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Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade Paperback – February 1, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Chiva" is street slang for heroin-and heroin is a hot topic.

Its use as a narcotic is on a precipitous rise. Worldwide heroin production has doubled in the last decade, and the United Nations estimates more than fifteen million users are addicted-up to three million in the United States. It's big business, too, with yearly global sales of 0 billion-up to billion in the U.S. Enmeshed with terrorism, crime, government collaboration, corporate globalization, and the spread of HIV, the opiate trade is inextricably entangled with the functioning of global society. Finally, heroin is controversial because of the on-going debates about solutions to the health, social and economic havoc it creates.

Chiva uses creative nonfiction to merge the global epic of heroin trafficking with the human-scale story of its presence in the small desert town that boasts the most per-capita overdose deaths in the U.S. The book interweaves three themes:

  • The true tale of Chimayo, New Mexico, terrorized by its heroin dealers since the 1970s until, in the late '90s, its citizens rose up to challenge the epidemic in their midst.
  • The story of the author's relationship with a local dealer, and his involvement with addiction, crime, love, recovery and the judicial system.
  • The political context behind these stories: the global workings of the heroin production business.

Compelling, disturbing, yet hopeful, Chiva is both personal and political, revealing the relationship between colonization and drug abuse, and the importance of reclaiming sustainable culture as a key to recovery.

(2004-04-20)

About the Author

Chellis Glendinning, Ph.D, is a psychologist, writer and lecturer. An award-winning activist and writer, she is the author of four previous books, including Off the Map: An Expedition Deep into Empire and the Global Economy (New Society, 2002) which won the National Federation of Press Women 2000 book award for general nonfiction; My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization (Shambhala, 1994), and When Technology Wounds: The Human Costs of Progress (William Morrow, 1990). He lives in Chimayó, New Mexico.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers; First Edition, First Printing edition (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865715130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865715134
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Every now and then somebody comes along who acts as a bridge or emissary between two cultures. Not as a missionary out to "improve," "evolve," or Christianize the natives, or to sell them slicker TV sets; not to study them like infusoria under a microscope; not to turn their gods into meteorology; but to listen, deeply, into the patterns of their life and language, and then--strictly by invitation within that community--to create a thing of beauty that casts a circle of illumination over what had remained hidden in the shadows cast by the mainstream.

In Chimayo, New Mexico, that emissary is Chellis Glendinning.

At one time Chimayo ranked #1 in drug overdoses in a state (New Mexico) that also ranked first in this grim category. This book is a story--personal, cultural, wrenching, hard to read in places because disturbing in its detail--of how the Chicanos and Mexicanos of Chimayo went back to their cultural roots to push the dealers out of their town, then apply the wisdom of those roots to healing the victims of the dragon Chiva, "heroin."

The use of "roots" is deliberate, because as the author makes clear, the drug problem is a product of a long tradition of colonial expansion and devastation in which a land-based people have been globalized, exploited, and thrust into poverty on soils their ancestors once cultivated and loved. From out of that soil came the remedies to combat sniffed, smoked, and injected poisons which users employ to forget for a moment that they are poor; that they have few options and scarce employment; that they are seen by the culture that has alienated them as aliens.

Whence this black-market plague of Thebes?
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Format: Paperback
Chiva paints a picture of Chimayó New Mexico, number one per-capita consumer of heroin in the number one per-capita consumer state in the United States. The book also offers a well-researched history of the global heroin trade from past to present. The picture is ugly indeed.

For those advocating legalization (of hard drugs) as the remedy to this problem, I suggest reading this and then asking yourself: is this the kind of country I want to live in? And for those that think the current plan in the war on drugs is working, I have the same suggestion. Quite obviously it is not working and will not cure the problem.

The author points out that at one time heroin was legally introduced to China. The result: over one quarter of the adult population became hopelessly addicted. In Chimayó, the supply was plentiful, with an individual dose costing $15, but anyhing not nailed down was likely to be stolen. Overdoses and shootings were common events. A friend of mine from a barrio full of tecatos in Juarez speaks of the same.

Anywhere heroin has been introduced without control to a population, usage of the drug has increased exponentially. With disastrous consequences.

The writing is good and kept me interested from start to finish. But I think the weakness of the book comes near the end where solutions to the problem are offered. There, you'll find more questions than answers.

I highly recommend Chiva for anyone interested in the drug problem or the region described in the book.
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Format: Paperback
The bibliography and research notes alone justifies the price of the book. The stories of one small town and of 20th Century Globalism are artfully interwoven. Altogether, it's inspiring in a painful, eye-opening sort of way.

Contrary to "About the Author", Chellis Glendinning is a she, not a he.
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In the interests of full-disclosure, I don't know author Chellis Glendinning, or anyone quoted or mentioned in this book, _Chiva_, but I took an interest in it when it was first published about five years ago. Like many people, I had read (years before) a Denver Post article about the Chimayo Valley drug problem but in connection with the healing pilgrimage to the Santuario. I probably shook my head about what a shame it was all that trouble in such a lovely valley with its green meadows and gaunt and haunted sand hills and surface appearance of Arcadian bliss. I had long been a student of post-colonial literature, of the effects of empire and imperialism (as regards former British colonies) but I was still largely a surface tourist when in the Taos area. The Labor Day weekend of September 1998, I was--again--a head-over-heels-passionate tourist to the Santuario de Chimayo; on returning home, I saw a news article about the murder that same weekend of one Danny Chavez near the Santuario church. I was shocked that guns and death had hit so close to me. On my next blissful tourist trip through the area, I sought out his grave marker and found it on a side road. That's been over ten years ago; at Christmas 2009, after having read _Chiva_ for the first time, I visited the area again, and passed by the Chavez marker (mentioned in _Chiva_, as I learned). This past holiday season the Chimayo valley from Espanola to Potrero was just as before, keeping its secrets from the passerby. Glendinning's work conveys exactly this combination of shock and tragedy beneath the tourist surface.Read more ›
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Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade
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