Wednesday, May 29, 2024

MND Staff Picks: Best reads and listens of 2022

It’s that time of year – the time of lists!

From Santa’s hallowed naughty or nice list to your holiday must-do list, to the ubiquitous year-end roundups, ’tis the season.

Here at Mexico News Daily, we have decided to put together a few lists of our own, sharing our favorite discoveries of 2022.

We start today with recommended books and podcasts about Mexico – be on the lookout for best films and travel experiences next week.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

In the growing body of investigative journalism on the history and scope of the U.S. opiate crisis, this award-winning 2015 book stands out in telling the story from both sides of the border. Small-town America and small-town Mexico are both rendered in compelling detail, as are their inhabitants, who have been swept up in this spiraling tragedy. Quinones lays bare the collision of pharmaceutical opiate addiction with Mexican drug traffickers, who kept a low profile while spreading black tar heroin throughout the U.S.

After Ayotzinapa podcast

After Ayotzinapa

Produced by investigative journalism podcast “Reveal”, this 3-part series (with a fourth follow-up episode) narrates the 2014 tragedy in Iguala and its ongoing aftermath with clarity and sensitivity. Interviews with some of the parents of the missing 43, as well as members of the expert forensic team (GIEI), former special prosecutor Omar Gómez Trejo, and even a DEA agent in Chicago provide big-picture context and perspective on the case. The podcast is available in English or Spanish.

Kate Bohné, executive editor

Horizontal Vertigo: A City Called Mexico by Juan Villoro

Horizontal Vertigo by Juan Villoro

I moved to Mérida from Mexico City a couple of years ago, but remain hopelessly addicted to the capital – albeit (mostly) from afar. 

While I was lucky enough to spend some time in CDMX this year, another way I got my fix “capitalino” was by reading Juan Villoro’s 2018 non-fiction book Horizontal Vertigo: A City Called Mexico.  

It’s a great book to dip into at random because it doesn’t have a linear narrative. Rather, it’s a collection of personal stories and reflections about life and culture in CDMX, the capital’s history and the people who live in North America’s biggest city. 

Mexico News Daily writer Rich Tenorio wrote about the book last year, calling it “Villoro’s paean to a place he knows intimately.” 

Peter Davies, staff writer

Barbarous Mexico by John Kenneth Turner

Barbarous Mexico by John Kenneth Turner

“Barbarous Mexico,” a book by U.S. journalist John Kenneth Turner, chronicles the reporter’s travels through Mexico in the years leading up to the Mexican Revolution (1910-1912). It provides fascinating insight into how General Porfirio Díaz, who was dictator at the time, sold his regime to the world as a progressive democracy.

The book’s publication played an important role in turning the tide of U.S. public perception, which led to the U.S. government withdrawing support for the Mexican dictatorship instead of continuing to support it.

It also shows some of its American writer’s blind spots, as he exposes “shocking” debt slavery of Maya and other Indigenous people in southern Mexico at a time when Black people in the U.S. were enduring something extremely similar: the share-cropping system of the U.S. South.

LOUD: The History of Reggaeton podcast

LOUD: The History of Reggaeton

Today, reggaeton has taken over the world, consistently ranking in the Top 40 even in non-Spanish-speaking countries. In Mexico, it’s hard to go a day without hearing Bad Bunny or J Balvin pumping out of cars, stores and bars. Many people know it came out of Puerto Rico, but how did a sound from a tiny island become so important on the world stage?

“LOUD” is the Spanglish podcast produced by Futuro Media and Spotify that goes back to beginning, tracing the roots of a genre that some now dismiss as shallow party music, but which still bears the marks of the rich musical traditions that fused to create it.

Rose Egelhoff, associate editor

Insurgent Mexico by John Reed

Insurgent Mexico cover

A Mexican friend put me on to John Reed’s book “Insurgent Mexico,” which opened my eyes to both the causes and the chaos of the Mexican Revolution and led me to the 2003 movie “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself.”

First read the book then see the film!

John Pint, regular contributor

Aztec by Gary Jennings

Aztec cover

Whether you are a new transplant or a long-time resident, this is a must-read. This book intelligently sets the stage for everything Mexico, notably the region in and around the vibrant capital. With graphic, sensual overtones, Jennings dives into Mexico’s history, geography and classism. Life here will make more sense: street names, market culture, daily customs, traditional dishes, religious practices.

A well-researched novel that reads like a telenovela, Aztec should be required reading for all who call Mexico home.

Bethany Platanella, regular contributor

In the Shadow of the Angel by Kathryn S. Blair

In the Shadow of the Angel cover

Covering three decades of Mexico’s history (1900-1930), this novel dives into a pre- and post-revolutionary country through the troubled life story of wealthy cultural patroness, Antonieta Rivas Mercado.

Daughter of Antonio Rivas Mercado – the architect who built the Ángel de la Independencia – forward-thinking Antonieta was an extraordinary woman who fought against the social standards of her time to promote art, women’s rights, and education. It is without a doubt a must-read book for anyone interested in Mexico. 

Gaby Solís, staff writer

A Ballad of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande

This is an engaging novel mixing romance and historical fiction.

Set during the Mexican-American War, it imagines a romance between John Riley, a real-life Irish immigrant turned American army deserter who became the leader of the San Patricios battalion, and Ximena Salome, a fictional character who follows her curandera heritage and joins Santa Anna’s army as a nurse out of revenge for her slain husband. 

Rich Tenorio, regular contributor

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