Chana's Reviews > The Tortilla Curtain

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
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's review
Mar 27, 11

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bookshelves: american, mexico, political, received-through-bookcrossing, sociology, satire, released-through-bookcrossing
Read from March 22 to 27, 2011

If you are trying to read a happy book then just put this one down right now. Nothing good ever happens in this book. It is called a tragicomedy, but I only saw the tragedy.
This book is like a modern day Grapes of Wrath, set in Topanga Canyon, CA. with illegals from Mexico and the wealthy whites who evidently moved in when the hippies moved out.
I lived in the San Fernando Valley CA for over 30 years of my life and one of those years I lived in Topanga. That was in 1976 and I can tell you that there were no Mexicans living in those ravines, just spaced out, drugged out, nutty or criminal white people. The Mexicans had too much sense, the illegals lived like 30 to an apartment in the poor parts of the city and did every dirty job for dirt cheap that Americans didn't want to do.
In the 1980's, if you could afford a maid, she was likely to be an illegal Mexican. Maybe that is still true, I don't know. But she wasn't living in a ravine, she either lived in at her job or she lived in the city.
Anyway, in this book you have Candido and America, an illegal couple from Mexico, living in a ravine in Topanga. The work exchange is across the highway and one day Candido gets hit by a well to do white guy's car. The white guy, who considers himself a sensitive liberal person, turns out not like Mexicans very much. And this accident is the start of his self realization. It is the kind of mentality of loving mankind at a distance, but not in my neighborhood. And I understand that. I mean, think about it, the Mexicans want their land, culture, pride, language, homes...of course they do, but they want our country as well! They want our social services, education, jobs, money, hospitals and plumbing, of course they do! But why should we do that? If they want to live in the U.S. (oh I'm going to be offending some people here) why don't we just annex Mexico and make that the U.S. too, set up some decent plumbing, pave the streets, set up garbage service and make it as nice a place to live as we have. Then instead of them having their country and ours also, we can have our country and theirs as well! Why not, my ancestors stole this land honestly! Oh wait, they don't want Mexico to be the U.S., they just want to live in the U.S. and take what they can from it. Real Estate, Real Estate, isn't that what the whole world is fighting over!?!
By the way, the white guys wife is a Real Estate Agent. I suppose that is funny.
Any way, I refuse to be drawn into the lovely game of white guilt. They are illegals, they would have been better off to stay in Mexico. On a personal level I felt sorry for them but they chose to come here with out the legalities in place.
A parallel is also drawn between the coyotes and the Mexicans. A case of aren't they cute, you know, feeding the coyotes and naming all the streets Spanish names and building the houses in a Spanish style. Cute, but not up close. Up close it is dangerous, dirty, bad for the neighborhood, makes building fences necessary. And who is eating all the pets? Hmmm? Meow
A social commentary and a very depressing one. Don't expect anything good to happen. Well actually there is ray of hope at the end, but I'm pretty sure, based on the rest of the book, that it won't work out, some disaster will follow.

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