ALONE IN MEXICO
by Ron Butler
The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ - ISBN 0-8165-2023-2
People either love Mexico
or they hate it. Ron Butler's love affair with Mexico almost supersedes
his love for his son, Adrian, and daughter, Alexandrabut just almost.
Butler begins his saga as
he and his wife, Greta, face divorce in "The Breakup." She
takes off for Guadalajara with the kids, thus beginning Butler's
"commute" to Mexico from New York to be with his children.
Written in an endearing style, this first part shows Butler's devotion
to his children even though his marriage is coming to an end. His
description of a train trip from Guadalajara to Nogales with his
daughter is especially poignant.
The second part of the
book deals with Butler's travels around Mexico over the next several
decades. Beginning in Nogales, he takes his readers on a Mexican
adventure that is at the same time lonely and full of pathos. He travels
to the neighboring state of Sonora from his new home in Tucson, visiting
towns like Magdalena de Kino on his way to Guaymas. From there, he takes
his readers with him on a night ferry to La Paz in Baja California Sur,
then on to Los Cabos and other places on the mainland of Mexico.
Like Hemingway, Butler
has a fascination with bullfighting. He talks about "hanging
out" with bullfighters "at a time when it was
fashionable," as he and his schoolmates from the University of
Arizona in Tucson headed across the border at Nogales for fun and
excitement. He shares his dining experience at a restaurant in Monterrey
with a bullfighting theme and stays in a former bullring turned hotel in
But Ron Butler also likes
the unusual, the unique, the unreal. He describes Guanajuato's mummy
museum in vivid detail. Readers can almost taste the candies of Morelia
and smell the candles burning on the ofrendas, the altars erected
throughout Mexico for the Day of the Dead.
Art and music are also a
big part of Butler's life. As he says, "Mexico City lives,
breathes, and personifies art." Mexican art and Ron Butler are
inseparable. His chapter on composer Augustin Lara, is especially
notable, as he brings Lara and his music closer to his readers through
insights and his personal observations at the Augustin Lara Museum in
Part Three features an
assortment of short writings that didn't particularly fit in the first
two parts of the book. Here Butler tells his readers how to buy silver,
takes them inside one of Mexico's most famous cantinas, and brings them
close to the legendary Cantiflas in a rare interview with the comedian.
He ends writing about what he lovesbullfighting. This book is a must
for anyone who loves Mexico the way Ron Butler does.