The Tecate Journals

Expectations run low for a river-paddling diary named after a popular (though decidedly watery) Mexican cerveza, which accounts in part for the pleasure of discovering The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande , in which Laredo journalist and writing professor Keith Bowden documents his grueling voyage along 1,260 miles of the border from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a simple and candid adventure story (the rapids are dangerous, and yes, beer is a staple) made complex by twenty-first-century geopolitics. Even along its most desolate and beautiful stretches, Bowden finds this no-man’s-land suffering the unwanted attentions of drug cartels, smuggling rings, corporate polluters, and increasingly shrill politicians on both sides. Generations removed from John Graves’s revered Goodbye to a River , about a journey down the disappearing Brazos, The Tecate Journals forms a worthy—if less elegiac—companion volume. Mountaineers Books, $16.95

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