Issues Archives

Volume 28, #1, Spring 2012

<p>What you’ll find in the Spring issue: New fiction from <strong>Peter Orner</strong>, <strong>Wanda Coleman</strong>, <strong>Elena Mauli Shapiro</strong>, <strong>Don Waters</strong>, and one of Mexico’s most revered writers, the late <strong>Daniel Sada</strong>. Poetry from <strong>D.A Powell</strong>, <strong>Corey Van Landingham</strong>, <strong>W.S. Di Piero</strong>, <strong>Ada Limon</strong>, <strong>Jonathon Keats</strong>, <strong>Kathleen Boyle</strong> and <strong>David Hernandez</strong>. A special section on Mexico’s drug war, featuring translated work by acclaimed journalists <strong>Diego Enrique Osorno</strong> and <strong>Marcela Turati</strong>. And artwork from <strong>Stephanie Syjuco</strong>, <strong>Chester Arnold</strong>, <strong>Andy Diaz Hope,</strong> and others.</p>

What you’ll find in the Spring issue: New fiction from Peter Orner, Wanda Coleman, Elena Mauli Shapiro, Don Waters, and one of Mexico’s most revered writers, the late Daniel Sada. Poetry from D.A Powell, Corey Van Landingham, W.S. Di Piero, Ada Limon, Jonathon Keats, Kathleen Boyle and David Hernandez. A special section on Mexico’s drug war, featuring translated work by acclaimed journalists Diego Enrique Osorno and Marcela Turati. And artwork from Stephanie Syjuco, Chester Arnold, Andy Diaz Hope, and others.

Keep Writing

Because we become social through language. My I that comes from you. Your mine that comes from me. Our all of you that comes from them.

Because writing, by being writing, invites one to consider the possibility that the world could be, in fact, different.

Because the secret machinery of text is the imagination.

Because here is a banner stretched out that clearly reads, “writing’s place is also out there, just before your eyes, in the public space of your steps and of the imagination.”

Because imagination is another name for criticism, which itself is another name for subversion.

Because she who writes will never conform.

Because writing’s essence perhaps consists in nothing more than showing your face and, if necessary, turning the other cheek. Poetry does not impose, said Paul Celan, it exposes. But these are small concerns. Because to confront is, above all, to confront death. To put yourself in pursuit of the unknown or, it’s equivalent, the dark. In that ethical and aesthetic position of an exhibition that opens and, upon opening, damages, where there arises with singular pressure the certainty that death, regardless of its circumstance, is violence, there, on that path, both the face and poetry go it alone. They are alone. For that reason, too.

Because of memory.

Because writing teaches us that there is nothing “natural.” Things are closer than they appear, that, too, writing tells us.

Because through that rectangular artifact that is the book, we communicate with our dead. And all dead are our dead.

Because the sentence produces the memory wherein forever will live the names of Marco and José Luis Piña Dávila, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, January 30, 2010.

Because the borders of the page are also the limit of the real. Because here there is a banner that reads, “tell them not to kill me.” Because belonging is something I do through you, a sentence.

Because there is an abyss at the end of every line into which it is worth the trouble to cast oneself. Or charge into. Or disappear into.

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Get In And Toss the Gun in Back

