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El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City

El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City

4.0 2
by John Ross

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John Ross has been living in the old colonial quarter of Mexico City for the last three decades, a rebel journalist covering Mexico and the region from the bottom up. He is filled with a gnawing sense that his beloved Mexico City's days as the most gargantuan, chaotic, crime-ridden, toxically contaminated urban stain in the western world are doomed, and the


John Ross has been living in the old colonial quarter of Mexico City for the last three decades, a rebel journalist covering Mexico and the region from the bottom up. He is filled with a gnawing sense that his beloved Mexico City's days as the most gargantuan, chaotic, crime-ridden, toxically contaminated urban stain in the western world are doomed, and the monster he has grown to know and love through a quarter century of reporting on its foibles and tragedies and blight will be globalized into one more McCity.

El Monstruo is a defense of place and the history of that place. No one has told the gritty, vibrant histories of this city of 23 million faceless souls from the ground up, listened to the stories of those who have not been crushed, deconstructed the Monstruo's very monstrousness, and lived to tell its secrets. In El Monstruo, Ross now does.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Longtime Mexico City denizen, social activist and journalist Ross (Zapatistas! Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006, 2006, etc.) fashions a brave, stirring love letter, cautionary tale and travelogue of his beloved city. Having personally witnessed a quarter-century of the ebb and flow of Mexican revolution, bloodshed and social cataclysm from his lair at the Hotel Isabel across from the National Library, the author possesses a vivid sense of the complexity of "El Monstruo." Slaughter, invasion and enslavement have dominated Mexican history, as Ross traces in his vernacular, pithy journey from the establishment of the lake city of Tenochtitlan to the devastation by the Spaniards under Hernan Cortes, subsequent incursions by the French and Yanquis and waves of successive revolutionary violence and civil war. The Mexican capital has inordinate and some might say nefarious influence on the rest of the country. Ross characterizes the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (the "cannibal revolution") as an age-old struggle on the part of the disgruntled peasantry to wrest power from the grasping oligarchs operating in the capital. The author is thorough and engagingly irreverent, and his focus is broad. He doesn't skimp on any one period or personality, from the lively Anglo writers who flocked to the city after the revolution, such as Ambrose Bierce, to the drug-addled Beats; the reception of Leon Trotsky and his subsequent murder; Truman's cynical wooing of Mexico as a "bulwark against the red menace" (he was the first U.S. president to actually visit Mexico City); to the rise of the left, drug wars, high-level corruption, NAFTA, Zapatista insurgency, burgeoning of crime andgeneral misery of the masses. From his binational perch, Ross offers a singular, sympathetic take on Mexican history for American readers, especially regarding the mystifying political machinations since the 1968 Olympic Games. Monstrously entertaining and tenderhearted view of "Chilango" history on the eve of the centennial of the Mexican Revolution.
From the Publisher

“An impassioned and melancholy history of Mexico’s most complex, boisterous, and exhilarating city.”

San Antonio Express-News
“Meticulously researched and imaginatively reported, "El Monstruo" is not your typical history book. No dry, crinkly prose here. As it does in Ross' journalism, Mexico erupts, like PopocatÈpetl, from the page.”

San Antonio Express-News
“Like having the world’s best guide show you around.”

The Indypendent 
"Ross’ book is part people’s history, part Gonzo journalism, with a wry and humorous style."

Denver Post
“El Monstruo is a valentine to place and useful chronicle of an epoch that has seen Mexico’s people find their voice…Ross’ quarter-century as witness does us the invaluable service of putting events to come in a context to understand them.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
“Vividly impressionistic survey of a fascinating urban panorama, El Monstruo makes for addictive reading.”

“Monstrously entertaining and tenderhearted…”
“…a brave, stirring love letter, cautionary tale and travelogue…”

Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums
“From a window of the aging Hotel Isabel, where he has lived for almost a quarter of a century, John Ross sings a lusty corrido about a great, betrayed city and its extraordinary procession of rulers, lovers and magicians.”

Iain Sinclair, author of Lights Out for the Territory and London Orbital
“Coruscating and necessary. Here is one of those rare books that convinces from the first sentence: a writer embedded in his writing, wholly present in the subject, leading us with savage grace to the heart of the beast.”

Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
"John Ross is uncompromising in his dedication to the poor, the downtrodden and the victims of empire. He is not welcome on the television talk show circuit frequented by journalistic elites and political players, nor is he invited to the cocktail parties of the rich and powerful. He is most at home among the people in the slums and barrios of the world. John Ross is the personification of the peoples' reporter, a troubadour for justice who has chosen to cast his lot of conscience with those who have the will to live and the heart to resist against all odds. Simply put, John Ross is the Robin Hood of journalism."

Product Details

Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

John Ross is a poet, freelance journalist, and activist currently residing in Mexico City. His articles have appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Nation, CounterPunch, Texas Observer, The Progressive, and La Jornada. His book Rebellion from the Roots won the American Book Award and his somewhat autobiographical memoir Murdered by Capitalism won the Upton Sinclair Award and was a San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year.

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El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
mannyATL More than 1 year ago
As a frequent visitor to Mexico City and the Historic district, the book cover immediately caught my attention. The title is appropriate as it suggests the "monster" that Mexico City has been and remains on many levels. The book is a short but powerful history, mostly of the ifluential personalities of Mexico and Mexico City, in chronolgical order right up to 2009. Mexico City is a monster not only for the lack of adequate infrastructure and problems with pollution, crowding, corruption, earthquakes, and crime, but also the monster that has and continues to swallows human lives since the time of the Aztecs. Ross writes in a light hearted style that suggests a humorous view of life because it does no good to get outraged or upset at the broken record of injustice and stupidity over hundreds of years. One soon comprehends that the book is actually a tragedy. All we can do is join Ross and just shake one's head in disbelief. Some of the stories are so outrageous because of the human folly that remains the curse of this city. It's obvious that Ross is a traditional liberal from the 50s, but he provides fascinating insight that was still balanced into the personalities that shaped the modern city. He knows the subject well although sometimes his writing seems to be fragmented. He has included short commentaries from local people he has known and those add a touch of passion and warmth to the tragedy that constitutes this city. It's a good read worth the time for anyone seeking to understand Mexico.