The Other Side: Journeys in Baja California.
By Judy Goldstein Botello. San Diego: Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, California, 1998. Travel Memoir/ Adventure. 192 pages. $12.95..
Reviewed by Sharon L. DuBois, Native American Anthropologist. Research Assistant for the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy.
The Other Side is a romantic inside view of relationships between several of this region’s immigrants and its original peoples. Botello, a practicing Jewish medical doctor, takes us on a wonderful journey into the homeland of her well traveled Mexican friends. Her love of music is the catalyst that propels Botello into a whole new life and way of moving about in the world. A visit from her serenading neighbors leads to a short jaunt across the border. Her first time crossing, Botello and her friends Carlos, Jorge and Barbara search out Tijuana’s most extraordinary guitar craftsman, Sevillano. A guitar is ordered and it seems, a rite of passage has been completed. One visit leads to another, and Botello is hooked on the nation and the man.
The city accounts are fine, but when Botello writes about her trips to the coast, her expressive prose take on a whole new color. Her images become more clear and brighter, more intense and detailed. The ability to weave the cultural mannerisms of her traveling companions into the landscape of their most beautiful nation is a talent well used by Botello in the descriptive tale of her journey. An expedition to the eastern coastal land presents the author and her friends with the many challenges that mother nature can bring. It’s a welcome contrast from her stressful routine of hospital responsibilities.
Taking a look at the quality of life she has thus far provided for herself and her children, Botello comes up feeling empty. Her children are lacking from the desperately needed attention, seldom found in broken homes. Her journey inward leads Botello to a change of jobs. Leaving her prestigious position at a well known hospital in the San Diego area, Botello shifts her focus to a small clinic. She has immerses herself into the culture of this nation’s original peoples, allowing for more time with her children and growing in ways she never thought possible.
Throughout the memoir, Botello interjects historical facts about pre and post contact eras. Discussing the work of the well know Fr. Serra and other such missionaries, Botello captures the struggles of the people of this area at the time of contact. Painting a picture of these most unsettling times brings to us an understanding of how we, as a nation, have reached this point, and where we are heading. As the years pass, we see much industrial development on both sides of the border, and much to the authors chagrin, our connection to the earth has become secondary. She laments the loss of the pristine beaches and mountainsides that once were so precious to all that enjoyed them.
The Other Side presents a colorful look at the Baja area and its people. A stimulating piece, presenting us with a view of one woman’s journey to finding truth in life through travel. While interacting with the land and its people, the author finds purpose and meaning in her life. Recommended reading for all interested in traveling into the Baja region, this book creates a detailed glimpse at several locations plotted on the enclosed map.