This is what happened. I’m driving my car at midnight. I figure for a city that never sleeps midnight isn’t when anything dangerous is going to happen. I’m heading home. Where I’m coming from doesn’t matter, but in the interest of getting down all the details let’s say I was coming back from visiting this girl. Now that I think about it, everything that happened afterward could have been because of this girl. She spent the night fawning over me. “You are so smart,” “Where do your stories come from?,” “How do these ideas come to you?” were the phrases she kept repeating all evening. The light is about to go red so I speed up a little. For a second I debate between accelerating or braking. I accelerate. The next stoplight a block up forces me to halt. I lowered my window, put out a cigarette. I can’t help but notice a pickup truck with all the advantages of a green light going for it choosing not to move but, rather, choosing to block my path. Out comes this dude with a long weapon, very long. Actually, he wasn’t some dude, he was just a kid, and a really young kid at that, but in that moment I’m not worried so much about his age as about the weapon he’s carrying. As soon as he’s out of the truck, the pickup peels out. He comes closer to me and yells, “Out of the car, cabron!” Feeling a little nervous here, and talking to him from the car window, I say, “Gypsies don’t read each others’ palms.” The boy’s eyes get big like he’s trying to figure out what I just said. “Get in and toss the gun in the back before the blues get here,” I order. “No, no, no, cabron. Out of the car!” he says a touch nervously, while hefting his weapon, which to be perfectly honest makes it look like he’s a guitarist about to launch into a song. He points it at me. “Stop bullshiting. Throw the gun in back and get in. This one came with a prize. I just pinched it and it has a bottle of wine, but you’re slowing me down, and soon we’ll both be fucked.” The boy knows I could be lying, but a patrol could be passing by any minute. And upon seeing his massive firearm a shootout would start that would most probably end with the law’s bullets knocking him to pieces. Anyway, in case he wasn’t aware of this, I made him aware of this entire possibility. He hesitated, looked around, and saw his colleagues’ pickup was long gone. He doesn’t have many options. “Put the gun on the floor in the back so no one sees it,” I tell him as he opens the car’s back door. “Sit up front so we can chat.” The kid puts the gun in back, gets in the front and relaxes. Who the hell would have thought such a great night could be fucked in an instant, inviting a little narco to take a spin around the city. Though, truth be told, the night hadn’t been so great. Cecilia wasn’t the brightest, and she wasn’t one of those girls who tends to get cajoled on the first date. That sort of paradigm means shit to me. I wouldn’t have thought she was easy if she would’ve given in on this second date; what’s more, I wouldn’t have thought she was easy if we’d done it on our first. But no, she had to be tight like that, tight and dumb.

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In a Way That Satiates

Now to the feasting and the musical gamboling in an area measuring almost a thousand square yards. The guests were from two friendly cartels: a few more than one hundred people bent on having a good time; to this number we must add another smaller number: forty? thirty? Tense faces with very raised eyebrows that were better ignored: hope struggling against two filthy doubts. The stench of death recently focused anew, made leathery perhaps, destroying thick, thorny, thwarted extremes … And the other division: listening to sounds from above and from below: first the harmony and then the stalkings, all those there’d been, footsteps that … who knows … And now, let’s take note of pleasant things: Los Rurales (it was their turn) were livening up the guzzling with their sappy and crackling music, which nobody paid much attention to because of the cha-cha-chugging guitar. Let’s also take note of the sumptuous snacks: the steaming carnitas, yum, and the pace of the swilling and willing women. The swarthiest were rushing to and fro serving, whereas the others, exempt from tiresome chores, were sitting and eating gracefully, embraced by those sombreroed loverboys, who all had bad breath. At first the drinks were cola sodas: Coca and Pepsi, each according to his preference, but then they brought out the Fantas, Mirindas, and Orange Crushes. Not a lot of diversity, one might say.

Finally what everyone was waiting for: three ice chests filled with beer. Whoever wanted could get up and …

The first guy who went to get four beers opened one of the ice chests and—in order to find the coldest ones—dug down through the chunks of ice with, let us say, beautiful despair, and got the surprise of his life: because there below he found three heads with mussed hair: three incredibly well-executed beheadings! Three: indeed! Three, and the rhyme: beers-ears: what a paradox. Luminous terror: even effusive, because the dead faces (more white than brown) belonged to people the locals knew, three married men: ranchers, young (that too) fathers (cheers!), so their wives had to come see what so many others were already seeing. The screams, the disconcerting ayayayays of all who approached. Heads together at the very bottom of an ice chest without any blood below. Indeed! A dull grisly chill, but none of those looking (up close) acted impetuously; instead they waited for the widows to decide what to do. First came the six blowhards: their anger manifest in their many brusque gestures, as well as their badly formed sentences, their verbal trip-ups, if you wish, after seeing those perfect beheadings: frozen trio: fancy that! forced brotherhood. Finally the widows arrived, and one of them said that if the heads of their beloved husbands weren’t kept in the ice chest, where the hell would they put them? That is: they were just fine there: the whole thing should be left intact until all three reached the best decision. There was agreement, expressed with the nodding of three living, widowed, sad heads with long hair.

