For years now, whenever reports from Mexico have popped up in American news outlets, the stories have almost always revolved around the seemingly endless homicides that are taking place in the northern reaches of the country, where many of Mexico’s infamous drug cartels are based.

But an op-ed about one aspect of the Mexican cultural landscape that appeared in the New York Times recently has been earning attention for a very different, if still inexcusable, state of affairs: Much of the country, it seems, has effectively stopped reading.

As the article’s author, David Toscana, explains…

The proportion of the Mexican population that is literate is going up, but in absolute numbers, there are more illiterate people in Mexico now than there were 12 years ago. Even if baseline literacy, the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin, is rising, the practice of reading an actual book is not. Once a reasonably well-educated country, Mexico took the penultimate spot, out of 108 countries, in a Unesco assessment of reading habits a few years ago.

Toscana, who is generally considered to be one of Mexico’s most important modern authors, goes on to suggest that his country of birth “is floundering socially, politically and economically because so many of its citizens do not read.”

Toscana doesn’t offer any potential solutions of his own; perhaps it would only be disingenuous to do so. But his article is definitely worth a read, especially for those of us who live in the United States—a country that borders Mexico, and yet for the most part doesn’t often seem to know, or care, about the very real problems that nation of over 100 million people is currently facing.