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Devil's Highway

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  4,206 ratings  ·  749 reviews
The author of "Across the Wire" offers brilliant investigative reporting of what went wrong when, in May 2001, a group of 26 men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona. Only 12 men came back out. "Superb . . . Nothing less than a saga on the scale of the Exodus and an ordeal as heartbreaking as the Passion . . . The book comes vividly ali ...more
ebook, 200 pages
Published November 16th 2008 by Little, Brown & Company (first published January 1st 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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brian
of all the books i've read on the subject, this is the best. the story itself is harrowing, of course, and urrea is one hell of a writer. rather than tell a linear story of the 26 mexicans who walked across the devil's highway (only 12 lived to tell the tale), he offers a kaleidoscopic view of the whole machine: border patrol, mexican gangsters, coyotes, arizona, texas, vera cruz, the rio grande, sonora, and the eyeball-drying life-taking sweat-sucking scorching terrible terrible terrible dantea ...more
D. Pow
This a great book, one of the best I’ve read this year. It hits you in the head, makes you think hard about the events conveyed between its pages, but it packs an even harder emotional wallop. I felt such sadness and fierce heartache for the 26 men who stumbled into the Devil’s Highway and the brutal loss of the 14 who didn’t make it and the tortuous way they stumbled, for hour on endless hour, into the ultimately merciful embrace of death.

Urrea has a poet’s gift for language, alternating long,
...more
Kent
I was working with the Border Patrol at the time of this story. It is a very effective presentation of how people are smuggled across the Arizona border from Mexico. It is also effective at showing how to die in the desert. You will feel empathy for the migrants. You will see the day to day life of the Border Patrol. They are not who they are often presented as. With this you will identify how dysfunctional policy is with regard to the Southwest Border... I'm a fan of sealed borders and liberal ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is as good as it gets if you want a short but comprehensive examination of the issues surrounding our porous border with Mexico. All viewpoints are represented, and with surprisingly little bias on the part of the author. As a Mexican American, Urrea admits to an initial bias against the Border Patrol, or "Pinche Migra." His investigation changed his mind, and he presents them in a favorable light.

Urrea uses one well-publicized 2001 tragedy to illustrate the complexities and absurdities of
...more
Lauren
Investigative journalism that reads like the best fiction... Urrea writes a fascinating, disturbing, and tragic account of the Yuma 14. In May of 2001, a group of 26 people got lost in the Arizona desert while attempting to crossthe border, and only 12 survived. I decided to read the book after hearing Urrea speak here in Bloomington. In person, he was an amazing story teller, and explained the process of writing the devil's highway. I learned a lot about the politics and geography of the border ...more
Jill
If hell really existed, it would likely look like the Devil’s Highway in southern Arizona – an area so harsh and unforgiving that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it.

In May 2001, 26 Mexican men attempted to cross the Mexican border after gifting the Coyotes – human smugglers – with just about every peso they have. And then their journey goes terribly wrong. “They didn’t carry enough water. Can there ever be enough water? Probably not. But the Popielas carried a couple of those
...more
Todd
If you're interested in learning more about the Mexican border in a balanced way, this is an excellent and brutally honest book by a reporter who writes with a poet's touch. We get fed so much propaganda on immigration, from populist politicians and sensationalized media (both sides), that it's easy to form strong opinions on complex issues, of which we barely understand. We demonize those who don't fit inside our own core group's noble mythology. We create bugbears out of our own insecurities. ...more
Steve
The Devil's Highway, is a pretty good book. Urrea sees no sacred cows - except for perhaps the poor individuals who dare to cross over to the U.S. Urrea's border landscape is murderous one, and the "Coyotes" that lead the illegals across are predators and gangsters. It's all about money. Urrea does his best to give each of those who suffered through the 2001 ordeal (the Yuma 14 (those that died), or Wellton 26 (the entire party), take your pick), faces, lives, hopes. They are people, and not jus ...more
Chata
Feb 11, 2008 Chata rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chata by: Mayor's Book Club of Austin
Desgraciadamente, este libro es magnífico. Digo ''desgraciadamente'' porque es una verdadera historia de un grupo que inmigrantes que muere en el desierto de Arizona. Como soy de Tucson, Arizona, este libro me atrayó inmediatemente y cuando supe que iba a ser el libro escogido por el alcalde de Austin. He tenido el placer de oir hablar dos veces el autor, Luis Alberto Urrea, y es obvio que él hizo sus estudios para preparar el manuscrito para este libro. Es muy talentoso además; hay que leer sus ...more
Dean Hamilton
The Devil's Highway, El Camino del Diablo, lies sere, bleak , arid and forbidding, a calescent trail across the Mexican-US border for illegals seeking salvation and opportunity in the north.