The sequence of speculations arising on all sides brought one conjecture that arrived without stumbling: TREACHERY: somebody they knew gave the tip-off, was the facilitator: who? A blot, and what the hell for? Along with this same train of thought came another not difficult to expound upon: it was probably a group that had been bribed with a lot of money: how many guys had to be involved in order to …? Those you-know-whats could be at the party, but nobody was going to say, “Yeah, it was me, so what?” Muteness, just like innocence, would spread out like a coarse and ordinary cloth. Nobody, then. Futile inquiries and the resulting dearth, everything seen in the next few days would be revealed in a different way. Some local rancher would have to go somewhere for the most unforeseen reason; that, then, the sure path of prophecy according to absences: that one and the other, and those over there, who suddenly, now where? Foggy figuring, but …

The Colombians left. They had to fly on to the United States so they could check out the secret runway, the one on the ranch near Denver, within a few hours. No setbacks, please, no matter how horrendous, otherwise … Because this business of beheadings was not a Colombian problem, even though one of them offered a casual tip just as he was placing his foot (booted) onto the stairs to the plane: The author of these crimes has to be someone from the Malpicas or the Cureños cartel … Oh, and something else: whoever put those heads in the ice chest is at the party … dancing? eating?: neither of these activities was going on because the party had ended ipso and the feeding had, too. Nobody could feel hungry after seeing the contents of that ice chest, and obviously they’d feel even less like dancing, because it would be very disrespectful to do so. Just imagine! Nor did the musicians want to keep doing their thing, as if nothing had happened. In fact, the two music groups left quite quickly in their pickups. Los Imprudentes hadn’t had the chance to play even one piece. Finally: little remained: only the pain of mourning, the pain itself—even at a monotonous trot—would slowly diminish.

Amid the sadness the practical aspect had to arise: the—cerebral?— widows winding their way toward a solution: little by little: what to do and what to avoid. Therefore: their whispers continued. In the meantime, consider the other part: the slow, thoughtful departure of many, the flight of opposing forces: slow flight. Total dejection with dollops of propitious suspicion, still twisted. Inside the main mansion the four local blowhards were getting confused listing all the known members of the Malpicas as well as the Cureños, but infiltration, such sophisticated espionage, in their midst—how?—the planner of, or rather, the intellectual author of. Meanwhile the departures continued of many people who really did lament the beheadings, in particular the sinister idea of placing the heads in such an inappropriate spot, right? or let’s see: why the wit? Sick humor and horror: hindering one another. The weird part later was when the three widows remained, accompanied by about ten or eleven very understanding women. Female wake-weeping that waned with time, it had to; especially because the mental always ends up defeating the sentimental. That’s the way of the world.

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On the Drug War in Mexico: An Introduction

How to document fifty years later what is now happening in Tamaulipas if there is no record of anything the next day? —Diego Osorno

Over the past five years Mexicans have witnessed a horrifying spectacle of violence: on street corners, front pages, and television screens. The defining image of the time has become the public display of tortured and otherwise destroyed bodies. Discussing this descent into hell, one often begins with the numbers and even the numbers are violent.

