“I have seen the worst of Mexico, but I have also seen the best of Mexicans.” Alfredo Corchado, author of Medianoche en México (Midnight in Mexico), recounts his journey into the darkness of the Mexican drug wars while searching for his own cultural identity. Born in the state of Durango, Mexico, his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was six years old. He grew up in California and in Texas, where he and his parents worked on the farms. Eventually he became the bureau chief in Mexico for the Dallas Morning News. TintaFresca spoke with Corchado shortly after his book had been optioned for a movie.
In the last few years, there have been many books published about drug cartels and the war on drugs. What makes your book different?
The background for the book is the drug wars, but its heart and soul is the journey of someone who leaves his country as a child and grows up in the U.S. Like many immigrants, we live with this nostalgia of what Mexico could be or may be. Then you go back and face the reality, and it is an entirely different country. The book is about that universal search for home.
As immigrants, we often feel that we are from two different places but don’t belong in either. Did that sentiment help you have a different perspective?
Absolutely. I wrote the book in Mexico, in El Paso, and in Washington, D.C. I think the distance is what really helped put things into perspective. It was about trying to make sense of Mexico, the Mexico in Mexico and the Mexico in the U.S., because there are two Mexicos. It was important for me to write from here and to write from there because you feel more Mexican when you are in the U.S. and more American when you are in Mexico. Over the years, I have learned to embrace that togetherness, that fusion that makes us realize who we are. I think my story is the story of millions of Mexican-Americans, and they will be able to identify with it.
The book reads like a thriller. Was that your intention?
No, I wasn’t aware of it. One of the things I didn’t do was to read a lot of other books so I would not be influenced by different styles. But the advice I received while writing the book was to engage the reader from the beginning and continue that tempo throughout. I achieved that by listening to music, I had my writing soundtrack…I’m certain my neighbors were sick of listening to the same music over and over.
In the book you talk about your relationship with your mother. Most books written by Latino men focus on their relationship with their father. Were you aware of this during the writing process?
No, I wasn’t. Actually, Canana Films, a movie company founded by Pablo Cruz, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, has already acquired the rights and, strangely enough, the producer mentioned that he couldn’t remember a book where the mother-son relationship is such a central theme.