Jimm Budd's Mexico (a Kindle book that can also be read on a computer) is not a guidebook - something the author emphatically states in the preface. It is a mural of Mexico created with broad strokes of words on an electronic canvas instead of plaster. Using an understated style and humor, so different from traditional travel writing, Mr. Budd has splashed images of many different locations in Mexico, from the well-known (Acapulco, Puerto Escondido, Puerto Vallarta) to the more out-of-the-way (Batopilas, Africam and Coatepec) and the middle-known (Veracruz, Alamos, Zacatecas). Those are just some of the chapters; there are 80 or so.
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These are short word paintings of history, gossip, feelings and impressions. Budd has woven facts, rumors and local color into these mostly three or four page stories. Each chapter has a very good photograph at its head.
I have known of Jimm Budd for decades. No one who has written about Mexico or even read widely about the country could have missed reading something written by Mr. Budd. He's contributed to newspapers, travel guides and magazines too numerous to mention. He lives in Mexico and has a family there. So he is not a Johnny-come-lately to the Mexico writing biz. I mention the above qualifications, because this type of book is so often poorly written by newcomers to the country who do not understand Mexico or ever get off the gringa trail, or the press trip gravy train. Jimm is one of those rare Mexico writers who really knows what he is talking about, when it comes to expressing his impressions of the places and people he writes about. Even I, who knows a lot about Mexico, learned things from this book. It is kind of hard to impress me, but Jimm did. Yet, he writes without being cute or a "know-it-all.
This is not just a description of places, Mr. Budd has included stories of the Mennonites, Charros, and the Day of the Dead. Budd's Mexico reminds me of my first published book, Mexico From the Driver's Seat, back in the 1980's. Like mine, it is a compilation of newspaper columns, which accounts for their brevity. A few words, well-used are better than many badly-abused.
I suspect his intention in writing this book was similar to mine – to introduce the readers to something more than a listing of hotels and attractions; to give them a feeling for what it could be like if they visit the places in the book – and more importantly, what the people were like. Will this book introduce you to the "real Mexico"? That is too tall an order for one volume. But it will give you a taste of the complexity of modern Mexico.
To me, this book is more along the lines of Terry's Guide to Mexico than a guidebook. Terry, in the original editions (1909-1947) not the revised editions after 1950, combined literary descriptions, opinions and just plain good writing within the framework of a guidebook. Mr. Budd removed the guidebook framework and let the literary, slice of life part stand on its own. It is a guidebook only in the sense that it describes places to visit and mentions that there are hotels there. It won't tell you where they are, how many rooms or prices. But it will tell you the story of the hotels (like the Mocambo in Veracruz).
So, buy this book if you want to know a little about a lot of Mexico that most people do not know. Don't expect it to be a guide, except perhaps as one to whet your appetite to embark on a journey of discovery. Will you have the same experiences as the author? Of course not. Will you disagree with him? Probably, now and again. But you will have your own experiences that might be sparked by something the author wrote. And hey, at five dollars, that is about six cents a chapter. Now, THAT is budget traveling.
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You deserve more than phone snaps.
Mexico's full of once-in-a-lifetime photos. Don't miss them because you don't have the right equipment.