In 2011, some 12,000 people were murdered in situations presumably related to the drug trafficking industry in Mexico. In 2010, the number was more than 15,000 killed. Between December 2006, when Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) took office and declared a “war on drug traffickers” and January 2012, some 47,000 to 60,000 people have been slain, and some 5,000 disappeared (depending on the source). This grim fact has become the centerpiece of Mexican politics and an inescapable force in daily life throughout much of the country.

The numbers do nothing to indicate the nature of the violence, which ranges from the “professional” tightly packed cluster of 9 mm bullets piercing a windshield to the theatrical brutality of beheadings, dismemberments, and the twisting of defaced and broken bodies into messages, acts of public relations signifying this can happen to you, it can happen to anyone.

But neither the number of people killed nor the cruelty of the killings can be understood without simultaneously taking into account another pair of figures. First, Calderón has repeatedly said that more than 90 percent of those killed were involved in “the struggle of some cartels against others.” Calderón does not cite a source for this estimate. The underlying logic, however, is clear: if you’re dead, you’re guilty. The perennial official refrain is, “En algo andaba,” or, they were up to something; they were in the game.

Second, according to information that the Mexican Federal Attorney General’s office submitted to the Mexican Senate in April 2010, the government investigates fewer than 5 percent of all the homicides presumed to be related to organized crime, and thus falling under their jurisdiction. How can Calderón claim that 90 percent of the dead were somehow involved “in the struggle of some cartels against others” if the government does not even investigate 95 percent of the killings?

The November 2011 Human Rights Watch Report, Neither Rights Nor Security: Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico’s “War on Drugs,” presents an even more dismal record of investigations: “The Federal Prosecutor’s Office, which has constitutional authority to prosecute killings tied to organized crime, told Human Rights Watch it had only opened 997 investigations into homicides tied to organized crime from 2007 to August 2011.” That would mean that by August 2011 there were fewer than 1,000 investigations into some 40,000 murders. This represents a prodigious success rate, where the objective is not justice but impunity.

 *  *  *

Murder and impunity: these two facts set the coordinates for the nightmare that is tearing Mexico apart. Presumed guilt is the official logic of the government and exemption from punishment is the result of that logic. Thus, to understand the impact of all this murder on Mexican daily life, one must keep in mind not only the 47,000 to 60,000 dead, but the fact that their killers are on the loose, acting with terrifying freedom of movement.

And still the death tallies conceal so much. Some 50,000 people killed in utter impunity means there are hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers, of siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles who lost their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews and know that the killers roam free; there are millions of friends whose friends were killed; millions of people who know someone killed; entire neighborhoods and cities and regions steeped in trauma and fear.

And then there are the dreaded side industries. With the success of violence and impunity all manner of organized crime has exploded in Mexico during Calderón’s administration. Illegal drug businesses and their subsidiaries apparently like to diversify their investment portfolios. Kidnappings, human trafficking (forced labor and sex slavery), human smuggling (charging migrants fees to lead them across the border), extortion, auto theft, cattle rustling, and even mass oil theft (direct from the national oil company’s pipelines and then smuggled into the United States) are all on the rise. Kidnappings in Mexico increased 200 percent between 2006 and 2010. And that number does not include the kidnapping en masse of Central and South American migrants crossing Mexico on their way to the United States. The numbers here defy comprehension. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission, a quasi-autonomous federal institution, documented 9,758 such kidnappings between September 2008 and February 2009, and 11,333 between April and September 2010.

 *  *  *

Who is doing all this and why? Without investigation, we are left with piecemeal analysis and speculation. Certainly armed members of drug trafficking organizations engage in gun battles, execute their rivals, and have a hand in all the aforementioned side jobs. The army has also carried out extra-judicial executions (the Human Rights Watch report describes several of these). Police officers routinely work for drug trafficking organizations and freelance as gunmen, thieves, and thugs. And surely there are all manner of copycats who, in the new climate of impunity, often find it easier than not to kill someone whom they have just kidnapped, extorted, raped, robbed, or just bumped up against.

