SOCIAL SCIENCES

On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey

Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2019. 448p. photos. ISBN 9780544866478. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780544866485. TRAV
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Veteran globetrotter Theroux takes to the road on the U.S. border and into Mexico, traversing the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border. The author shares his observations of migrants, the ever-present cartels, a protest of mothers who lost their children during another protest, and girls dressed up for their First Holy Communion. Theroux joyfully describes many of his meals. But on a somber note, corruption and lawlessness are crippling. Cartels deal not only in drugs but also human trafficking. Construction is unchecked, and zoning and environmentally fragile areas are ignored, with Walmart one of the worst offenders. Movingly, mothers tell Theroux that they do not want to make a new life in America, they simply hope to earn enough to keep their families together in Mexico. Returning migrants tell him what they miss most about America its cultural diversity, and if they work hard, they can make good money, whereas in Mexico, a person works hard but still earns very little. The author found that Mexicans blame both governments for the border crossing problems that were once less complicated.
VERDICT Tourists headed to Mexico and those interested in the current migrant situation will learn a great deal

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