The remote Mexican village of Jonotla lies in the shadow of the rock of Tlaloc, named for the ancient god of rain whose spirit has dwelt among its inhabitants for centuries. In the mid-1960s the twentieth century finally came to the fifteen hundred villagers of Jonotla—in the form of roads, cars, buses, electricity, and a more competitive form of life. In this moving account Reck sets out to document what effect these changes have had on the villagers. This study is part of the universal drama that is inevitably played out wherever and whenever the past and the future meet in sudden conflict.
There is something wonderful about coming across a book you’ve never heard of, that engages you through the blurb and the fleetingly glanced at sentences. Then you read it and it so much more than you hoped it would be and is a more than worthy addition to your book shelf. This is – unsurprisingly – with such an introduction one of those books and needs to be shared with all lovers of life, knowledge and culture.
Mexico, a land of myth and Christianity, the impact point of two worlds collided long ago is the setting and the locals of Jonotla claim to be descended from the same tribe that produced the people who would later become the Aztecs. This ancient place is one example of another seismic event, the impact of the modern world on a peaceful farming village. anthropologist Gregory G. Reck uses it as the ideal vantage point to see just how social interactions and cultural heritage changes the mindset and daily life of its 1500 inhabitants.
From the outset I knew this book was going to have some real journalistic merit, it captures the patchwork of life, following a plethora of characters but in the main centres around Celestino, a man with big dreams but less in the way of luck, an average Joe, somebody whom the reader can relate to. His trials and fears are universal, the struggle for life’s meaning and to have security, to come to terms with one’s own past whilst trying to make something better for ourselves. Throughout the book we get an interwoven sense of longing, apprehension of the future, hope and just occasionally a sense of peace and a glimpse of true happiness.
The arrival of a new and increasingly invasive world is troubling and at odds with what has gone before. New challenges rock the foundations of Jonotla, a declining population as young people are better educated and wish for more so leave to get better jobs, through to the aggressively competitive male hierarchy that has slowly become the norm and eroded community spirit.
We view these people through specific points in their lives and also explore the memories of times past and it is that feeling of experience but with a sense of detachment from the author that gives the book its rich quality, it’s a book full of life, not ideal life but real life with those victories, failures and insights that come upon us at unexpected junctures, It’s the chasing of dreams just beyond reach, the transitory nature of each moment before the inexorable push on to the next evolution of society and self understanding happen,
Both melancholy and heartwarming, it’s a thought-provoking piece and still relevant today. The ambivalent state of the individual and thus the nation is something that is seen more and more as community is superseded by individual ambition and desire for the self rather than for the collective. Money is the root cause that seems to be a surrogate for happiness yet to balance it out, a better standard of living has come to a lot of people through these changes, in the end perhaps a re-embracing of cultural traditions amalgamated with technology would be the least frictious way to go but only time will tell.
There is a fine line between objectivity and plain data Versus emotional observation of the human aspect but Reck does well to balance the two in what must certainly must have been a fine challenge to write. Both are perfectly amalgamated and it does make the struggle through life, through one’s inner thoughts sound all the more noble for it. It’s well worth a look if you have an inclination into the curiosities of what it is that makes us tick and a little self-examination along the way is never a bad thing.