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Born to run…

29 January 2009

I’m afraid I can’t speak about the mood in the United States right now, though I just was there… for something under three hours — one of which was spent in WalMart.

I’ve been working for my publisher,  as Gestor de proyectos (“Project Developer”) which supposedly means looking for new authors and titles, but includes a lot of “other duties as required”.  Editorial Mazatlan is a very small publisher, and until now, we’ve been only printing and selling books by mail order or for the local market.  Gods, Gachupines and Gringos being the first “major” book, we’ve had to patch the international distribution system together as we go.  Small businesses are screwed by NAFTA, and the on-again, off-again regulations on cross-border trucking make it maddening — or prohibitively expensive — to send anything larger than an overnight delivery package, and smaller than a semi-trailer load by “normal” means.

So… if you wonder why books are expensive in Mexico (besides the fact that a country that’s mostly desert doesn’t have the water or trees to support large-scale paper-making)  consider this.  To take delivery on an initial 500 copies for Mexican distribution (most are being distributed from the U.S. or via Amazon, etc.) we drive minivan the  1200 Km. to Nogales, Arizona… meet a shipment from Albuquerque… load the books into the van, take them to a customs broker’s warehouse on the Arizona side … unload the books for inspection.. reload the books in the brokers’ truck… drive the minivan back into Nogales, Sonora… meet the brokers’ truck at a convenience store parking lot on the Mexican side of what’s laughingly called “the free trade zone” (21 Km from the border)…  re-load the minivan… and drive the 1200 Km back to Mazatlan.  So I can hop on the bus, and start doing an author’s tour slash publishers’ representative trip slash manuscript hunting expedition slash Mexican adventure tour.

I hadn’t expected to be back until Friday, but things went smoothly… considering.  I don’t think I committed any major or minor unpunished crimes in Mexico or the United States in the process other than a few speeding violations .  Driving across Sinaloa and Sonora at night is not all that scary, or even difficult (though it was cuatos — toll roads — the whole way).  Nope, in Cuilican, I didn’t see any shootouts or head-chopping, and the only livestock I saw on the road were a gang of goats who wanted to play in traffic — not on the highway, but — in the middle of Los Mochis, where we’d stopped for lunch Thursday afternoon.  Army and police checkpoints slightly outnumber fruit and vegetable checkpoints, but that’s the price we pay for being a major agricultural exporter (though, for some reason, I suspect the Army was not worried about fruit-flies).

I can’t tell you a thing about Nogales, Arizona… I’d never been there before, but it has a WalMart Super Store within a mile or two of the border, which I did tour.  It looked a lot like ….  WalMart.

I did discover the best bookstore in Sonora (one of two bookstores in Sonora): Libros y Mas in Ciudad Obregón.  Cd. Obregón is different than what one thinks of as a “typical” Mexican city.  Although there were several Yaqui communities in the immediate region, Obregón didn’t come into being until 1910 (the same year the Mexican Revolution started), as a railhead for the Southern Pacific Railroad, dubbed Cajame.    Having grown into a city only since the 1930s,  Obregón is worth visiting to see how Mexico interpreted the modernist architectural style (the Palacio Municipal is worth a look) and as a reminder that there are “many Mexicos” … including wealthy agricultural and academic centers.

And, it’s the “big city” for several resort and “gringo ghetto” towns in the area… notably Alamos and Guaymas… and because Libros y Mas (Miguel Aleman 124 Sur, Ciudad Obregon Centro
Tel: 644.413-4709) carries — in addition to a huge collection of new Spanish-language books as well as having a wonderfully sunny upstairs cafe (with wifi!)– Gods, Gachupines and Gringos in stock.

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