The Best Mexican Books to Read Before You Visit Mexico
Reading is one of the best ways to ‘travel’ when you have to stay where you are. It’s also a wonderful way to learn about a country’s culture, customs, food and more before you visit. If you’re planning a trip to Mexico or simply want to get lost in a good book, this article is for you. Below are some of the best Mexican books to read before you visit Mexico.
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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Submitted by Maggie from Books Like This One
Published in 1992, Laura Esquivel’s magical realism novel Like Water for Chocolate (or, in Spanish, Como Agua para Chocolate), is an excellent book to read before planning a trip to Mexico. The novel follows a young Mexican woman named Tita who is in love with a man called Pedro but is unable to be with him due to a family tradition that requires the youngest daughter to remain unmarried and, instead, must stay home and care for her aging parents.
The story is an excellent insight into Mexican culture, particularly how food plays such an important role in the country’s identity. Tita finds that one of the few ways she can creatively express herself is through food and she is able to infuse her emotions into her cooking.
I personally very much enjoyed the elements of magical realism and how it beautifully paints the emotion that is felt throughout the book. I also loved the fact that each section of the book opens with a recipe, something that further cements the importance of food to the protagonist and the country of Mexico in general.
So, if you’re looking for your next book to read, consider adding Like Water for Chocolate to your list.
Battles in the Desert by Jose Emilio Pacheco
Submitted by Aline from Aline Tours and Travels
Battles in the Desert is a short and easy to read novel set in the heart of Mexico City during the presidency of Miguel Aleman (1946-1952). The story unfolds around a young boy, Carlitos, who falls in an impossible love while living in the Roma neighborhood with his middle-class family. From his innocent point of view where nothing is more important than love and playing outside, the book makes a description of the social problems that Mexico faced in those years such as immigration, poverty, and social class differences. At the same time, the author nostalgically reveals the most significant cultural changes occurring in the society as the country moves towards modernization and American products and expressions slowly become part of the daily life of the Mexican families.
I love this book because it allows me to travel back in time to learn about the City where I was born and helps me realize the changes my country has experienced since those days. I fell this book describes perfectly the Mexican culture as the characters express themselves with popular idioms, the family prepares our traditional food, and the author narrates the everyday life of the people living in the current famous neighborhoods in Mexico City (Condesa, Roma, and Polanco). Definitely a book I recommend.
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Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Submitted by Rai from A Rai of Light
Down the Rabbit Hole is a story told through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy named Tochtli. The young son of a drug baron in a remote area of Mexico, Tochtli finds himself in the middle of a precarious situation with his father being a powerful figure in the cartel business. Throughout the majority of this book, Tochtli is preoccupied with obtaining a Liberian pygmy hippo, all while picking insidiously uncanny or odd facts about life in Mexico and the secluded mansion that he’s very rarely allowed to leave. An easy and quick read, this is not the usual novel with a child protagonist, but a fascinating look into the lives of the people caught up in a world they did not choose that is both darkly disturbing and unsettlingly funny.
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
Submitted by April from Just Leaving Footprints
The Story of My Teeth follows a man called Highway who is an eccentric traveler, collector and famous auctioneer. The book is written quite poetically and was created by Valeria Luiselli in collaboration with workers at Mexico City’s Jumex juice factory. There are mentions of the factory throughout the book as well as of the famous Jumex museum. Highway goes on incredible journeys to try and become the world’s best auctioneer and at one point auctions off his own teeth. His true talent is telling compelling stories and this book is filled with them.
You can purchase a subscription and read The Story of My Teeth on Scribd here (with 60 days of your subscription for FREE).
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Submitted by April from Just Leaving Footprints
Gods of Jade and Shadow is an incredible book about a young woman named Casiopea Tun who meets the Mayan god of death. She normally spends all her time cleaning her rich grandfather’s house but now she must run away to help the god of death avenge his brother. The story takes Casiopea from a small town in southern Mexico to the Yucatán Peninsula, the bustling streets of Mexico City, Texas, and even to the Mayan underworld. If Casiopea fails to help the god of death on his quest, she will die. So she leaves behind everything she knows and tries her best to help him.
I loved this book so much because it has such an interesting story that fuses both Mayan mythologies with actual places in Mexico. It’s full of adventure and each place is described so well. You will not only learn about Mexican culture but also about Mayan gods, the beliefs of the underworld, and more.
Other Mexican Books on my List to Read
- Umami by Laia Jufresa
- The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
- Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
- Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
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