Travel literature review: On Mexican Time

On Mexican TimeOn Mexican Time by Tony Cohan
4 star

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Scott Stampfli

Scott Stampfli is a Lonely Planet Staffer in the Oakland office.

On Mexican Time, by Tony Cohan (author and lyricist), spans over ten years and speaks to the essence of travel in the truest sense - letting go of the reins and allowing your senses to lead you to the special place.

This story begins back in 1989 when Tony and his Japanese born artist wife are living in Hollywood, and are invited to visit friends in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Upon arriving at the little city, (which rests on a plateau in Central Mexico surrounded by mountains at 1,870 m above sea level), the couple are instantly overwhelmed by its beauty - medieval Moorish architecture, vivid fresh cut flowers, exotic fruits and brightly colored, handwoven native clothing. 'We could live here,' his wife Masako exclaims. Thus begins a decade-long odyssey exploring the reality of being expats living in Mexico.

Along the way they encounter many local characters and off-beat misfits; Cohan has a gift for capturing their voices in an honest, yet respectful, albeit somewhat amusing manner. He peppers his narrative with neighborhood myths like 'the guy who killed the same man twice', and interesting anecdotes about famous artists who traveled the region over the past century, including  Neil Cassidy, the  Kerouac sidekick and Merry Prankster bus wheelman who died face down on the railroad tracks outside of San Miguel de Allende in 1968.

The story's subplot is that of the couple's struggle with shifting attitudes and the disintegration of local culture as the years go by; the inevitable changes some call progress. But in the end Cohan focuses more on the relaxed magic of the place rather than the window dressing.

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