Review: The Sorrows of Mexico

On July 1st and July 2nd, 2018, Mexico voted for changeThe Sorrows of Mexico provides an abundance of reasons why men and women across the country voted in Lopez Obrador in what was a landslide victory for the left-wing MORENA party (The National Regeneration Movement) winning 54.2 of seats in the Senate and 24 million voting for Obrador as president-elect. Dismal defeats for the center-right National Action Party (PAN), and ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate José Antonio Meade Kuribreña are put into context by The Sorrows of Mexico, a searing indictment of the political’s elites (particularly PAN and PRI) neglect of the Mexican people and in-particular its scandalous disregard for the country’s rotting political structures eaten away by decades of corruption, rampant crime, the enrichment of the few and the growth of poverty.

In-turn, 200,000 people if not more, have died in violence since the conflict coined the Mexican Drug War, began in 2006. The shift from Mexico’s political right towards left-wing populism is another demonstration — like Trumpism, Corbynism, Duertism and the Arab Spring — of the contempt towards political establishments and neo-liberal policies which led to a ‘financial crisis caused by unregulated lending could turf hundreds of thousands out of their homes and trigger a cascade of economic troubles.’ As George Monbiot writes:

Neoliberalism claims that we are best served by maximum market freedom and minimum intervention by the state. The role of government should be confined to creating and defending markets, protecting private property and defending the realm. In practice the philosophy developed at Mont Pelerin is little but an elaborate disguise for a wealth grab.

Mexico, as Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez writes, “provides the dead men and women. Thousands and thousands of them,” to this idea and state institutions have been subverted to oligarchs and trade agreements such as NAFTA and SPP and is hostage to either incompetent or criminal corporations, not just the transational criminal organisations and cartels. Wedded to the Mexican governments’ authoritarian subculture (it must be remembered one-party rule only ended in the 1990s) and the securitisation and militarisation of the Mexican Drug War (the United States providing $3.5 billion in arms between 2014 and 2015 alone) has meant “Mexico has become a violent country that produces yet more violence.”

The country has become, as a result, a country of mass-graves where battlelines are blurred, sides are unclear and the narrative of “our good guys, their bad guys, and the just war against criminal organisations,” laughable were the consequences not so serious. The Wreck of the Tangerines and I am the Guilty One covered by Emiliano Ruiz Parra and Diego Enrique Osorno respectively cover two disasters, the Usumacinta Pemex oil rig disaster and the A.B.C. Children’s Nursery Fire in Sonora. Both were avoidable but death and tragedy seemed inevitably predetermined by neglect and incompetence.

Parra’s Wreck of The Tangerines tells of the terrifying ordeal of the men who drowned in the Gulf of Mexico and those who survived. One of the survivors, Pensamiento, even begins to take the form of a creature from Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water absent justice or compensation from Pemex, a surreal ending to a chapter where hurricane gails and seawater swept away those unlucky to be on the Usumacinta rig. Osorno’s research into the A.B.C. Children’s Nursery in Sonora, which has echoes of the United Kingdom’s Grenfell Tower’s tragedy, and the powerlessness of mother and fathers as smoke and flames swallowed up forty-nine children and injured seventy-six is gut-wrenching. The converted warehouse was branded a firetrap, yet despite the warnings, regulations were ignored. No alarm sounded and the main entrance was not wide enough for one teacher holding a child to squeeze through. The results were catastrophic for the toddlers having their nap-time as black smoke and flames enveloped the building.

In The Hours of Extermination and In The Dungeons of the Mexican Government, investigative journalist Anabel Hernandez untangles the official narrative of the disappearance of forty-three students from Ayotzinapa in Iguala and the subsequent investigations into the massacre which took place. State-terror, not cartel or criminal violence, according to Hernandez and Parra explains the violence which unfolded on 26th September, 2014. Mexico’s modern La Noche Triste (The Night of Sorrows) and the lack of international attention given to state-sponsored violence in the decade-long “War on Drugs” should be one of growing alarm.

The dead tell there own story, their names vanishing in a seemingly impenetrable maze of bureaucracy and corruption. The living, despairing, tortured families searching for disappeared loved ones and those whose lives have been ruined or turned upside down by breathtaking corruption or are children driven into under-age prostitution and to living on the street tell stories of utter depravity, but also of hope, a hope to make things better for themselves and for the rest of the country. The journalists writing here, write risking their lives but do so with grace and courage and the stories they tell, of those fighting for their rights to land, a good life and those seeking justice for their loves ones consigned to narco-graves and murder bring light to a country in its very own Heart of Darkness.


A sobering read about the conflict the world forgot and amidst depravity, poverty and violence, stories of hope and perseverance in dark times.