When Calderón donned his general’s cap and declared his war, Mexico’s homicide rate had been in steady decline for fifteen years. Within two years of his administration the homicide rate reversed this decline and reached the 1992 level of nineteen homicides per 100,000 people. And that was before things got really bad. How did this happen? Any useful answer to this question must be complex. The myth of evil, warring cartels facing a valiant government fighting against them is useless. So, too, is a vision of the U.S. government as the world’s largest drug dealer, calling all the shots from the bowels of the Pentagon while the Mexican government serves as its lackey. Some drug traffickers are—if anyone is—evil, some government officials may be valiant, the U.S. government has undoubtedly overseen major drug deals over the past few decades, and the Mexican government is involved in the drug trade at every level, in every state. The world of global drug production, shipping, distribution, sales, and consumption is too complex, however, to be understood in any single us-and-them story.

Instead of talking about good and evil, let’s talk about industry. Illegal narcotics are a major global industry. The United Nations estimates that the market for illegal drugs generates somewhere around $350 billion to $500 billion a year. The number, like all such estimates, is suspect. It is a guess. But the guess gives us an idea of the industry’s dimensions; it serves as an indication of scale. Global publishing, for example, is estimated at being worth about $100 billion. The global soft drink and bottled water industry is estimated at being worth around $186 billion. The world market in prescription drugs topped $600 billion in sales in 2006, with $252 billion in the United States. But with commodities like cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines, illegality has become the defining feature of the industry. I fully agree with Howard Campbell, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas, El Paso, when he writes in his book Drug War Zone that drug-trafficking “is an illegal form of capitalist accumulation. In some cases it is an almost caricatured celebration of consumerism and wealth … facilitated by neoliberalism and collusion with the state … ultimately the drug trade is part of the U.S. and Mexican economic systems.” So is the prosecution of the so-called drug war. Billions of dollars are spent on policing, incarceration, and military deployment and aid. The war itself is an industry.

The United States government declared the so-called “war on drugs” in 1971. Since then the legacy has been catastrophic. Prohibition and interdiction have failed completely, colossally: as the recent Global Commission on Drug Policy report states, there has been a steady increase in the consumption of opiates, cocaine, and cannabis for many years. Drug criminalization has created the largest per capita prison population in the world in the United States. Disproportionately, people of color are incarcerated on minor drug possession and distribution charges, and then, as felons, denied many fundamental social and political rights, as Michelle Alexander documents in her excellent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Latin American countries have witnessed death, destruction, and the erosion of democratic struggles under the enormous cash influence of shipping illegal drugs and aiding the United States in combating those shipments. It is impossible to comprehend Mexico’s torment without looking hard at this sordid history of failed U.S. policy.

But one must also recall the particular Mexican context, beginning with, for example, the fact that for decades the Mexican government and the ruling Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) coordinated directly at all levels—municipal, state, federal, and the armed forces—with drug traffickers, while the Drug Enforcement Administration looked on. Secondly, the conflicts within the Mexican political elite—beginning with the transition between the Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo Administrations in 1994 and deepening with the PRI’s fall and the election of Vicente Fox from the Pan in 2000—disturbed these relationships, but did not eradicate them. And lastly, Felipe Calderón’s inauguration in December 2006 took place within the context of a deep political crisis: widespread allegations of electoral fraud, mass mobilizations throughout the country, and a low- intensity class war coming to a boil.

Under these conditions, Calderón came into office and declared his war in December 2006. What was he seeking to combat? Perhaps his illegitimacy? But whether he was cynical, belligerent or incompetent, or some combination, is perhaps of less importance. The results of his botched war are what need urgent redress, which will prove illusive without first escaping the vicious circle of drug-war logic.

 *  *  *

Submerged in a vortex of violence and impunity, Mexico has become the world’s most dangerous country for journalists. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission has documented sixty-six murders and twelve disappearances of journalists and received more than 600 complaints of abuses against journalists since 2000, with more than forty of the killings having taken place since 2006.

