Photos from Tuscany

Paulette and I spent a week in the Chianti Valley of Tuscany. (link removed by the author)

In the meantime, Paulette and I are working on our book, which will be the first in our Pixels and Bristles series. You may read more about that in a May post of the same name.


Book review: The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women

The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women. The truth about Mexico’s bloody border legacy. Diana Washington Valdez. Peace at the Border Film Productions, Burbank, California. 390pp.

The day after I finished this book, I found an Associated Press story reporting that Mexican soldiers and federal agents had detained 29 local police officers in northern Mexico for alleged ties to drug traffickers. If I had not first read Diana Washington Valdez’s book, I would have been shocked. Having read it, I was surprised that only 29 officers had been arrested.

Valdez reports that from 1993 through 2005 nearly 500 females died violently in Juarez, Mexico. One was as young as 12. Another, 17, endured a severed right breast. Her left breast was mauled by human teeth. Similar conditions were reported for the many bodies recovered—and not all have been recovered. The victims had also been raped.

As a reporter for the El Paso (Texas) Times, Valdez worked on the story taking place just across the border, discovering along the way that some disappearances and deaths were never recorded. Police simply had no record, even though families had reported the victims missing. (Valdez lists the victims and the names of the missing in an appendix.)

Victims would disappear in daylight, sometimes with police patrols nearby, and authorities claimed to know nothing. They were not only know-nothings, but do-nothings. As Valdez reports, they were on the take. The drug cartel owned the city, the state, maybe even some levels of the federal government. Officials who could not be bribed were murdered. The AP story mentioned earlier said 10,750 people had been killed in Mexican drug violence between December 2006 and June 2, 2009, the day the story ran.

Many in the United States might think that what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, but because this is drug related, it does spill over into the United States and not just at the border with Mexico. And while we may think of femicide as indigenous to Mexico, Valdez says it is practiced in many countries, sometimes as part of a gang initiation.

I would recommend this book with one qualification: It is not well organized. It’s overdone with multiple subheads on facing pages, an indication that subsections of the book are not as well developed as they might be. Valdez starts a chapter with a kidnapping but then veers away to write about a corrupt official or the FBI’s role in trying to solve the murders. Given the number of victims, I understand that organizing this book was a challenge.

That aside, the information is there in clear and unemotional prose. When you’re done reading—maybe even sooner—you’ll add the emotion.


two-tailed swallowtail
delights me while I work—
alighting on jacob’s beard