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Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade Paperback – February 1, 2005
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"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)
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Glendinning has the education and comprehensive first-world and "third-world" experience to thoroughly cover all the implications of the topic of drug use in the linked villages of the Chimayo Valley and the global connections. A reviewer of _Chiva_ for December 18, 2008, says the author was on a "rant" and "silly"--both insupportable opinions. Also, that reviewer states that every valley resident who shops at Wal-mart "participates democratically in globalization." Excuse me, but the Dubya Mart has a war room mentality which has been thoroughly documented. When the Dubya Mart beats out all other competitors, no one has a choice. Also, the loss of land, water rights, language, and dignity since 1846 is well documented. Perhaps the 12/18/08 reviewer would write a different review after more research, but as it is, she commits an error in logic when she assumes that wanting the land and water back is the same as going back to "medieval child mortality rates, rank illiteracy, and life expectancies of 40." Taos Pueblo would know something about that, something about wanting the land back without wanting genocide back.
It's difficult to write a brief review about a book that means so much. The primary pleasure of _Chiva_ is Glendinning's way of showing Joaquin's roller coaster ride of post-traumatic stress disorder, and his decline after hopeful scenes. Her tracing of his life journey rings true of all trauma survivors; he is cynical and resigned, and at one point excuses his behavior and lack of healing by saying, "I'm just a drug addict." Having said the above, praising _Chiva_ and defending it from a detractor, I have to say it's not perfect and I wanted it to be. I wanted _Chiva_ to be perfect perhaps because there is no other book on this topic that describes the connections between north-central New Mexico, the international drug trade, and imperial practices like colonization.
Yet, at the risk of sounding like a writing tutor, regarding the broader picture of international drug routes, I'd like to say that I wanted a work of coherent research conveyed in finely-crafted sentences that left no loopholes for criticism. I'm used to absorbing and synthesizing a quantity of research in the form of literary theory, culture studies, and proactive psychotherapy (along the lines of Frattaroli and Covey), but I wish author Glendinning had made the research flow more coherently; a sentence here and there would have helped me to follow the often unwieldy information of how we, the USA, perpetrated drug use as we competed with the USSR for Cold War allies.
Further along the lines of the craft of writing is the use of sentence fragments. Like "Whatever." Like "The inclination." And, even though I can see that the author wanted a conversational style that could actually be read by her audience, people whose reading skills have been kept low (as an effect or affect of colonization), sentence fragments often mirror social fragmentation. The longer, linked sentences suggest social coherence. And, making clearer links between sentences in the sections of complex information would have been a service to her readers. Of course, a scholarly style of writing might have lost her audience, but, on the other hand, also regarding the craft of writing, the author had to adopt a style or voice that she could blend with the very intimate sections with Joaquin Cruz, the Chimayo Valley protagonist.
Okay, if you're still reading this review, there is a nice intertextuality between _Chiva_ and other work. Jimmy Santiago Baca's memoir _A Place to Stand_ is the story that "Joaquin Cruz" could have written if he'd sworn off his addiction to cynicism; Baca shows that to save your culture, you have to start by saving yourself, and to save yourself you have to believe in something even if it's the poetry of Wordsworth and Whitman--two men who, though of the colonizing nations, taught themselves to see. The author mentions Franz Fanon's, _The Wretched of the Earth_, but dozens of works documenting colonization and imperialism have been written since then. A good example of research on the topic of how the USA plays nations off against each other is the book, _Good Muslim, Bad Muslim_ by Mahmood Mamdani. John Nichols' novel, _The Magic Journey_ shows how local Hispanos were forced off their traditional barter system onto a cash and credit economy.
There is a huge task ahead for drug survivors and their families: not only must they save themselves and their culture, they must become teachers. They must teach Anglo-Americans--particularly tourists and real estate developers--about their culture, their land, their identity. Among nortenos--local Anglos and Native Hispano and Puebloan--I've had so many good teachers. What the "dominant culture" fears most is an educated norteno/Hispano. It seems to me, the horrible dilemma for native nortenos is still the same: How do you stop water from flowing uphill toward money? I guess you can't make water flow toward you if you are stoned. So, get sober and fight for what's yours. And Glendinning has a long chapter on what is being done in the Espanola and Chimayo area to heal people and retain their culture. Ah, what heroes she writes about!
Chellis is weakest when she gets into rants about the loss of 1700's farming practices and economies (does she really want to go back to medieval child mortality rates, rank illiteracy, and life expectancies of 40?) and globalization. Sure, no one pretends to like Walmart, but pretending that it's an evil perpetrated by outsiders on us is silly - each Chimayo resident that shops Walmart participates democratically in globalization. Glendinning also has a legitimate but confusing set of views on colonization and the negative impacts of cultural exploitation. She is, after all, a European-American living in a Hispaño farming community as a writer because she likes New Mexico better than her place of origin. It's hard not to be an exploiter when you move into the `hood, but don't actually have to actually be dirt poor, a farmer, and latino.
Her narrative about her lover and nearly married Joaquin rings true, even though she has to fictionalize this complex, flawed man. Evidently, though they shone together like the sun, he never could really explain himself to her - but at least the Joaquin she invented was a true metaphor for the village, and the book. Where she shines is in describing the culture, and in talking about the contradictions of politics, money, and drugs. Where she could legitimately rant about US / Euro policy, she is actually constrained and well researched. The narrative of the number of times our governments have supported the drug trade in order to take on some implacable political foe (Communism, Taliban, right wing or left wing dictatorships, Muslim governments or political movements ...) underscores our hypocrisy without beating us up with it. Surprisingly, Glendinning does not favor legalization of heroin, though the book sets the premise well - she believes we would pay the same money to the global pharmaceutical houses, and that is unacceptable to her.
Use of Language: A
Research and Background: B
Political Balance and Reason: C-