October 20, 2006

The magic of the Sierra Madre comes to San Diego

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Mexico’s Sierra Madre has captured the imagination of many Americans, who, looking for adventure, have turned it into a some sort of Fantasy-land full of myths and legends.

The writings of B. Traven as well as the 1940’s movie “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” increased Americans’ interest in this often misunderstood region in northern Mexi-co.

In his new book, “In the Sierra Madre,” American Book Award winning author Jeff Biggers revisits the Sierra Madre and portrays the Rura-mari/Taraumara people of the Copper Canyon in a realistic way.

“The book chronicles my one-year sojourn in a remote Raramuri/Tarahumara village during a period of intense change in Mexico—the worst drought in the country’s history, during a volatile period in logging, drug cultivation and tourist—and recounts the adventures of legendary travelers in Mexico’s famed mountains, from French poet Antonin Artaud, to George S. Patton, Pancho Villa, Geronimo, and great writers/ethnographers Carl Lumholtz and Frederick Schwatka, among others,” Biggers said. “It is a reality check of who has really lived in this incredible place.”

Biggers will bring the magic of the Sierra Madre to San Diego on Wednesday, Oct. 25, when he reads from his work at San Diego State University as part of the Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series.

The event is sponsored by SDSU’s Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Biggers described “In the Sierra Madre” as “a travel memoir/history based in Mexi-co’s Copper Canyon.”

He said he took the one year trip with his wife Carla, a linguist who was studying the bilingual education program in the area.

The trip took place “six or seven years ago,” he said.

In that time he participated in different activities to get involved in the Rarumari community he was living in. Although he doesn’t consider that he became one of them, the community learnt to trust him.

“I worked as a lumberjack, I planted corn, I took part in village celebrations,” Biggers said.

In the book he relates many anecdotes and profiles many of the village’s citizens.

“Jeff Biggers has the keenest eye in the business, and he has a fine, luminous voice to tell you what he has seen. Biggers manages to write like a poet, a historian, a naturalist and an adventurer. His pages are burnished and alive, and I admire his work. You need to read this one soon,” said Luis Urrea, author of “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” and “The Devil’s Highway.”

Biggers uncovers the remarkable treasures of the Sierra Madre.

“Once every generation a book comes along that captures the stunning terrain and hidden life of Mexico’s remote western Sierra Madre. In the Sierra Madre is that book for this generation. Jeff Biggers has seen the strange and remarkable that the rest of us can only imagine,” said Tom Miller, author of “The Panama Hat Trail” and “On the Border.”

For Biggers the treasure of the Sierra Madre isn’t found in gold nor inside a treasure chest.

“The real treasure is its people,” he said.

He said he tried to capture that in “In the Sierra Madre.”

“In the end, I’m a historian by nature, an investigative journalist by trade, and a storyteller by heart,” said Biggers, who added that his next book will focus on the mountain cultures of India.

Biggers has worked as a writer, radio correspondent, and educator across the United States, Europe, Mexico, and India. Winner of the American Book Award, he is the author of “The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America.” Some of his stories have been published in La Prensa San Diego as well. For more, visit www.jeffbiggers.com.

Jeff Biggers will read from his book on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at San Diego State University as part of the Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series. The event will be at the Malcolm Love Library, Room 223 at 7 p.m.

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