This was an Amazon Prime benefit book selection. The books selected by Amazon vary in quality but Pesos: The Rise and Fall of a Border Family by Pietro La Greca, Jr. did not disappoint. Pesos is part memoir of La Greca’s growing up in a Mexican organized crime family, part biography of his family and the extended parts of his family that struggled to operate a custom house service and ranch, and part history of Mexico and its government, its never-ending financial crisis (along with the country’s relations with the U.S.)
At times, La Greca comes off as hateful, full of vengeance. However La Greca’s life was controlled by a money-laundering father that operated first a clothing store for the Mexican elite, and then later, a successful foreign currency exchange that had the power to bring down the Mexican government through devaluation of the peso. La Greca’s father enjoyed being referred to by wealthy elites and the countryside peasant alike as a Mafioso resembling the fictional Don Corleone. The father lived to make a buck, damn the consequences to him, his family (immediate and extended) and others. The father dealt with organized crime, drug cartels and corrupt politicians (on a level way beyond that experienced in the U.S.) as if they were ordinary business associates. Unimaginable wealth resulted and as quickly disappeared when the La Greca family had to flee Mexico because of imminent arrest by Mexican authorities, after the Vegas Dunes casino deal abruptly ended, when a sports betting deal did not materialize, and finally when the father came out on the wrong side of a loan made by La Greca’s uncle with the Arellano-Félix-Cartel. Ultimately, La Greca was able to extricate himself from his father’s control and start to take back his life through a study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina though his security finally comes with his father’s death once old age caught up with him.
La Greca can write. He pulls no punches — he writes as he lived. Pesos has the detail found in factual historical accounts, the flair of quality fiction and the pacing of a thriller.