Amexica War Along the Borderline

Ed Vulliamy




Trade Paperback

432 Pages



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In 2009, Ed Vulliamy traveled two thousand miles along the frontier from the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico, and from Tijuana to Matamoros, a journey through a kaleidoscopic landscape of corruption and all-out civil war. He describes in revelatory detail the dreaded narco gangs; the smuggling of people, weapons, and illegal drugs; and the interrelated economies of drugs and the ruthless, systematic murder of young women in Ciudad Juarez. Amexica takes us far beyond today’s headlines. It is a street-level portrait, by turns horrific and sublime, of a place and people in a time of war as much as of the war itself.


Praise for Amexica

“Vulliamy, with a mix of irony and pathos, writes like a latter-day Graham Greene . . . Like all good travel writing, Amexica is vivid, colorful, and exotic, filled with striking vignettes and larger-than-life characters.”—Tamar Jacoby, The New York Times Book Review

“Previously, to understand the ruthlessness, ambition and impact of today’s global criminals, you needed to read Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah and Misha Glenny’s McMafia. Now, you also need to read Vulliamy’s Amexica.”—Brian Schofield, The Times (London)

"Vuillamy paints a terrifying and authoritative portrait of violence."—David Rieff, The Wall Street Journal

“Extraordinary.”Vanity Fair

“The author writes lyrically, with the enticing rhythm of his sentences contrasting jarringly with the degradation of humanity found on nearly every page . . . Most of the narrative feels fresh because it is based so heavily on Vulliamy’s own wanderings . . . An impressively rendered, nightmare-inducing account.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Journalist Vulliamy has long reported on life along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, writing about international trucking, sweatshop factories, and illegal immigration. In this compelling book, he brings together the economic and cultural factors that have led to escalating violence along the border in territory that seems not to be under the control of either government. Traveling the frontier from the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico, he interviewed drug dealers, law enforcers, and ordinary citizens caught in the gory violence and material excess surrounding narco-trafficking. Glorified in narcocorrido music and American film, drug traffickers are now involved in smuggling illegal immigrants, charging taxes to coyotes and ransom to families of immigrants kidnapped once they cross the border. He chronicles startling violence from a 'soupmaker' who dissolves dead bodies in lye and acid to young traffickers who worship a culture of death that combines Catholicism and pre-Columbian faiths. Vulliamy examines the tough Arizona anti-immigration law and other immigration policies that are only now beginning to recognize that narco-trafficking can no longer be seen as the problem and responsibility of Mexico alone."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

"Vulliamy spent decades reporting from the volatile U.S.-Mexico border. In 2009, he set out on a journey from San Diego, CA/Tijuana, Mexico, to Brownsville, TX/Matamoros, Mexico, in order to understand better this vast borderland. Through his travels, we meet some of the people who inhabit both sides of the boundary: innocents who struggle to survive everyday against a backdrop of poor prospects and raging violence; politicians, police and military who either struggle against the drug violence or are complicit in it; reporters who must balance risking their lives against fair and honest journalism; and the victims of all the violence, living and dead, and those who struggle to preserve their memories. Vulliamy writes as a war correspondent, covering a "post-political" war, with each casualty appearing more senseless than the one previous. This is a compelling look at the growing problems along the southwestern borderland. Its problems grab headlines daily and will likely continue for the foreseeable future."—Library Journal

"This engrossing travelogue traces the fraught Mexican-American border, where the collision of affluence and poverty is mediated by an ultraviolent narco-traficante culture. Vulliamy journeys from Tijuana, where the ruthless Arellano Félix Organization cartel battles rivals, to the Atlantic coast, where the even more ruthless Zetas cartel, armed with grenades and rocket launchers, battles the Mexican army and besieges whole cities. In the middle is Juárez, the world's most violent town, an anarchy of contending cartels, street gangs, and their police and military allies, where massacres, beheadings, and grisly sex murders are routine. Vulliamy's border isn't all drugs and killings; it's also narco-corrida songs that celebrate drugs and killings, the American gun industry that feeds off drug money and enables the killings, and a presiding quasi-Catholic cult of Santíssima Muerte (holiest death) . . . Vulliamy's is a vivid, disturbing dispatch from a very wild frontier."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

1LA PLAZAMy friend Jorge Fregoso and I were drinking a beer at a bar in a labyrinth of quiet alleyways away from central Tijuana one Saturday afternoon in September 2008 when the latest shooting started. It targeted an art deco mansion in the sedate Misión del Pedregal suburb. Federal army trucks arrived to its left, state police shock troops to the right. Few shots were fired from inside the building, it seemed, but a deafening fusillade of fire was aimed at the villa. Only the next day was it revealed to have procured, for the authorities, Eduardo Arellano Félix--"the Doctor"--chief
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  • Ed Vulliamy

  • Ed Vulliamy was the New York correspondent for The Observer from 1997 to 2003 and spent many years as an international correspondent for The Guardian. The author of Seasons in Hell, Vulliamy lives in London and Arizona.

  • Ed Vulliamy