The Devil's Highway is the true story of a group of 26 Mexican illegals who crossed the US-Mexican border heading through the desert for Ajo, Arizona on May 19th, 2001. By May 25th, only 12 came out.


Luis Alberto Urrea's book is a powerful piece of work. Urrea can sling a phrase with the best of them, weaving
...more
Jakob
Apr 13, 2010 Jakob rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in border crossing and immigration, people who just like to read books
Recommended to Jakob by: Dr. Adriann Wycoff
Shelves: for-school
Much like the wandering, doubling back trail the walkers of this tragic story navigated, Urrea's storytelling weaves and twists, backwards and forwards. Abrupt tense-shifts, sections (and sometimes only sentences) of second-person narrative, meant to draw the reader in, only serve to jar this reader into wondering when he became a border patrol agent and why he doesn't remember doing so.

Toward the end of the book, it's clear Urrera has much more to say, and like the walkers that survive the jou
...more
Lis
May 19, 2007 Lis rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book while on a visit to Salt Lake City. Until it was done, I did not look up as we drove around town, and did not contribute to conversations with our friends there. I just sat and read, until it was done. Like "Morir en el intento", it is a real tragedy that happened as a group tried to cross the desert into the US. Unlike that other book though, this doesn't read like a newspaper as much. The author weaves us in and out of the story of the journey itself, using what the survivors ...more
Jennifer
Jan 17, 2013 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone whose ancestors immigrated to the US
Recommended to Jennifer by: CLC & Dave Groeninger
This book was chosen by CLC for our book discussion group during orientation week. The college hopes to bring Luis Alberto Urrea to campus in April. This book tells the story of the Yuma 14 (which we later learn should be more aptly titled the Wellton 23), a group of men from southern Mexico who are led by two Coyotes across the border into the Arizona dessert, an area aptly titled "The Devil's Highway." A number of events and decisions lead to the men getting hopelessly lost and basically "cook ...more
Adam
If there was any doubt about the desperation, rigor and catastrophe involved in crossing the US/Mexican border illegally, Urrea puts it to rest here. A gut-wrenchingly visceral reconstruction of a 2001 border-crossing gone bad, this book examines the forces that made it happen in the first place. The story is crushing, of course, and Urrea spares nothing in highlighting its tragic dimensions. The style is intentionally inflammatory, which many claim makes it a powerful read that is really well w ...more
Amyss
ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL. I have lived most of my life near the Mexican border, growing up in El Paso, now living most of my adult life in San Antonio. The "issue" of immigration is one I have always been very aware of (just saying it pisses me off, who the hell is not an immigrant? The entire human race has been on the move for greener grass since its existence). This book shows all sides, tells the story, and does it well. I had to unclench my jaw several times, unaware of the anger that was makin ...more
Kendal Washington White
A true story regarding the attempted illegal entry of 20+ Mexican citizens into Arizona/U.S., the author skillfully recounts the story from multiple perspectives. This book is a must-read for all who are concerned about border/illegal immigration issues, regardless of what side you are on. Urea helps us to understand that the issues are quite complex. We use the book as a common read for a student success class at The University of Arizona, and this book produces more dialogue and debate among i ...more
Jane
This is the true story of what it means to attempt an illegal border crossing. At each page, I could nod and agree, as I have heard the stories personally. I recommend the book to all people prejudiced against undocumented workers; the story details why they come, how they suffer and the odds they face. Some of the descriptions of death in the desert are horrible; everyone needs to understand the struggle, the betrayal by "coyotes" and their leaders, and the bravery of men and women who attempt ...more
Guadalupe Salgado
The Devil’s Highway, written by Luis Alberto Urrea, is a true story about Mexican migration into the United States. It retells the tragic story from May of 2001 when a group of men attempted to cross the U.S. border. After entering the desert of Arizona, they endured the deadliest region in North America, the Devil’s Highway. Twenty-six men entered the region, and only twelve people survived. Urrea focuses on the individual subjects and the circumstances that brought them to make the decision to ...more
Donna
This was a book challenge read. I would have never picked this up on my own, but I'm glad I did. I wasn't sure what this was going to be about, and about 20 pages into it, I thought I was going to dislike it, because to my dismay, it seemed to be about the Devil's Highway and what it looked like, what kind of plants were around, and other such details. I thought, "Please no."

This book is a true story about border crossing from Mexico into the U.S. The author did his research and reported a speci
...more
Lucas
Holy crap this book pisses me off...
Holly
This is a book I think everyone is the US should read. It follows the stories of the Wellton 26/Yuma 14: undocumented immigrants who in 2001 tried to enter the US from Mexico through an area in Arizona known as the Devil's Highway. It was a little slow-going at first, with the author trying to "set the stage" of the who, where, why, and how. It picked up later, though, and I read through it pretty quickly. This is not a book you will "enjoy" reading--and it's not supposed to be. It highlights ma ...more
Paul
I finished this today between bouts of painting the house, so the following are my initial reactions to the book.

