The Devil's Highway: A True Story Paperback – Sep 19 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
In May 2001, 26 Mexican men scrambled across the border and into an area of the Arizona desert known as the Devil's Highway. Only 12 made it safely across. American Book Awardâ"winning writer and poet Urrea (Across the Wire; Six Kinds of Sky; etc.), who was born in Tijuana and now lives outside Chicago, tracks the paths those men took from their home state of Veracruz all the way norte. Their enemies were many: the U.S. Border Patrol ("La Migra"); gung-ho gringo vigilantes bent on taking the law into their own hands; the Mexican Federales; rattlesnakes; severe hypothermia and the remorseless sun, a "110 degree nightmare" that dried their bodies and pounded their brains. In artful yet uncomplicated prose, Urrea captivatingly tells how a dozen men squeezed by to safety, and how 14 othersâ"whom the media labeled the Yuma 14â"did not. But while many point to the group's smugglers (known as coyotes) as the prime villains of the tragedy, Urrea unloads on, in the words of one Mexican consul, "the politics of stupidity that rules both sides of the border." Mexican and U.S. border policy is backward, Urrea finds, and it does little to stem the flow of immigrants. Since the policy results in Mexicans making the crossing in increasingly forbidding areas, it contributes to the conditions that kill those who attempt it. Confident and full of righteous rage, Urrea's story is a well-crafted mÃ©lange of first-person testimony, geographic history, cultural and economic analysis, poetry and an indictment of immigration policy. It may not directly influence the forces behind the U.S.'s southern border travesties, but it does give names and identities to the faceless and maligned "wetbacks" and "pollos," and highlights the brutality and unsustainable nature of the many walls separating the two countries. Maps not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
So many illegal immigrants die in the desert Southwest of the U.S. that only notorious catastrophes make headlines. Urrea reconstructs one such incident in the Sonoran Desert, the ordeal of sun and thirst of two dozen men in May 2001, half of whom suffered excruciating deaths. They came from Vera Cruz; their so-called guide came from Guadalajara. Jesus Lopez Ramos was no master of orienteering, however, just an expendable bottom-feeder in the border's human-smuggling racket. Tracing their lives and the routes to the border, Urrea adopts a slangy, surreal style in which the desert landscape shimmers and distorts, while in desiccated border settlements criminals, officials, and vigilantes patrol for human cargo such as the men from Vera Cruz. The imaginative license Urrea takes, paralleling the laconic facts of the case that he incorporates into his narrative, produces a powerful, almost diabolical impression of the disaster and the exploitative conditions at the border. Urrea shows immigration policy on the human level. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author describes the conditions and historic events that lead to the beginning of the illegal immigration into the US and draws a clear parallelism with our times, when there are several tasks in the US that Americans are reluctant to do, thus illegal immigrants are needed for this. When price changes in international markets adversely affected the Mexican economy and overpopulation became a problem, some Mexicans decided to come to the US. They ended up with a comfortable life, so when others found out, a growing interest in crossing the border developed.
Organizations of coyotes were formed to provide supply for the growing demand, and the poor people seeking a better future became just a means to an end. These individuals in their attempts have to fight against the heat of the desert, thirst, exhaustion, "la migra" (Border Patrol) and the coyotes themselves. On top of this, the control at the border has intensified throughout the last years, so the groups seeking a new future have to go through more dangerous paths each time. In the case of the twenty-six Mexicans that are the center of this story, the point of entry was the Devil's Highway, a deadly desert in Arizona that has claimed numerous victims through the years.Read more ›
This is an apt description. Urrea is fair-minded and searching in his appraisal of the tragedy which beset a group of 26 men in the Sonora Desert in May 2001 most of whom were from Vera Cruz and Guerrero. While remaining suspcicious of American and Mexican immigration policies and the border officers who apply them, he nonetheless does not fall into kneejerk stereotyping. They, like most who work in or for government bodies, are caught between festering popular political rage, skewed immigration policies and the reality of the people's lives with whom they must contend each day. In Urrea's depiction many of the border officials are far more humane than those political or economic actors who are responsible for designing the policies in the first place.
Urrea's true rage is unleashed towards the conclusion at the international economic actors and the forces they unleash, political leaders for whom immigration is simply another issue to score cheap political points and univocal America firsters and their ilk who fail to comprehend the depths of the problem. Measuring the tragedy of human lives lost in mere dollars (and inaccurate figures on top of that!) is profane in the true sense of that word.
Reading "The Devil's Highway" only leads me to support responsible efforts to find common ground on institutional levels which lead to the demise of "the border" as a meaningful political entity.
In Luis Urrea's world there are few villains,few stereotypes and few "blame-games".But there is a mountain of reality that every person in North America needs to consider----what worlds,political and economic, have we created that push humans into impossible journeys,folly,even death,just to earn enough to eat and send their kids to school? What borders have we imposed--both geopolitical and cultural, that separate human beings so completely as to compell the events of this book?And,for God's sake, what does any of us gain from it? The Devil's highway is about the desperate saga of a group of poor Mexican immigrants....and it is about all the rest of us who perceive ourselves as "not part of the problem". The US/Mexico border has become a stake through the heart of humanity.No one intended it that way,but it pierces the hearts of millions just the same.This is a book that every high school and college kid in America should be assigned.Period.
Most recent customer reviews
Another rollicking story from Mr. Urrea, which makes me want to pick up some more of his books regarding the US/Mexican border and the pain and suffering that's going on there all... Read morePublished 20 months ago by FSJ Book Fan
I received the book at the time it was promised. It is in excellent condition.
The book itself, which I just finished reading, is a powerful narrative. Read more
This story of the Yuma 14 had the potential to be one helluva of a story, as it does read as though it is fictitious. Read morePublished on July 18 2004
I just want to add my voice in recommending this book. As others have said, Urrea writes like a lyricists and masterfuly alternates plain exposition with poetry to tell us the... Read morePublished on June 7 2004
I never, ever read non-fiction but got interested in this book from a blurb in a magazine. It is life-altering, mind changing, perhaps life saving. Read morePublished on May 12 2004 by Snappy
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