In God’s MiddleFinger (Free Press 2008) the British writer living in Tucson, Richard Grant, explores the wild and basically ungoverned Sierra Madres, the backbone of Mexican culture. In doing this Grant not only looks into the Sierra Madres with its lawless drug culture, he manages to capture the psyche of the Mexican people and how they think.
The fast paced, well researched and written book puts the reader on the ground in Mexico and moves him through the terrain as if it were he experiencing the danger, meeting the people, and dodging the bullets.
Grant takes the reader inside a culture where a mafia hit man takes his bullets to be blessed by a saint so they will find their mark. He is able to show why the Mexican people don’t prepare for and invest in the future and live with a sense of inevitable fatality (everything in their past and present lives indicates that preparing for the future is a waste of time).
Grant writes the book with a tongue-in-cheek humor.
“I join the line of people moving slowly toward the church entrance, where three old men with screwed-up, contorted faces were singing corridos about the revolution and trying to make themselves heard over a younger trio singing corridos about the drug life. I ducked inside, the music faded, and my eyes slowly grew accustomed to the gloomy light coming through the high windows. At the nave of the church, surrounded by a warm glow of candles, was a tiny doll-like figure no more than a foot high in a glass box. Her face was white (the only other white face in Aduana that day was mine) and in her arms she held a baby.
Around her shoulders she wore a red cloak festooned with the tiny gold symbols called milagros, each representing a different type of miracle. There were milagros in the shape of babies, hearts, legs, arms and VW Beetles. People filed past, touched the glass with their fingertip, crossed themselves, and dropped coins into an old wooden box. I did the same and asked for the miracle of understanding Mexico.”
Grant apparently received his miracle, because he manages to capture the Mexican people and what makes them who they are better than any other book period.
God’s Middle Finger should be mandatory reading for all in the DEA and involved in the “War Against Drugs.” It should also be at the top of the list for students of Mexico and the Mexican culture. Not to mention all people proposing or opposing the “North American Union.”