Obviously, the road for illegal workers from Mexico and points more distant is physically difficult. For the subjects of this book, it proved impossible. Some died, others came close and one remains in an Arizona prison forever. I leave it conflicted about illegal immigration. The plight of illegal workers and other people who, by the lottery of birth, live in poverty while on the ste
...more
Rachel
I was drawn to this book because of my interest in Mexican immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, having worked with a number of them back in Texas. Also compelling was the fact that it takes place in Southern Arizona in an area I have driven through multiple times, praying that the truck wouldn't break down.

Written in the grand tradition of muckraker journalism, the writer describes in vivid detail the deaths of 14 men in the desert after a botched Coyote run. I have no recollection of t
...more
Kate Z
I'm not much of a non-fiction reader but I wanted to read this book because a) I live in San Diego so the topic is "close" to me, b) I read Into the Beautiful North a few months ago and loved it and c) because I heard Luis Alberto Urrea speak and he is such a dynamic speaker that when he made reference to this particular book I had to read it. Unfortunately the book is not quite a dynamic as he is.



Luis Alberto Urrea has a clear love and respect for humanity. This is a balanced story which uses "
...more
Schuyler
This is the story of how 14 Mexican immigrants that tried to cross the U.S/Mexico border were essentially led to their deaths through the tragic arrogance of their guide (or Coyote). It is a story buried in half-truths, conflicting view points, and criss-crossed finger-pointing. Urrea sheds much needed light on the Border Patrol, a scapegoat government agency that is largely misunderstood. And out of this horrofic folly, he extracts a certain kind of peace for those that died (and continue to di ...more
Casey
After reading Urrea's book, Into the Beautiful North, I looked for more of this author's writing and stumbled upon The Devil's Highway. This book is different from Urrea's traditional writing style of fantastical Latin American literature. Instead it is a more realistic portrail of the border life. He tells the story of the Yuma 14, the infamous story throughout the Southwest in 2001 about the death of many illegal immigrants along the "Devil's Highway" a border crossing corridor within Arizona' ...more
Gale
Because of the Arizona anti-immigration SB1070 bill, this is a good time to reflect on a book that has haunted me since its 2004 publication. Those of us living on the edge of the desert that connects one country with limited opportunities for its citizens with another country that is filled with opportunities are probably more polarized than the general US population.

Urrea’s recounting of the “coyote” trafficker leading 14 of the 26 Mexicans to their death while crossing into the United States
...more
Jared Gillins
It took me too long to come back to this book. It was difficult to read, but worth it for many reasons. It's hard to talk about. But the writing is beautiful and the story is powerful and shaking.

Everyone in the United States and Mexico should read this, especially those who live close to our shared border.

A mis hermanos y amigos en Arizona y México--los quiero mucho. Espero que estén seguros, y que prosperen. Cuídense mucho.


From 5 April 2013:

Starting this one anew. Heh. I guess I wrote this sho
...more
Thing Two
This story should be mandatory reading for those involved in any discussion about repealing the 14th Amendment, especially Senator Lindsey Graham. Urrea writes about 26 men who attempted to cross into the US through an especially dangerous part of the Sonoran desert known as The Devil's Highway. Of the 26 who entered the United States in early 2001, only 14 survived. The rest perished in temperatures that soared to the 130s as they ambled east, then west, then north, then south. Urrea's non-line ...more
Lonni
A very tough read, not b/c its tough, complex language but because the topic is gut wrenching. I came away wondering about the value of our border patrols and hating the coyotes who take advantage of migrants. I'm going to read it a second time, with printed maps at my side. It became tough to follow where folks were!
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Luis Alberto Urrea is the award-winning author of 13 books, including The Hummingbird's Daughter, The Devil's Highway and Into the Beautiful North (May 2009). Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Luis has used the theme of borders, immigration and search for love and belonging throughout his work. A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 (nonfiction), he's won the Kiriyama Prize (2006 ...more
More about Luis Alberto Urrea...
The Hummingbird's Daughter Into the Beautiful North Queen of America Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life

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“Aztlán (“The Place of the Reeds”) was the traditional home of the Aztecs, a possibly mythical motherland from which the tribe ventured forth on a one-hundred-year walk. It was a land to the north of Mexico City. Chicanos recognize Aztlán as being in the American southwest, and it came to represent the stomping ground of “La Chicanada,” or the entirety of the Hispanic west. The Aztecs (Mexica, pronounced “Meshica,” hence, “Chicano”) walked south, out of the deserts, on their way to what would become Mexico City. They apparently walked across the Devil’s Highway on their way home.” 1 likes
“If it was the Border Patrol’s job to apprehend lawbreakers, it was equally their duty to save the lost and the dying.” 0 likes
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