No Word for Welcome
The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy
By Wendy Call
(University of Nebraska Press, Hardcover, 9780803235106, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 2011
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Wendy Call visited the Isthmus of Tehuantepec—the lush sliver of land connecting the Yucatan Peninsula to the rest of Mexico—for the first time in 1997. She found herself in the midst of a storied land, a place Mexicans call their country's “little waist,” a place long known for its strong women, spirited marketplaces, and deep sense of independence. She also landed in the middle of a ferocious battle over plans to industrialize the region, where most people still fish, farm, and work in the forests. In the decade that followed her first visit, Call witnessed farmland being paved for new highways, oil spilling into rivers, and forests burning down. Through it all, local people fought to protect their lands and their livelihoods—and their very lives.
Call’s story, No Word for Welcome, invites readers into the homes, classrooms, storefronts, and fishing boats of the isthmus, as well as the mahogany-paneled high-rise offices of those striving to control the region. With timely and invaluable insights into the development battle, Call shows that the people who have suffered most from economic globalization have some of the clearest ideas about how we can all survive it.
Wendy Call is a recent writer-in-residence at Seattle University, New College of Florida, and Harborview Medical Center. She is the coeditor of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide, author of numerous essays, and translator of Mexican poetry and short fiction.
"[Call] writes lively narrative, detailed description, and engaging scenes that render her subjects—a schoolteacher, fishermen, activists—three-dimensional. By relating the lives and concerns of isthmus dwellers and the struggles they face, the author raises awareness of globalization's effects on the village economy."—Publishers Weekly
"The rapid prominence of a global economy does not come without its struggles. No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy discusses the challenges faced by these smaller Mexican communities and the challenges put before them. . . . A deep study of the effects of this rapid change, No Word for Welcome is an excellent study of these factors that are affecting smaller communities all around the world."—James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review
-James A. Cox
"Call's graceful movement between cultures demonstrates her considerable skills as a writer, and especially as a translator. For indeed she has a translator's ear for discerning the importance of the Huave language, Ombeayiüts, a word that literally means "our mouth." . . . Wendy Call's book is at once a portrait and a piece of that resistance, and a warning to the rest of the citizens of our global village."—Clare Sullivan, Iowa Review
"We should be grateful for Wendy Call's delightful, yet painfully truthful, story of the challenges facing one of Mexico's lesser-known regions."—Jeff Conant, Orion Magazine
"Call, who worked for Grassroots International many years ago, embeds herself in the communities as the Trans-Isthmus Megaproject lurches toward the beaches, estuaries, and forests where they live. Yet this is no dismal read. True, the villagers seem to face insurmountable odds. But as economic and political forces encircle them, they are alive to their changing circumstances and are far from conceding defeat . . . In Call's patient telling, the character of the indigenous villagers slowly reveals itself against this backdrop of upheaval and loss."—Orson Moon, Monday Developments
"[This book] cuts through the rhetoric of globalization . . . . Author Wendy Call shows the effects of industrialization not by preaching against it or by romanticizing village life from afar. . . . In beautiful prose, she profiles a teacher, a fisherman and several activists in the region in order to show how even the threat of change can divide a community."—Michelle Seaton, Head Juror, Grub Street National Book Prize for Nonfiction