A Tropical Place Like That

Written by Baker H. Morrow
Review by B. J. Sedlock

This book of short stories is set in the mountainous part of Michoacan in the 1960s. Lou (Luis) Becton, an American living temporarily in the area, ties the stories together. In “Middle Class,” Becton discovers that the reason he’s been invited to dinner in an upwardly-mobile family’s home is that the parents want the children to observe how a middle class person eats, with utensils instead of tortillas. In “When Warriors Danced,” Becton and girlfriend Annabelle take a bus to a town where Tarascan Indians are giving a dance performance, and candles on the stage nearly cause a disaster. “The Red Kite” has Becton and Annabelle visiting a mill in a remote valley, and watching children fly kites. In “The Flat,” the mechanic who fixes Becton’s flat tire begins to wish he and his wife hadn’t prayed so hard for children.

The stories are a bit desultory, which doesn’t allow for a lot of character development. Becton is more of a catalyst than a protagonist the reader gets to know well. The tales aren’t plot-heavy; they give the most pleasure as experiences in local color. Morrow is adept at depicting the rural scenery and its appealing inhabitants, giving the reader a vivid impression of the Mexican countryside. I especially enjoyed the food references. His use of Spanish expressions, explained in context for English-speakers, adds to the atmosphere. The book has potential to be used as supplemental reading for those studying 20th century Mexican culture.