Here, Oster, former Mexico City Bureau Chief for the Knight-Ridder newspapers, exposes Mexico's very real problems and offers unbalanced, scathing condemnations of Mexican government policies and national character. In 1986, by chance, Oster met Manuel Sanchez, whose early life was chronicled in Oscar lewis' famous study of a Mexican family living in poverty, The Children of Sanchez. This meeting gave Oster the idea to write about individual Mexican people rather than events; unfortunately, unlike Lewis, he doesn't allow his subjects to speak for themselves, but uses them as springboards for polemic about Mexico's failings: the chapter about the doctor who works in the slums provides a chance to excoriate Mexican health policies; the bare-bones profile of an honest, dedicated cop appears amid a thorough recounting of police corruption and brutality; we learn the essential facts of the existence of Oster's maid (and how she's received charity from Oster and other North Americans), but she never emerges as a personality. Mexican policies are described as "foolish," "ignorant," "misguided," "cockamamie," "nonsensical," "immature," and "uninformed"; the rape of a three-year-old girl is termed "maddeningly typical"; Mexicans lie, think illogically, display cruelty, vanity, and alcoholism. Remarkably insensitive; seemingly calculated to inspire fear and disgust—rather than understanding—of the nation with which we share a 2,000-mile unguarded border.
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