I do not want to visit Mexico City. I thought I did, but now I don’t. It would be difficult to make Mexico City less desirable than David Lida does in his book First Stop in the New World. This non-fiction book includes the author being kidnapped and robbed by the infamous unlicensed “taxis” (even though it occurred a dozen years before the book was written) to dozens of pages about Mexican sexual behaviors. Supposedly, Mexican men suffer from premature ejaculations. Mexicans are naive and ill-informed about sex, even though they crave it. Marital rape is common. Your boss may require you to sleep with him.
David Lida has certainly explored and experienced Mexico City, from conversations with transvestite hookers to dive bars with drunken locals. His writing is vivid and interesting, and opening up the book randomly reveals some interesting little gems about such things as the food culture, how the Catholic religion developed, and insight into the growth and decline of some neighborhoods. But as the book progresses, the depressing chapters overshadow the positive ones. Between insight into Mexican television and wrestling shows are descriptions of crime on the dangerous streets. As the negative piled up, I started to feel almost as if the descriptions of the culture were from an arrogant anthropologist explaining how ignorant and depraved these people are.
Although this book is filed in the travel section, it is not a Mexico City travel book. While it offers insight into Mexico City and an interesting cultural background for any traveler, First Stop in the New World truly turned me off of traveling to Mexico City. Late in the book, he describes an artist as a metaphor for Mexico City: “A walking disaster that should have crumbled years ago, but somehow keeps functioning, despite the odds.” This quote left me with two questions. Why would I want to visit a disaster? Why would he want to live there?
Travel Book Review of First Stop in the New World by David Lida, a travel book.