Book review : In the Yucatan, by Earl Shorris

This is a book about the power of community using the leverage of love to challenge injustice.  The writing is elegant without being showy.  The story is grim, taking place mostly in a filthy and brutal jail cell in a pueblo in Yucatan, over more than a month.  It depicts a union struggle against all the usual power players in league with each other:  police, politicians, union bosses, owners, the elite.  Yet the message is uplifting, tender, and especially revealing of the mechanical advantage of resolve, and of love, to overcome the structural greed which often victimizes the poor.

The author demonstrates exceptional insight into the culture and history of the Maya in Yucatan, while also shedding light on certain protections and flaws in the Mexican Constitution.  A young union leader and his American lawyer (married to a Mayan woman) are both imprisoned in the same cell, along with 21 union members held separately in the same jail, for attempting to form a rogue union. Anyone who wants to understand how oppressed people retain their dignity in the face of economic victimization will be edified by reading this exquisitely rendered story.  (The Maya remain unconquered, in spirit.)  The book is shelved in the special collection room at Merida English Library.