A new edition has been published recently in the United States of A Visit to Don Otavio, Sybille Bedford’s sprightly account of her travels in Mexico in 1946. It’s a book that celebrates the conviviality of local life while touching occasionally on its harsher realities, among them masked bandits and corruption. Reviewing it in The New York Review of Books, Enrique Krauze says that some of the features Bedford described are still there,
But the Mexico that Bedford grew to love is essentially gone. The old slow pace of time has sped up. Major crime is carried out not by masked bandits but by large criminal associations, often in collusion with local governments. The violence of the drug wars has escalated to levels not seen since the revolution. The degradation of rural conditions, due in part to a lack of support by the ruling elites, has driven the peasantry into a nomadic existence among the cities of Mexico and the United States. Mexico remains poised between its dark night of violence and its daylight of joy and energy, awaiting some new resolution.
It’s “the dark night of violence” on which seven of the country’s leading writers concentrate in The Sorrows of Mexico, now out in paperback from MacLehose Press. Their essays tell of those caught in the crossfire between drug gangs and government; of the poor and the trafficked, of the street children and “the disappeared”. In a reminder that such truth-telling is dangerous, the book has a register of 94 journalists, broadcasters and photographers killed in Mexico between 2000 and May 2016. According to a report two days ago from CBS News, at least nine journalists have been killed in the country so far this year.