Carlos Monsiváis is one of Latin America’s most prescient and prolific social commentators. In this, the first English translation of his work, he presents an extraordinary chronicle of contemporary life south of the Rio Grande, which ranges over pop music, Latino hip hop, film stars such as Cantinflas and Dolores del Rio, the writer Juan Rulfo, life on the border with the United States, boleros and melodrama.
Monsiváis’s chronicles are theoretically informed but are crammed with people rather than abstractions. They make points of deadly seriousness in a voice which is laconic, satirical and humorous, and which is often written in the register of his subjects. Monsiváis draws on a deep understanding of Mexico’s cultural histories—popular, mass and high—and notes the fascinating ways in which they interact to transform each other. The conflicts between Mexican and North American culture and between modern and traditional ways of life are constant themes of his investigations.
A dazzling mixture of reportage, narrative and biting social criticism, Mexican Postcards is certain to establish Monsiváis’s rightful place in the pantheon of Latin America’s greatest writers.
Panteón Municipal La Chaveña, Ciudad Juárez. Photo by Molly Molloy.
On October 31, El Diario de Juárez said the municipal cemeteries were dying. On the Friday before Dia de los Muertos, I walked in the oldest cemetery — La Chaveña. It’s 179 years old. More than 75,000 people in the Paso del Norte have come to rest here. Graves are chiseled into hard ground in the western hills of Juárez and only cactus, ocotillo and bits of spiky brown grass adorn the stones. Someone planted a palo verde sapling in a cement-lined water holder on a newer grave. This tree grows in the driest land of the Chihuahuan desert.