Mexico Guide (?) Books

By David Simmonds 

Ignoring the adage that ‘timing is eveything”, I am attempting to sell my house in a down on two-knees, crawling market. So yesterday, when my broker had an  “Open House”, my wife and kids went to the mall while I cardio-sweated an hour at the gym and two more recovering at Borders Bookstore. It afforded me the chance to inhale one of their frisbee-size chocolate-chip cookies and browse the many Mexico guide books now in circulation.  The books haven’t changed much over the years, with the better ones providing reliable information on the topography, history, climate, etc., with the remainder of the copy (the important stuff) about two or more years out-of-date. Moon Publications, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Rough Guide, and Lonely Planet are among the more established and complete guides and are all pretty good. I personally know some of the guide book writers and they work hard to get it right. But I also know that the volume of information required to fill the pages is enormous and they don’t get paid much, so, how should I put this…some of them”borrow” facts from one another while doing their research. And once an erroneous “fact” is published, in print or on the web, it gets repeated over and over.

 I’ll give you a glaring example of what I saw at least four times yesterday  while reading the various book chapters on Puerto Vallarta. Everyone who writes about PV tells the story of John Huston going there to direct Night of the Iguana in the early ’60’s, and some list the stars of the movie as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. One problem here…Liz was there canoodling with Dick, but she wasn’t in the movie. That was Ava Gardner. I know, it’s a small issue, but it does illustrate my point. I read other examples that were just flat wrong and repeated in other  books. I browsed one book by a Canadian publisher where I am sure that the author had never visited half the towns she wrote about. She had it wrong on just about everything, yet there was her book with a $20.00 price tag.

That whole business is changing, I think. Web sites and ebooks are much more popular with younger travelers, although you do have to separate the b.s. from the facts.

As for travel magazines, they have turned so boringly generic (Ten Top Places to Wear Your Rolex) and targeted for the very wealthy that I am canceling all of my subscriptions. I don’t expect them to last much longer as their savvy advertisers begin to migrate to the web.