Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Season's Novel

This Season's Novel, originally uploaded by deanv41

I have pledged to stay in California for a year, not only to wind down debts but also see much more of this wonderful state, which I do not know nearly well enough. Last year, I went down to Mexico three times. I enjoyed every trip, but over the past 3 or 4 years that I've been a habitué of Puerto Vallarta, I've watched the Narco-Terrror-War edge ever closer toward the daily lives of average Mexicans, flowing like the drugs in reverse from the US border south into the heart of Mexico, seemingly touching everyone. Even around PV, things have gotten tense and violence has escalated.
So, until that situation settles down a bit, I'm content to continue exploring Mexico vicariously. This season's novel, Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, hits the spot perfectly. It's set in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, in 1939. It is filled with symbolic references to film, literature, and Mexican history as well as being a crystalline evocation of a classic Mexican town before it became a larger city. The themes that run through the novel still resonate with contemporary Mexico -- past glories & future uncertainties, mysticism and burning passions, the violent fusion of indigenous and colonial peoples that continues to define the country, the selling of 'paradise' to Gringos while coping with a rather more earthly sort of nature -- violence, revenge stoked by alcohol and a sun-bleached dissipation.
I love Mexico dearly and sincerely hope that a new way forward can be found before the spiral of damage gains any more momentum. We are not separate from Mexico, despite a border. It is, after all, California's Old World and our relationship is familial and symbiotic. Yet, there is no capping a volcano and we are all connected underneath.

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