While the Mexican state refuses or fails to investigate the killings and crimes, Mexican journalists have not surrendered to silence. Mexican reporters continue to walk the streets, dig through public records, visit crime scenes, talk to witnesses, and build sources in an effort to report on and publish stories of the violence, the fear, the government complicity and incompetence, the horrors of organized crime killers, and the daily efforts to survive it all. Mexican writers, poets, filmmakers, and artists have also used their crafts to describe and denounce this reign of mayhem.

There is a long list of reporters who have done amazing work in near-impossible situations: the staffs of Ríodoce in Culiacán, Sinaloa, of El Diario in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, of La Trinchera in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, and of the online newspaper El Faro in El Salvador; individuals such as Daniela Rea at Reforma, Marcela Turati at Proceso, as well as independent writers like Diego Osorno, Alejandro Almazán, Emiliano Ruiz Parra, Froylán Enciso, publishing in the Mexico City-based magazine Gatopardo. Their work is excellent, vital, and almost never appears in translation in English-language publications. This issue of ZYZZYVA stands against that unfortunate and common oversight, and in doing so stands with the Mexican journalists and writers in their struggles against silence.

The two nonfiction pieces here are examples of both the high quality of Mexican journalism and that such quality can be achieved even in the most dangerous and unpredictable of regions: La Frontera Chica, as Mexicans call it—the Small Border separating Texas and the Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. These reporters sought to break the silence surrounding the atrocities in La Frontera Chica, not by being gung-ho or gonzo journalists, but by traveling carefully and quietly and seeking out the survivors, witnesses, and relatives of victims and listening to their stories.

As described in Diego Osorno’s phenomenal piece, “The Battle of Ciudad Mier” (first published in Gatopardo), in early 2010 the towns along and near the Small Border witnessed a war within a war: in the midst of Calderón’s campaign, prior drug trafficking allies and colleagues, the Gulf Cartel, and their armed wing, the Zetas, split and went at each other’s throats, unleashing a wave of murder and dread. Osorno portrays the collision of forces that led to turning Ciudad Mier into a kind of drug- war ghost town, and the insidious benefit so much misery may have had for some.

Marcela Turati, first as a freelance reporter, later as a staff writer with Proceso magazine, and in her devastating book, Fuego Cruzado (Crossfire), has reported from the perspective of those who have most suffered the violence: the family members of the killed and disappeared and the survivors of massacres. Her piece, published here in English as “The National Decay,” was written under tight deadline and was published in Proceso. It illustrates Turati’s technique: when a series of mass graves were being dug up in Tamaulipas in early 2011, she traveled to the morgue in Matamoros, then one of the most dangerous cities in the country. She found a chilling scene and a series of stories in the line of family members from across the country who had arrived at the morgue seeking their loved ones among the disinterred bodies. Their stories, told together, form a devastating critique of the maelstrom of impunity.

The related fiction in this issue may seem outrageous and improbable, until you’ve read the nonfiction pieces. The stories, however, offer another dimension of life in a particular hell. Mauro Gallardo’s story, “Get in and Toss the Gun in the Back,” serves as a kind of alternate universe where, in the ultra-violent and unpredictable narco-society, somehow humor, logic, and cool-headedness can prevail. The amazing and sorely missed Daniel Sada’s intoxicating narrative “In a Way That Satiates” replicates in the reader’s mind the fractures and splinters encountered at every turn when confronted with the new narco-reality, while recounting the bewildering, absurd, and tortuous circumstances of people who lose their loved ones.

 *  *  *

La Frontera Chica is still mostly submerged in silence. Much of the war between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas (and their relative allies in the police and armed forces) has spread south to engulf Veracruz state. The daily onslaught of killings, impunity, and fear continues. The presidential elections coming up in July have almost been ceded in advance, via resignation and exhaustion, to the very party that dominated Mexico for seventy-one years and for decades oversaw the mostly smooth functioning of the drug trafficking networks.

