la perdida

November 11, 2008

perdida

By coincidence I had two encounters with Mexico City in as many days this weekend. Contrary to its (unfair) reputation as a polluted, crowded megapolis, I have happy memories of visiting with Mr. Snow some years ago, finding instead a dynamic, romantic, down-to-earth working city with world class sights.

Our closest intimation to the crime level many people point to were the various police, army and security crews patrolling the city in their trucks, bristling with semi-automatic weapons. Crime was also one of the main themes of both my encounters. The first, the graphic novel La Perdida by Jessica Abel (check her cool website by the way) follows Carla, a naïve American girl who moves to Mexico City in the hopes of finding her Mexican roots (her estranged father is Mexican) and presumably in the process jazzing up her life.

Carla doesn’t speak Spanish and has never previously visited when she first arrives, but vigorously sets about trying to differentiate and distinguish herself from the American expat community. Maddeningly for her she is never fully accepted as being Mexican by the ragtag group of local hobby Communists and small-time drug pushers that she has fallen in with.

At first, the book appears to follow Carla in her superficial, slightly whiny manner as she stumbles to find her way in her new Mexican life, but the pace soon picks up, and it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. It’s testimony to the very strong story-telling in this book that I not only read it from cover-to-cover in just two days, but (after having read a string of biographical graphic novels) also realized just ten pages from the end that the book was pure fiction, so convincing were the characters.

As a note, when she checked the book out for me, my friendly comic book librarian also promptly reserved Abel’s second book for me, the jolly-sounding ‘Life Sucks‘. I’ll report back on that too once I’ve gotten my hands on it.

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