Feb 10 2007


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Review of Cancun User’s Guide

So you think you know Mexico?

By Kelly Arthur Garrett

Excerpted from The Mexico Herald, Apr. 2, 2005, Page 4.

This is no garden-variety commercial tourist guide. Sure, neophytes get homespun advice on things like dealing with money (page 168) and pronouncing zanahoria (page 197). But they also get what amounts to a 200-page expanded essay on what’s going on around them not just in Cancun, but anywhere from Chiapas to Chihuahua.

Siegel is incapable of writing a dull sentence.”

The bulk of it is the result of a decades-long writing project Siegel calls “The Real Mexico.” A title like that sends up huge, flapping red flags, but Siegel’s premise seems merely that the “real” Mexico is wherever Mexicans are, and not confined to picturesque folk dance settings. That’s hardly a radical thought, but his choice of a prototype for such a place will raise some eyebrows. It’s Cancun itself.

For those who have a hard time considering a recently carved-from-the-jungle wet T-shirt mecca to be a “real” example of anything, Siegel has a calm explanation. “Cancun is an excellent framework for seeing Mexico, as it is a microcosm of the country at large,” he writes. “Its inhabitants have come here from all over the Republic to seek a better life.”

He goes on to prove his point rather well, most effectively via a series of short oral histories on the lives of some architects, engineers and other workers who created Cancun over the years. These people are as real as it gets. And the list includes Siegel himself, who was lured to Cancun by a job offer from Fonatur, the Mexican tourist board that financed the resort’s construction.

Siegel was a lucid chronicler of the unprecedented (and so far unrepeated) cultural outburst in the United States of the 1960s and early 1970s, most notably for Playboy in its prime. His writing has lost none of its fat-free clarity.

When your dinner party lulls, open the Cancun User’s Guide up and read a paragraph or two at random. Since Siegel is incapable of writing a dull sentence, your guests will spend the rest of the evening discussing, debating and delighting in the endless supply of pleasure and enigma this bewitching country offers

“The Cancun User’s Guide is the best book
I’ve ever read about Mexico
– and I’ve read a few!”

Laurence Gonzales
Writer for National Geographic Adventure

“Wonderfully original and reported with clear eyes.”
– Craig Stoltz, Washington Post

“Thank you for being so candid
with your writing!”

Jim Pennet, Bellingham, Massachusetts

Joel Richardson
Project Executive, Tourism and Parks Directorate
Fredericton, NB, Canada E3B 5H1

“A great resource!”

“Very informative!”
Beth Passmore

“An excellent job!”
M.G. Wolfe

“Just finished reading the Cancun User’s Guide
and want to congratulate you!”

Carmen Pino, Realcorp, Cancun

“I love the frankness!”

“I have rarely seen a guide book written with such a deep personal understanding of the country and its people!”
Otto Steinmayer, Sarawak, Malaysia

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