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This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and…

This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez

by Robert Andrew Powell

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Robert Andrew Powell moved from Miami (a city with its own history of drug violence) to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in the midst of the drug wars that ravaged the border city and took an enormous number of lives. Powell, known for his sports writing, follows the Indios, Juarez’s soccer team that is struggling to remain in the Mexican Primera Division.

Powell embeds with the now defunct Indios in the final season of their short stint in the league. The team is supposed to be a bright point in a city with a serious dearth of bright points, but they can’t quite live up to it. More than a soccer book, the book is really about Juarez; its people, its strength, and the pall that hangs over the city – a result of the astronomic murder rate in a war raged by the drug cartels.

Powell gives a riveting account of what it’s like to live in a city under siege, but one where most people try to get on with their lives despite the high chance of being murdered for no reason. The horror of the daily murders – several of which hit close to home for him – finally drive Powell from Juarez, but not until after the Indios collapse and are relegated. ( )
  Hagelstein | Mar 21, 2015 |
The violence that is raining down on the people of Ciudad Juarez is shocking. The most dangerous city in the world – that is what Juarez is now currently known for. Quoting the book, "The murder rate skyrocketed from three hundred in one year to 1,600 the next to 2,700 the year I got here." "This is a city where you can be killed at any time." Reports of the violence reach US news reports in abstract ways; we read and hear about murders, drug cartels and it is hard to imagine or maybe it easy to not imagine that people are living in this violent and dangerous city. "Like most Americans, I haven't thought about Mexico all that much. It's there, I know right below Texas and a few other states. … No other country holds more influence over modern American culture. It's time to look at it." This Love is Not For Cowards is a non-fictional account told from the perspective of a writer who moves down to Ciudad Juarez for one year to live, he writes about the people he knows in the city and at the center of the story is Juarez's soccer team.

The struggle for Juarez's soccer team, the Indios, to stay in the primera league (equivalent to the major leagues in US – in Mexico if a team is underperforming – think the Cubs – eventually the league will kick the team out of the primera and send it down to the minor leagues to improve http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promotion_and_relegation), this struggle to stay in the primera league is a metaphor for the people living in Juarez attempting to survive and hope for the return of the city of their memories. The close contact with the players of the Indios provides Powell a vehicle to talk about individuals living in Juarez and the effect the violence, immigration and other topics have on them. Okay, and before we go any further, I am in no way bashing the Cubs. I am in fact a fan of the Cubs.

The author - -Powell – touches on issues of governance, immigration, the negative effect NAFTA has had on the Mexican economy, immigration, violence, police investigations, femicide along the border, and the daily lives of individuals living in Mexico. This book is a good introduction to the current reality of the violence in Mexico for individuals who do not have a lot of background – cultural, sociological, and personal – concerning Mexico. Powell does a good job touching on important issues that relate directly or indirectly to the violence and describing it in a light and accessible way. Most of the book is enjoyable and humorous.

"I've already learned that Mexico is where American fads go for an encore."

The book reads like a decent magazine article. And the author brings to the forefront some very interesting issues,

"The governments of Mexico and the United States are not waging a war on drugs, they're waging a war for drugs. Forty years in, illegal drugs in the United States are cheaper, more available and of better quality."

Powell has a chapter addressing the murder of women along the border and in Ciudad Juarez. He discusses the theory (supported by data from others whose theory it belongs to), that the murder rate of women in Ciudad Juarez and along the border is similar to the murder rate of women in any metropolitan area. He also posits that the records demonstrate that the majority of women murdered along the border are victims of domestic violence, not serial killers. It is an interesting theory, although I have no data to back it up (outside what was presented in the book). Ultimately, the reality is the border and Juarez are frighteningly dangerous for men, women, children, the old and the young. Juarez and Mexico were not always like this; this move to violence is recent in the past decade. And it is heartbreaking. I have spent much time traveling, living and working in Mexico, it has always been my favorite place in the world. I do not mean the resorts or the beaches, yes they are nice – but the villages and the cities of Mexico is where I prefer to be. I appreciate that Powell is bringing attention to this issue stateside, I do believe the US has the power to help and improve the situation. Likely, it can never return to the Mexico of my memories but the people there deserve a safe place to live.

Having written all this, unfortunately, the book was not for me. I found the observations to be simplistic and lacking information or depth. However, I do think that for most American readers interested in this topic This Love Is Not For Cowards would be enjoyable. I have personal experience living in Mexico, contact with Mexican family and have studied the issues addressed in this book from an academic perspective. Therefore, I came to this book hoping for a more in-depth analysis of the issues and that is not what this book is about. In the end, the book attempts to make personal an issue that seems so very abstract and remote, thus I applaud the author. ( )
1 vote ReginaR | Mar 11, 2012 |
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Traces a season in the Mexican border city where in spite of brutal violence its citizens are held together by a shared love for its soccer team, and addresses local drug and human trafficking issues and the city's high murder rate.

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