The main theme of Paul Theroux’s recent travelogue on Mexico is economic and social exploitation. Large corporations have usurped the role of governments through global free trade agreements to increase their profits. He cites the narrow band of factories – appliance, textile, pharmaceutical and automobile manufactures who picked up and moved across the Mexican border to exploit cheaper labour, as evidence. The small Mexican farmer was dealt a significant economic blow by genetically modified crops and competition from huge American factory farms as a result of the 1994 NAFTA agreement. The practice of some NGO’s and aid organizations to decide on what impoverished communities need, without actually consulting them is too common he says. e.g., fresh water is needed and a school is built. Foreign aid as practiced in the third world, is essentially a failure, futile in relieving poverty and often harmful, relieving the ills of a few at the expense of the many. Pretty harsh words. Paul cites his extensive travel in Africa over fifty years as the basis of his first hand conclusions. He sees the same failures in Mexico. The Mexican drug cartels known as narcos, have exploited the safety of people. Everyone is very cautious and lives in a gated secure community whenever possible. The U.S. is about to declare these narcos as terrorist organizations. However, it’s the huge American demand for illicit drugs which fuels this mayhem. I stuggled with this book. Parts of it were interesting and other parts were somewhat boring. When he talks about Mexican social trends, cultural issues and literature, he is at his best. When he bogs down is a small town to interview obscure individuals, the story slows to a crawl. The “plain of snakes” does not actually exist per se but this title serves to sell more copies of the book no doubt. In any case, after writing more than 50 published books, he has earned the right to ramble on. I would give it a 3 out of 5 star rating. Looking much forward to getting down to Mexico again and feeling the warmth ourselves firsthand.