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As seen in the Transitions Abroad Webzine February 2009 Issue
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Living in Mexico: Key Resources, Links, and Articles

Mexico–A Traveler’s Literary Companion

Edited by C.M. Mayo

Reviewed by Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl

A Traveler's Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press) is a great series that explores the culture, history and traditions of 18 travel destinations through a collection of writing by well-known local authors. One book in the series, Mexico—A Traveler’s Literary Companion, offers readers a great sense of place and richly portrays the culture and people.

The selected stories and novel excerpts provide a rich flavor of Mexican culture that travel books are unable to convey. Enriched with the colorful and imaginative writing of some of Mexico’s best-known writers, the book beautifully complements any travel books or travel literature you would normally bring with you on your trip to Mexico. When traveling, it can be difficult to read a whole novel. Unless you spend most of your time on the beach, there will be so much to do and see that you probably won’t spend a whole lot of time reading. However, the short stories and novel excerpts in Mexico—A Traveler's Literary Companion can be easily read while waiting for a bus, enjoying an afternoon coffee, or lounging at your hotel. The book format is also small enough so that you can easily bring it along in your hand luggage.

For the series’ book on Mexico, the editor, C.M. Mayo, chose 24 short stories and novel excerpts from well-established contemporary Mexican writers. The presented material is s great cross-section of the contemporary literary scene in Mexico, and with one exception all stories were published after 1973. Some of Mexico’s best-known 20th century authors are part of this volume, such as Carlos Fuentes, Inés Arredondo, Jesús Gardea, Rosario Catellanos, and Laura Esquivel. The editor also leaves room to a younger generation of Mexican writers--among them Agustín Cadena, Ilan Stavans, and Pedro Ángel Palou.

What makes the book an especially useful companion for travelers is the fact the stories are organized by region, covering all of Mexico, from the U.S. border to the Yucatán and Chiapas in the south. We follow factory workers on their way to work in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, listen in on a conversion of Mexican emperor Maximilian at his Chapultepec castle, witness the birth of a laughing Mayan boy in Yucatán, read about a Mayan uprising in Chiapas, and visit a remote ranch in Baja California. The stories are as rich, diverse, colorful, and as full of surprises as the country and the people they portray. The more I read, the more interested I became to travel through Mexico again to explore the remote and magical places described in the stories. If you are planning a trip to Mexico and would like to explore Mexico’s rich literary tradition, Mexico—A Traveler’s Literary Companion is a great book to bring along.

The other books in the series include literary companions for Australia, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Spain, South Africa, and Vietnam, as well for three cities: Amsterdam, Prague, and Vienna.

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