El Narco – The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels

“It is a medicine. And it cures pain. All pain. It cures the pain you have in your body and the pain in your heart. You feel like your body is mud. All mud. You feel like you could melt away and disappear. And it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. You are happy. But you are not laughing. This is medicine, you understand?”
― Ioan Grillo, El Narco: The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels

Anyone who watches TV and reads newspapers, knows what is going on in Mexico. Ioan Grillos El Narco: The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I decided to read this book because I generally know what Mexican drug war is all about, yet I didn’t know when it started or why or details on how. El Narco explains it all, book is divided in three parts:  I History, II Anatomy and III Destiny. I think that titles of the chapters describe these three parts very well.

History: Poppies, Hippies, Cartels, Tycoons, Democrats, Warlords.
Anatomy: Traffic, Murder, Culture, Faith Insurgency
Destiny: Prosecution, Expansion, Diversification, Peace

El Narco is well-written, I like how Grillo builds this book on personal experiences of the people he has interviewed and how he tells us all sides of the story: views of ordinary people, different agencies, federal police, army, members of Congress, lawyers, activists, gang members, smugglers and drug addicts.

4/5 stars.

If you want to buy this book or borrow it from the library, you might find it easier under the name: El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency.
Upsetting to read due to fair amount of violence and injustice. And the numbers are horrifying.
Great book if you’d like to learn more about drug wars in Mexico, if you like history and generally enjoy reading nonfiction.
4. El Narco concentrates on stories of the people and because of this it may seem more like a collection of essays than a book.
5. I liked the chronological order and how the parts were built. It seemed logical.

“As tens of thousand of bodies pile up, a strategy of silence won’t make it go away. In Spanish, they call that “using your thumb to block out the sun.”
― Ioan Grillo, El Narco: The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels

Buy El Narco: The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels by Grillo, Ioan (2013) on Amazon

7 thoughts on “El Narco – The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels

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  1. I stay away from controversial subjects like this one. I don’t understand the current fascination of people with this. All the TV shows that are making this “lifestyle” look appealing despite its reality are beyond me. But your review makes this book look interesting and educational.

  2. It annoys me how people don’t have any idea what’s going on in the world and ones who do, they don’t really care. I don’t really know the details of what’s happening in Mexico, I guess I should read something on this topic. This book seems very interesting. I wish people would stop using drugs and that dealers would get life sentence for their actions… and maybe it would help with the situation in Mexico and in South America.

    1. On the other hand, I think maybe it’s good that people concentrate on their own lives and problems first and don’t cause more problems for others. I think most people care too, just maybe it’s hard to show that you care when you can’t really do much more than that. It was interesting book :) And I agree, hope the sentences here would be much longer than what they are.

  3. I’ve never read this one, but your review (and that first quote! Holy cow!) gets me soooo curious that I might need to get myself a copy of this lovely book. Thanks for the review!

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