Sara Wheeler at Literary Review:
What does Theroux do on his trip? In Nogales he has his teeth whitened, in San Diego de la Unión he attends a first communion, in San Miguel de Allende he drops in on a wedding and in Monte Albán he inspects pyramids built at a time when ‘Britain was a land of quarrelsome Iron Age tribes painting their bellies blue and huddled in hill forts’. Sometimes he abandons his car, which has Massachusetts plates, in a secure car park and goes on bus journeys. Mexican highways are well maintained, he notes, but the off-ramp ‘always leads to the dusty antique past – to the man plowing a stony field with a burro, to the woman with a bundle on her head, to the boy herding goats, to the ranchitos, the carne asada stands, the five-hundred-year-old churches, and a tienda, selling beer and snacks, with a skinny cat asleep on the tamales’.
Theroux quotes widely from published sources in both Spanish and English, interviews officials and, as always, talks to ‘ordinary’ people, including some who barely speak Spanish (the Mexican government recognises 68 languages and 350 dialects).