by David Lida
William Morrow, New York - ISBN 0-06-095933-9
For many, Mexico is a land of sunshine,
bright white beaches, bikini-clad tourists, and gold-toothed souvenir
vendors. To David Lida, it symbolizes a bleak, forbidding land, filled
with sorcery, squalor and seduction.
Travel Advisory, Lidas recent
collection of short stories deals with Mexico in a light far removed
from the cushy tourist meccas and beach hotels. It offers a powerful
portrayal of tawdry characters living out their lives in familiar and
sometimes unfamiliar settings. Inspired by his experiences while living
and traveling in Mexico, this collection shows the stark contrasts
within Mexico, from the dirt streets of rural villages to the
ostentatious homes of the wealthy in the Polanco district of Mexico
The ten unmistakenly Mexican stories in
this collection show tourists and Mexicans interactingand sometimes
clashingin situations overflowing with sex and violence. At times,
Mexicans interact with their fellow countrymen and women. That cruelty
can exist in paradise seems ironic as Lida pulls his readers deeper into
the soul of Mexico.
One of the most intriguing stories is
"Bewitched," the tale of a travel writer from Philadelphia,
who acts as a pompous prima dona, and though traveling on a budget,
expects quality service in the tiny town of Quetzalmaco. Here she
intends to discover the story behind the witches of Quetzalmaco only to
be drawn into a sordid scene with a male witch, leaving her to wonder
just what magical powers these infamous witches possess. The Mexicans
are by their indigenous heritage a superstitious people, and Lida
explores this to the fullest in this story.
Another portrays a tourist couplethe
husband a realist and the wife full of naivete about Mexicowhove
come to the beach seeking sun and relaxation, only to be taken in by a
drunk who engages them in conversation.
"Taxi," another of stories in
the collection, shows how Maria Concepcion, the maid to a wealthy Mexico
City family, gets caught up in the lustful desires of their son, only to
find herself pregnant. Not in a financial position to care for the
child, she ends up signing him away to a couple from the States, only to
go seeking him there.
Travel Advisory is a collection of tales
that turns the image of paradiseand Mexicoupside down. Lida has
succeeded in unraveling some of the contemporary misconceptions about
Mexico where others have only brushed the surface. A must read for a
behind-the-scenes look at Mexico today.