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Rebuttal on 'Frontera'

April 19, 1987

I am grateful for several kind things Frank del Olmo says about my book, "La Frontera: The United States Border With Mexico" (The Book Review, March 15). But I must object to allegations of occasional careless research.

Del Olmo suggests that my investigation of drug trafficker Pablo Acosta (whom he concluded I admire, which I and others find amazing) began and ended with Acosta himself. In fact, I queried the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Customs Service about him--the latter was fascinated that I had interviewed and arranged to photograph him, something they had failed for years to achieve. And, as I described ironically, I met him in the Mexican city where he lives, at the office of the military commander, who chattered about Acosta's grip on the region and his complicity with authorities. I further spoke to pushers' family members and portrayed a woman whose husband became addicted while working for Acosta.

Short of administering a urine test, what more would the reviewer suggest I should have done?

Finally, Del Olmo lumps me with those who regard the border as a "third country." But I start and end "La Frontera" by rejecting this simplistic notion. The border represents the juncture of two sharply disparate societies. People who live there--and, increasingly, we all live there--are usually at the mercy of their ill-informed governments. Until the United States and Mexico learn to communicate properly, unilateral approaches (like immigration bills) to our many shared problems will accomplish little good.

ALAN WEISMAN

Prescott, Ariz.

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