“Vulliamy, with a mix of irony and pathos, writes like a latter-day Graham Greene. . . . Like all good travel writing, Amexica is vivid, colorful, and exotic, filled with striking vignettes and larger-than-life characters.” Tamar Jacoby, The New York Times Book Review
“Extraordinary.” Vanity Fair
“An engrossing travelogue . . . a vivid, disturbing dispatch from a very wild frontier.” Publishers Weekly
“Vulliamy paints a terrifying and authoritative portrait of violence.” David Reiff, The Wall Street Journal
“An absorbing odyssey . . . Vulliamy's reporting is faultlessly brave. . . . The scenery and characters he meets are brought alive with vividness and intensity.” Alex Spillius, The Telegraph (UK)
“The author writes lyrically, with the enticing rhythm of his sentences contrasting jarringly with the degradation of humanity found on nearly every page . . . Most of the narrative feels fresh because it is based so heavily on Vulliamy's own wanderings . . . An impressively rendered, nightmare-inducing account.” Kirkus Reviews
“Previously, to understand the ruthlessness, ambition and impact of today's global criminals, you needed to read Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah and Misha Glenny's McMafia. Now, you also need to read Vulliamy's Amexica.” Brian Schofield, The Times (UK)
This engrossing travelogue traces the fraught Mexican-American border, where the collision of affluence and poverty is mediated by an ultraviolent narco-traficante culture. Vulliamy (Seasons in Hell) journeys from Tijuana, where the ruthless Arellano Félix Organization cartel battles rivals, to the Atlantic coast, where the even more ruthless Zetas cartel, armed with grenades and rocket launchers, battles the Mexican army and besieges whole cities. In the middle is Juárez, the world’s most violent town, an anarchy of contending cartels, street gangs, and their police and military allies, where massacres, beheadings, and grisly sex murders are routine. Vulliamy’s border isn’t all drugs and killings; it’s also narco-corrida songs that celebrate drugs and killings, the American gun industry that feeds off drug money and enables the killings, and a presiding quasi-Catholic cult of Santíssima Muerte (holiest death). The author’s take isn’t entirely coherent. Sometimes the border is the problem, an artificial rupture that provokes turf battles over prime smuggling sites; sometimes, presented less persuasively, the lawless border is just a symptom of global capitalism, like the desperate illegal immigrants and exploited maquiladora workers (in foreign-owned low-wage factories along the border) he profiles. Although not especially deep, Vulliamy’s is a vivid, disturbing dispatch from a very wild frontier. (Oct.)
Vulliamy (former correspondent, The Observer, UK) spent decades reporting from the volatile U.S.-Mexico border. In 2009, he set out on a journey from San Diego, CA/Tijuana, Mexico, to Brownsville, TX/Matamoros, Mexico, in order to understand better this vast borderland. Through his travels, we meet some of the people who inhabit both sides of the boundary: innocents who struggle to survive everyday against a backdrop of poor prospects and raging violence; politicians, police and military who either struggle against the drug violence or are complicit in it; reporters who must balance risking their lives against fair and honest journalism; and the victims of all the violence, living and dead, and those who struggle to preserve their memories. Vulliamy writes as a war correspondent, covering a "post-political" war, with each casualty appearing more senseless than the one previous. VERDICT This is a compelling look at the growing problems along the southwestern borderland. Its problems grab headlines daily and will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Recommended for all interested readers and all libraries where there is a strong interest in border and immigration issues.—Mike Miller, Austin P.L., TX
A gutsy international journalist narrates life and death along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Former Guardian reporter Vulliamy (Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia's War, 1994) divides his time between Arizona andLondon. While writing about America for British readers, the author became fascinated with the mingling of national cultures along the 2,100 mile–long and 50 mile–wide swath he terms "Amexica." He insists that it is not merely a clever word creation but a historically valid term whose meaning reaches back to Aztec cultures. Because of illegal narcotics moving from Mexico into the United States and more-or-less legal guns for the narcotraficantesmoving the other direction, Amexica is a constant battlefield marked by thousands of murders, rapes and business-related shakedowns. However, as Vulliamy documents through hundreds of individuals featured in the book, the battlefield is also teeming with everyday life. The mixture meansa minorityof residents in Amexica suffer fear and joy simultaneously, with the joy deriving from high income. The majority of residents, however, subsist amid grinding poverty. Those who can find regular employment tend to labor in sweatshops along the border run by exploitative multinational corporations that have transferred many of the jobs from the continental United States, devastating cities north of the border. The author writes lyrically, with the enticing rhythm of his sentences contrasting jarringly with the degradation of humanity found on nearly every page, and Vulliamy generously credits authors who have documented the border in previous books in both English and Spanish. Some sections of the book may be familiar—especially the hundreds of murders of poverty-stricken single women around CiudadJuárez, their bodies left to rot in the desert while law-enforcement agencies express bafflement—but most of the narrative feels fresh because it is based so heavily on Vulliamy's own wanderings.
An impressively rendered, nightmare-inducing account.