Published on February 26, 2014 | by Ivo Aleixo0
Book review: Narcoland
★★★★★This book is a fearless exposé of the drug cartels that have wrought violence and fear in Mexico. Anabel Hernandez’s Narcoland reads like a cross between a spy novel and a war film.
Violence and corruption, which are endlessly fictionalised for our entertainment in cinema and on TV, have made its appearance in this book as the hard-knock facts of life at the forefront of the drug trade.
This is a gripping and true story that focuses on the criminal group, Sinaloa Cartel, and the semi-literate man – nicknamed El Chapo – who ran it until he was arrested on February 22, 2014.
Originally published in Mexico in 2010, Narcoland was a success and gained Hernandez a lot of attention.
Unfortunately for her, some of the attention she attracted was from people who wanted her dead for writing the book, and she now has to be accompanied by a team of bodyguards after receiving numerous death threats on a daily basis.
Having been translated into English from its original Spanish, the book allows the Western world to have an insight into where some of its drugs have originated from.
El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, went from being a poor farmer in the mountains of Mexico to running a billion-dollar empire, and has been featured on Forbes’ list of the most powerful people on the planet.
He went on the run as the world’s most wanted drug trafficker after escaping from a high-security prison in 2001 and was only recaptured in February.
There are some decadent tales of mobsters who have thrown lavish parties with guests, arriving in jet planes with beauty queens and serving up cocaine, but that is as light as it gets.
Hernandez’s main objective is to paint a deeply shocking picture of a Mexico that has spiralled into lawlessness.
With these jaw-dropping statistics, she shows that in the very same country that tourists flock to to soak up the sun in beautiful beach resorts, there is an all out bloodbath between cartels fighting amongst themselves to get their fingers in the drug pie.
This has left up to 80,000 people dead in the last decade.
Because its pages are drenched in so much crime, blood and corruption, Narcoland is not an effortless read, partly because of the subject matter and partly because there are so many nicknames of drug lords and corrupt politicians flying around it is hard to keep track of who is who.
There is a sort of forensic quality to Hernandez’s writing style, which has a detached way of describing even the most outlandish acts of violence and corruption – to the point where it can have an almost numbing or desensitising effect, in the same way depictions of violence in film can be.