An American woman finds her bliss south of the border in this beguiling memoir.
The semi-mythical distillation of the author’s impressions of her home of 40 years–the village of Paraiso in Mexico’s Sierra Madre–is almost as perfect as its name implies. There is gorgeous weather, a scent of orange blossoms and jasmine wafting on the breeze, a 16th-century church said to have been built by Cortes, and Popocatepetl, an active volcano whose eruptions add an occasional note of drama to the town’s tranquility. It has two very different but equally colorful kinds of people. The first are the salt-of-the-earth locals, who enjoy their simple pleasures and take everything in stride, not excluding the presence of a flamboyant transsexual hairdresser. (They’re not so friendly to a priggish new padre who causes an uproar by banning alcohol at the big church fiesta and is finally run out of town for having a secret wife.) The second are the wealthy expatriates who winter in Paraiso, bringing with them their shady pasts and decadent proclivities. These include the imperious Countess Simi, the pot-addled Madame Natalia and a floating community of spies–one of whom ruins a cocktail party by accusing another guest of a cryptic betrayal. The well-connected author also includes cameos from movie stars Helen Hayes–whose autobiography she co-wrote–and Gloria Swanson, a stridently rude vegetarian. Hatch is deliriously in love with her adopted homeland, warts and all; on a rattletrap train ride, besieged by vendors hawking everything from orchids to â€œmiracle salts,” she buys one of each. In this collection of lighthanded sketches, her limpid prose exquisitely captures the sleepy rhythms and warm customs of village life along with the antic high life of the expat demimonde.
A glowing, tangy slice of life from a quirky Shangri-la.