The daughter of a Mexican-American mother and a Caucasian father uses her biracial heritage as a platform for her examination of the political and identity crises facing many people in Mexico.
Griest (Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, 2004, etc.) digs into both sides of the immigration debate. She befriends undocumented workers in the United States who are proud to send American dollars home to pay for food, clothes and school, and she speaks with Mexican immigration officials and locals who lament the “Americanization” of those who return and the abandonment issues facing those left behind. In the face of globalization, accelerated by NAFTA and television, indigenous groups in Mexico must also make tough choices about whether to preserve their ancient languages and culture. Facing pressures to assimilate, they are slowly folding into the Spanish-speaking multitude and sacrificing some of their heritage along the way. Dual identity and the struggle for self-acceptance are global themes these days, and Griest’s attempt to resolve this conflict with her travels can be commended for its pluck, though the whole project seems rather muddled. She strings together disparate interviews and occasional adventures: her investigation into the murder of a gay political activist; the violent repression of a liberal newspaper; a teacher’s strike in Oaxaca; the quinceañera of a friend’s daughter; the 2006 presidential election, marred by voter fraud. Griest quickly deduces the parallels between the Mexicans’ search for self-discovery and her own, but misses the larger point: They struggle for identity as a means of survival; she uses it as fodder for a book.
A decent enough piece of journalism, but lacks the insight and emotion to make a real impact.