The mag­nif­i­cent

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - Casey Sanchez The New Mex­i­can

Through­out small-town Mex­ico there are many vil­lages where none of the women are preg­nant. All the males have flocked north for jobs, leav­ing the town easy prey for con men and drug-traf­fick­ing nar­cos. That’s the story of Tres Ca­marones, the fic­tional Mex­i­can coastal town at the cen­ter of Into the Beau­ti­ful North, the most re­cent novel by Luís Al­berto Ur­rea. Ur­rea gives a Sun­day, June 27, read­ing from the book at the Inn and Spa at Loretto.

The book is a laugh-out-loud cin­e­matic road­war­rior story with an un­likely set of pro­tag­o­nists. Af­ter watch­ing The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven at the town’s rain-soaked open-air theater, Nayeli, a 17-year-old karate-kick­ing teenager, takes it upon her­self to sneak into the U.S. and re­cruit Mex­i­can men to come back to re­pop­u­late and de­fend her home­town. She re­cruits her two best friends, Yolo, a boy-crazy pretty girl, and Vampi, a black­fin­ger­nail-pol­ish-wear­ing goth. Chap­er­on­ing this crew is Ta­cho, the gay pro­pri­etor of a taco shop called La Mano Caída (The Fallen Hand, his sar­donic ren­der­ing of The Limp Wrist).

It’s an epic yet beachread­ing-friendly tale of post-9/11 border se­cu­rity. The four cu­ates, or pals, take a bus to Ti­juana, where they are quickly gob­bled up in the city’s gar­ish in­ferno and forced to take shel­ter among friendly strangers at a mu­nic­i­pal dump. There they meet Atómiko, a club-wield­ing garbage-dump war­rior who is both a pro­tec­tor and a coy­ote who can shep­herd them across the border. Things go wrong as soon they make it across the wire, where they are rounded up by border agents. Ta­cho is given a bru­tal beat­down when agents take him for an al-Qaida mem­ber af­ter mis­hear­ing him pro­nounce the name of his taco shop.

It’s a novel deeply en­gaged with pop cul­ture on both sides of the border. Narco thugs ar­gue over the rel­a­tive mer­its of P. Diddy and Kanye West; teenage girls seek ro­mance in the model of the Amer­i­can ac­tion movies they grew up watch­ing; and im­mi­grant Mex­i­can rockeros, met­al­heads, emos, and goths fig­ure heav­ily into the plot. All these ref­er­ences aren’t just hooks to en­gage read­ers. Ur­rea feels that pop cul­ture and Mex­i­can im­mi­gra­tion are deeply in­ter­twined.

“I al­ways make the point about peo­ple want­ing to come over,” Ur­rea told Pasatiempo. “Amer­ica is al­ways mar­ket­ing it­self. We ad­ver­tise 24/7. Nat­u­rally peo­ple want to come over. When I

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