And yet in the depths of such despair, in 2010 a massive social movement against the drug war, led by family members of the slain, grew and changed the debate in Mexico, dismantling the logic of “if you’re dead, you’re dirty.” The movement took its initial momentum from the words and actions of the writer, journalist and poet Javier Sicilia, whose son Juan Francisco was killed in a massacre of seven people in Morelos state. Local politicians initially speculated that the dead must have been involved with the cartels, but not a single one had any connection to organized crime. Sicilia’s despair and outrage took voice in a call for justice and a call to end the presumed guilt and imposed anonymity of victims. Other families soon joined him and the movement expanded, taking on national dimensions, traveling in caravans to both the northern and southern borders, acquiring such power that they compelled Calderón and a session of Congress to meet with them in open, televised talks.

How could anything like fiction or poetry be useful in a time like this? Cristina Rivera Garza, a brilliant novelist, scholar and poet from Matamoros, gives her answer and in so doing opens a small, urgent space of courage with her short manifesto in favor of using writing to confront the pain and the impunity, in favor of going on, the title of which I think of, in this context, like a talisman: seguir escribiendo, keep writing.

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In the Spring Issue

In Mexico, poets, journalists, artists, bloggers and students lead the fight for civil society and conscience now being called “The Mexican Spring.” A fight against violence and corruption, but also against the lies and submission propagated by Mexico’s all powerful media monopolies. ZZZYVA’s [Spring] issue on the Mexican drug war takes you to the front lines with pieces by Mexico’s bravest and most talented independent journalists. Anyone who reads it will get a strong dose of Mexico’s darkness, but also of the exhilarating new winds gathering force every day.—Francisco Goldman

Essential pieces of recent journalism from Mexico in translation for English-language readers, from the front-lines of the drug war in Mexico.—Daniel Hernandez, author of “Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century”

The newest issue of ZYZZYVA is our biggest—and most praised—yet. It comes in at 256 pages, including 16 pages of color art, and features a special section on writing from Mexican journalists and novelists on the drug war therecompelling work appearing for the first time in English.

Here’s what’s inside:

  • Fiction from Peter Orner (on the peculiar play between two young brothers in 1970s Chicago), Wanda Coleman (on the sole white man living in a neighborhood in Watts just after the ’65 riots), and Daniel Sada (on three heads discovered in an ice chest during a drug cartel’s party).
  • Verse from Philip Aijian, Kathleen Boyle, W.S. Di Piero, David Hernandez, Jonathon Keats, Ada Limon, D.A. Powell, Corey Van Landingham, Renee K. Nelson, and Henry W. Leung.
  • Elena Mauli Shapiro’s melancholy story about a crumbling office romance, Lindsey Thordarson’s historical fiction of a teen girl making a life alone in the woods, and Don Waters’s riveting, disturbing tale of a woman who rescues animals and her excruciating visits to a cougar at a zoo.
  • Reportage from Diego Enrique Osorno, who tries to puzzle together what exactly happened when the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel clashed in the border town of Ciudad Mier, and Marcela Turati, who visits a morgue in a northern Mexico and talks to the desperate people who have long been searching for their missing loved ones. And an essay from Cristina Rivera Garza on finding reasons to write amid the mayhem.
  • And introducing Patrick Coleman and Benjamin T. Miller (and his story of the all-too-delicate relationship between an L.A. construction worker and his offbeat girlfriend).
  • The Spring issue also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco by featuring work exclusively from its West Coast artists: Sandow Birk, Timothy Cummings, Stephanie Syjuco, Travis Somerville, Anthony Discenza, Chester Arnold, Packard Jennings, Andy Diaz Hope, and Walter Robinson.

Get your four-issue subscription to ZYZZYVA now and start with the Spring issue. (Copies are limited.)

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