Read the World: Mexico

Down the Rabbit Hole is both a story about a lonely boy who wants a pygmy hippo and a glimpse into the world of a drug lord. Tochtli lives with his father in a secluded and secure palace. His only friends are the men who work for his father. He loves hats and admires the French for their efficiency in inventing the guillotine.

If I counted dead people I’d know more than thirteen or fourteen people. Seventeen or more. Twenty easily. But dead people don’t count, because the dead aren’t people, they’re corpses.

There is a dark humour to this little book but it has a sad undertone too. Tochtli’s perspective is warped as he has no context as to what is normal. He has seen dead bodies and is fascinated by death and the means with which men are killed. Yet he still is innocent to the wider world. He loves learning, but he never leaves the house, never knows what people think of what his father does.

Mexico has a strong tradition of narco fiction and this book approaches the sub-genre from a different angle. The drugs business isn’t described first-hand, but Tochtli isn’t shielded from much. His dad wants him to be macho and he feels the need to hide signs of weakness. He’s not a likeable little boy but you can feel sorry for him. He is a product of his upbringing.

Books don’t have anything in them about the present, only the past and the future. This is one of the biggest defects of books. Someone should invent a book that tells you what’s happening at this moment, as you read.

With its proximity to the US, sadly much of Mexico’s modern culture has been greatly influenced by drug trafficking and the glamourisation of cartel life. It’s said that narcoculture is based on honor, bravery, family loyalty, protection, vengeance, generosity, hospitality, nobility, and prestige, and plenty of these things are seen through Tochtli’s eyes.

Whilst not the same country, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a little inspired by Pablo Escobar’s life. The Columbian drug lord had hippos and wanted to keep the drugs away from the people of his country (something inferred by Tochtli’s father). A lot of the Mexican cartels had links to Columbia too, as the source of a lot of the drugs.

Juan Pablo Villalobosis a Mexican writer who now lives in Spain. Down the Rabbit Hole was translated into English by Rosalind Harvey for And Other Stories.

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Book Source: Purchased