God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

Adventurer Richard Grant decided to travel the length of the notoriously dangerous Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico even thought he’d been warned off. He wrote about it in God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre.

In the beginning it was rollicking fun, even as it had an edge to it. Many strange and wondrous cultures and customs were explored. But the deeper he got into the mountains, the darker it got. This was fifteen years ago, and plenty of areas back then were essentially lawless, with major poppy and marijuana cultivation. It’s undoubtedly much more violent now.

Entire towns had been wiped out by blood feuds between warring cartels, or because of perceived insults that machismo dictates must be met by killing those who insulted you. This deranged machismo leads to endless killings and counter-killings and includes married men beating or killing their twenty year old girlfriends after discovering they were not her first lover. It also includes the custom of men capturing teenage girls, raping them until they are pregnant, then marrying them. Huge amounts of alcohol and cocaine are routinely consumed.

At one point, a guide remarks that Mexico seems to be moving towards democracy. In a prescient comment, Grant said he thought Mexico was moving the other way, towards the lawlessness and blood feuds of the Sierra Madre. If you want to know where the insane and escalating violence in Mexico border towns now comes from, look to the code of machismo of the Sierra Madre.

The book ends with him being hunted in a forest by cocaine-fueled Mexican hillbillies who wanted to kill him for sport. He managed to escape and says he will never return.

Hunter Thompson had the same experience when he lived and rode with the Hell’s Angels in the early 1960’s then wrote a book about it. For reasons never explained, they ended up beating him so severely that he nearly died and he spend months in the hospital. He said the only option was to insure you never cross paths with them again.

But in Mexico border towns it is not possible to never cross paths with the drug cartels. There are too many of them, their ranks include the police and military, and they have armaments and money that the Hell’s Angels of the 1960’s could not have even conceived of possessing.

And they are coming across the border.

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