March 15, 2002

"True Tales From Another Mexico", A Collection of Articles That Go Deep Into the Underground Mexican Cultures

By Pablo De Sainz

If the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the expression "Mexican culture" is either mariachis and tacos, or Acapulco and tequila, think again.

Just like in the United States, in Mexico there's a dominant culture. This dominant culture —the Spanish-speaking, Cath-olic, "mestizo," and urban society— controls the mass media, is in a position of power, and its members dominate most forms of government.

But there are many Mexican cultures.

Even though the mass media and old stereotypes tell us that "Mexican culture" has to be a certain way, there many cultures and sub-cultures in Mexico that often go unnoticed —or worst, are often ignored.

Often. Not always.

"True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino, and the Bronx" (University of New Mexico Press, 2001), by Mexico-based journalist, Sam Quinones, is a collection of articles that go deep into the underground Mexican cultures.

In this book, you will find information that would never appear in a traveler's guide.

A major aspect of the book is narco-culture.

We've all been told Mexico has a "drug problem." The mass media and the government tell us drug-dealers —or narcos— are evil.

Several of the 15 articles in the collection deal with narco-culture and give us a glimpse into the daily lives of narcos.

One of the articles, titled "The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez," chronicles the life of the man who changed corridos, or Mexican ballads. His fabulous life is one of crime, drugs, and music.

Writer Quinones takes us into narco territory in Los Angeles to narrate and describe the life of Chalino Sánchez.

In another article, Quinones goes to the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa, considered the cradle of Mexican capos, and introduces us to Jesús Malverde, the narco-saint.

And this is only but one of the many themes that appear in this unprecedented book.

Transvestites, public lynching, telenovelas, cholos, and religious fanatics-all of these are some of the "True Tales from Another Mexico."

Alma Guillermoprieto, The New Yorker Latin American writer, calls this book "a scrappy, lively, solid work of reportage about the real modern Mexico. It's insightful, crammed with information, and a terrific read."

Above all, this collection of articles brings alternative Mexican cultures out of the dark.

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