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God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
God's Middle Finger Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre Author:Richard Grant Twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, the rugged, beautiful Sierra Madre mountains begin their dramatic ascent. Almost 900 miles long, the range climbs to nearly 11,000 feet and boasts several canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. The rules of law and society have never taken hold in the Sierra Madre, which is home to bandits, drug sm... more »ugglers, Mormons, cave-dwelling Tarahumara Indians, opium farmers, cowboys, and other assorted outcasts. Outsiders are not welcome; drugs are the primary source of income; murder is all but a regional pastime. The Mexican army occasionally goes in to burn marijuana and opium crops -- the modern treasure of the Sierra Madre -- but otherwise the government stays away. In its stead are the drug lords, who have made it one of the biggest drug-producing areas in the world.Fifteen years ago, journalist Richard Grant developed what he calls "an unfortunate fascination" with this lawless place. Locals warned that he would meet his death there, but he didn't believe them -- until his last trip. During his travels Grant visited a folk healer for his insomnia and was prescribed rattlesnake pills, attended bizarre religious rituals, consorted with cocaine-snorting policemen, taught English to Guarijio Indians, and dug for buried treasure. On his last visit, his reckless adventure spiraled into his own personal heart of darkness when cocaine-fueled Mexican hillbillies hunted him through the woods all night, bent on killing him for sport.With gorgeous detail, fascinating insight, and an undercurrent of dark humor, God's Middle Finger brings to vivid life a truly unique and uncharted world.« less
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ISBN 1416534407 - I'm not at all sure what I was expecting when I picked up a copy of this book, but I'm absolutely positive that it wasn't what I got! It is weird that this book, which might reasonably be taken as a warning about some of the dangers of traveling in some areas of Mexico, is marked as a "Travel" book. If anything, it's more of a "Don't Travel!" book.
Author Richard Grant, with a romanticized Wild West opinion of the Sierra Madre, disregards all sorts of advice from all sorts of people and heads into the most lawless area of Mexico, looking for... adventure? Maybe proof that everyone who warned him was wrong? Or that they were right? Using the names of friends and acquaintances to introduce himself to people who are, traditionally, wary of strangers, Grant finds a beautiful, wild and colorful land that hides a darker and far scarier side from outsiders. His travels are fascinating, sad, frightening and even funny.
Reading this with no personal background in Mexico, I found it to be over the top and unlikely. Then I talked to friends who know the country, having lived there. They all agree that the book is realistic, which surprised me. At the same time, they made sure to point out that the author clearly set out to find what he found. Heading into the lands owned by violent and dangerous drug growers and cartels, it's hardly a surprise that Grant found violent and dangerous people in a violent and dangerous place. Grant compares the Sierra Madre to the Wild West, probably a very good comparison. Romanticized with time and distance, the Wild West was a deadly place to be for a lot of people. I don't know that I'd let this book keep me from visiting Mexico, although I'd probably stay out of the Sierra Madre. True or not, hyperbole or accurate, the book is well written and an interesting read. Some of the rougher language will offend some readers and the rather abrupt ending is a minor disappointment but God's Middle Finger is still one of the best books I've read lately.
Richard Grant heads into the Sierra Madre mainly to have an adventure and experience the kind of out-of-control, wild-west behaviors and events we have come to expect from this area. He initially spells out all the old myths & ideas and that kind of made me doubt the book would be 'all that.' However, it was! The lawlessness & macho & reckless behavior get a little old about 2/3 of the way through. And in many ways that's what the book tells us; the theme may be that, while romantic & exciting, such things make a tough way to live. Nothing he sees or does changes Grant, he participates in the sense of trying to understand why natives feel as they do about outsiders.
He doesn't moralize about dope trade but he does make it clear that the Sierra Madre has come to be very hard to take, despite many beautiful aspects, mainly because of how people there find growing and selling drugs is truly the only way to make much of a living in such rough country. Don't let the language completely turn you off. Grant obviously doesn't care for the peppering of every conversation with curses, so he goes over the top to start out with and to get his reader to understand that one of the things he finds strange is that nearly everyone he encounters uses 'colorful' language at all times. It's part of the macho pose. You'll like some of the people he meets and disrespect others - but the book held my interest 100% start to finish.