes up where his earlier novel, Cuervos (see my earlier review) left off. Now 28, Matías returns from 6 aimless years of self-imposed exile in New York, to learn that you can’t go home again. Not that he really wanted to go home, but his father’s death was a surprise and a huge emotional blow.

6 years earlier, he published a tell-all novel showing the very worst sides of his thinly-disguised friends, and expects to be held accountable. It is somewhat troubling, however, to learn that none of his friends took the trouble to even read it. Instead, he finds that his friends’ and family’s lives have moved on without him, and he doesn’t really fit in any more. Suffering from the same anger and frustrations that prompted him to write his destructive novel in the first place, Matías sets out to do as much emotional damage as possible, some directly, and some passive-aggressively.

In an intense, first-person account, we see Matías destroy a little of himself with every destructive, vengeful act he brings upon his former friends and family. We also see him grieving for the good things he left behind all those years ago, including his childhood pet, his first love and most of all, his father. It takes hitting bottom, and his near destruction to force Matías to focus on a path to potential healing.

A powerful, intensely personal story of a young man forced to confront both the past and the future.

Desde Libros Gandhi:

TRAS UNA LARGA ESTANCIA EN NUEVA YORK, MATÍAS VUELVE A LA CIUDAD DE MÉXICO. NO REGRESA POR GUSTO NI LO MUEVE LA NOSTALGIA: LO HA SORPRENDIDO LA MUERTE DE SU PADRE. REINTEGRARSE AL PASADO LO LLEVA A ENFRENTARSE A TODO AQUELLO DE LO QUE SALIÓ HUYENDO Y EL PAÍS QUE NUNCA HA SIDO PLENAMENTE SUYO LO CONFRONTA CON UNA REALIDAD SOCIAL INESPERADAMENTE VIOLENTA, DEGRADADA Y VACUA, Y CON SU PROPIO PASADO: LA FAMILIA, LOS AMIGOS, LOS AMORES. POCO A POCO IRRUMPEN LOS AGRAVIOS INSATISFECHOS, LAS VENGANZAS LARGAMENTE INCUBADAS, LAS CUENTAS PENDIENTES, LAS TRAICIONES INCONFESABLES, LOS SUEÑOS FRUSTRADOS. UNA EXTRAORDINARIA NARRACIÓN SIN CONCESIONES NI TREGUA, QUE SE PRECIPITA DE MANERA BRUTAL E INCANDESCENTE CUANDO MATÍAS HACE FRENTE A SU HISTORIA, DESTROZANDO LAS VIDAS DE TODOS A LOS QUE DEJÓ Y TODOS LOS QUE LO HAN QUERIDO, SIN ESPERANZA CASI DE SALVACIÓN. FALLAS DE ORIGEN ES LA NOVELA GANADORA DEL PREMIO LETRAS NUEVAS 2012