And then Mexico happened...

And then Mexico happened...

Richard Grant sets off on a gripping trip to the lawless Sierra Madre, Mexico, to satiate 'an unfortunate fascination'

Jerry Pinto
September 10 , 2014
02 Min Read

“I knew that hunchbacks were considered lucky in Mexico. I knew that people paid money to rub their humps for luck and that every hunchback in Mexico was assured of making a living in this way if she or he wanted to. But hunchback soap? Were these live or dead hunchbacks getting drained of their lump fat by the soap maker? It was far too weird to contemplate and I assured myself that it was normal everyday soap with a fraudulent label.”

This is one of those vastly entertaining books that starts with a John Buchanesque moment in which our intrepid hero, Richard Grant, is being hunted by bandits in the Sierra Madre, 900 miles of rugged mountain and marijuana country in Mexico. He seeks refuge in a shallow cave under the bank of a creek and then realises he can’t see anything in the dark, nor can he hear anything. He has effectively neutralised two of his senses.

You have to give in and read on after that. You have to allow yourself to be worried for Grant. (Of course, he got out safe. Otherwise, who could have written the scene?) But it isn’t as if he wasn’t warned. Everyone tells him that it’s not a good idea to go to a place where the farmers have AK-47s and young men kill each other to break the monotony. But powered by precisely such stories, Grant finally finds someone who will take him into the heart of the mountain range. The world gets loopier and more dangerous the farther he goes.

Chapter 7 opens with, “It was Crack Pipe Cuate who first told me about Nachito the folk-healer and the wonders he could work with roots and herbs and the eggs of a married hen.”

But then we have been warned early on that in Mexico, objectivity is not allowed to interfere during the telling of a good tale. To wit, “Another friend of mine summed up his impressions of Mexico like this: if a man was sitting on a chair and the chair turned into a giant bird and flapped away, the man would simply dust himself off and look around for another chair.”

But give in, and suspend the desire to tell Grant to give over and you’ve got a great read on your hands.

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