In the 1970s, young artists, writers, and musicians expressed their independence and creativity in a variety of ways, so when Erica Mason, a young twenty-something, moved to Mexico to study, to explore, and to create, it was all part of the counter-cultural experience for some young people her age.
She landed primarily in Merida, on the Yucatan peninsula, where other expatriates had converged, although her explorations extended to the locals, especially if they were good-looking and enjoying their own creative expressions. She moved around from place to place, occasionally, to Oaxaca, and to Belize. In each place, she would settle for a bit, connect with others, and experiment with whatever was happening.
Drugs were a part of the scene, and while at first, Erica believed she was exploring and expressing herself, it soon became such a regular part of her life that imagining herself without the substances seemed unlikely.
Gringa in a Strange Land is one young woman’s journey, including some of the worrisome events that happened, like robbery, minor scrapes of one kind or another, and the constant concern about money. Through Erica’s eyes, we can feel as though we are experiencing her adventures along with her. She sees the people, the places, and transfers the images onto the canvas, while also assimilating the feelings of her subjects. Learning and growing, she is ready to move back to the US, where she can hopefully continue with her art. I also read and enjoyed the subsequent novel, Cleans Up Nicely: A Novel, in which Erica spends time in New York, struggling with her drug abuse issues.
Even though I enjoyed this book, there were tedious aspects that made me wish that Erica would realize the dangers of the cycle she was in, and finally make a decision to move on. 4.0 stars.