Alibi V.23 No.50 • Dec 11-17, 2014 

Book Review

Get Lost in a Literary Guia Roji

The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle

Francisco Goldman
Grove Press
hardcover
memoir
$26

As well as being the essential map for any driver in Mexico City, containing in its pages all the calles—all 99,100 of them—the Guia Roji is the guiding compass for Francisco Goldman's new book. The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle mirrors the atlas of avenidas in his beloved city—winding and twisting, leading where you don't expect to go. Much like the map, the book is loaded with both annoying distractions and beautiful discoveries, and remains fascinating even when you're lost.

Political and investigative journalism are the real carne of this memoir. Empathetic, analytical reporting of the 2013 After Heavens nightclub kidnapping, stirring first-person coverage of the student movement #YoSoy132 and scathing-yet-realistic attention to the almost complete corruption of Mexican politics all combine to create a vivid cultural maze through which the reader wanders to understand the events that are currently shaping our quickly devolving southern neighbor.

Much like the map, the book is loaded with both annoying distractions and beautiful discoveries, and remains fascinating even when you're lost.

The Interior Circuit is odd in that it reads like two very different books, a personal diary and a dark tale of investigative journalism fused together. However, the presence of these two themes vying for attention, while sometimes bothersome, can be invigorating as they present a wider view of the Distrito Federal—aka Mexico City. That is, it’s not all drunken partying, but it’s not all cartels and headless bodies either.

Goldman's adventures beautifully display the cultural aspects that really give flavor to the DF. He describes events like the cult celebration of la Santa Muerte, patron folk saint of drug dealers, prostitutes and police officers, with the same care he uses to serve up the slice-of-life tidbits that paint the local bar scene. Knowing the various kinds of people to be found at a neighborhood park, such as teenage flashmob hulahoopers, grizzled viejitos practicing sword fighting and young paramours stealthily making love on public benches, brings a lifting balance to the “plague of terror, chaos, and murder [that] is as close as the city's borders, already having consumed large parts of México.” Though the writing itself is sometimes flowery and can seem to take strange left turns, the stories carry their own weight and will leave you doing your own research just for curiosity's sake about mass graves, the who's who of cartel kingpins and the odd history of Mexican beauty queens.

He describes events like the cult celebration of la Santa Muerte, patron folk saint of drug dealers, prostitutes and police officers, with the same care he uses to serve up the slice-of-life tidbits that paint the local bar scene.

Goldman's mythic DF entrances the readers as a vivacious but cracking “bubble” surrounded by the looming shadow of battling narcoterrorist cartels. Yet there is also a sense of “a mysterious energy [that] seems to silently thrum from ... restless volcanic earth, [created] by the pavement-pounding footsteps of the millions upon millions who labor every day in the city, by their collective breathing and all that mental scheming, ... mined with potential treachery but also [with] ... love, desire, and not so secret sexual secretiveness, the air seems to jangle with all that.”