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Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,070 ratings  ·  115 reviews
The compelling adventure of a young writer who poses as a Mexican wetback to discover the hardships, fear and camaraderie of illegal aliens crossing the border to work in the United States.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 12th 1987 by Vintage
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  1,070 ratings  ·  115 reviews

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Jan 30, 2008 rated it liked it
conover is a serious badass. plain and simple. he heads down to mexico, joins up with a group of pollos who, led by a coyote, sneaks through the desert for two days, crosses the border (gets beat up, tortured, and robbed along the way), spends a season picking fruit with his new amigos and then all of 'em knock around the country looking for work before heading back down to mexico. this is a terrific book. gonna pick up New Jack (conover becomes a guard at Sing Sing!) and White Out (a taxi ...more
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I'm not nearly eloquent enough to explain how I feel about this book & the author...

A nightmare of a subject, yet I promise you will somehow find yourself thoroughly entertained - even laughing - without ever losing sight of the author's sincerity towards the matter.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: social justice types, travel types and food-eaters
If you eat fruit or vegetables grown in the US anywhere except your own garden, you should read this book. Shades of Orwell (Wigan Pier), Steinbeck (everything), Agee (Let Us Now) plus elements of a road novel. The author lived with and traveled with Mexican workers for a year, making two illegal border crossings with them in the hands of coyotes and toiling with them in the orange groves of AZ and FL.

Incredibly hard work, to get which which these men brave not all God's dangers but a lot of
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I like the first hand look at the life and work of Mexican immigrants working in the agricultural industry. Though it's a 20+ year old look at the situation, I am sure much of it remains true.

The work these people do is hard work that pays poorly so that we can enjoy lower priced fruits and vegetables. Many of these people pay local, state and federal taxes, including social security. Many other groups including the Irish, Italians and Germans, to name a few, have also come to America to seek
Oct 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
To call Conover's project "undercover" is a little misleading, since as a white, blond American he can't exactly pass for Mexican, nor does he try. What he does do is insinuate himself into a group of migrant workers and document their experience. He works the orchards in Arizona, visits their Mexican hometown, and makes numerous illegal border crossings, among other things. This book is over 20 years old, but it doesn't feel dated at all, and Conover resists the temptation to preach. It's a ...more
Robin Thomas
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was first published in 1986. Ted Conover, the author, is a journalist who joins migrants in their travels to and from the United States. Even though his experiences were relatively long ago, I think the process is still the same, except probably even more dangerous for the migrants. The migrants went to Phoenix to pick citrus, Idaho for potatoes, and Michigan for apples. They travel in dangerous circumstances, having to travel with the help of "coyotes" to help them across the border. ...more
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading Coyotes by Ted Conover. His adventure, sneaking through the border and around country with illegal migrants, was astonishing and somehow it was shocking. With lots of insight from both side of border, he revealed lots of facts that I didn’t know about. It was tough and dangerous journey, but through his journey, he made lots of good friends and relationships with illegal migrants, who are human being just like you.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author accompanied illegal immigrants into and around the US to various jobs. He expresses it eloquently when he says: "...I remember picking, nearly killing myself with work. The job seemed even more remarkable now, after seeing what guys went through to get the job. What American wanted a job so badly? Any job--not just bottom-of-the-barrel work like this. Would you walk thirty-five miles, through the desert, for a job?" Indeed. I know I wouldn't.
Michel Stone
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago while doing research for my novel The Iguana Tree. Conover's book remains one of my favorite non-fiction reads, and I find myself going back to it from time to time as I think about immigration, undocumented border crossings, and what that experience is like for those who choose to undertake that journey.
Julieann Wielga
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I have a relationship with Ted Conover. He grew up in Denver. He is my age. When he was a young man he hung out with Hoboes in Hobo camps and rode the rails. In between Peace Corps and my short stint in medical school, I hung out with pregnant homeless woman, in the night and day shelters, taught them about birth, stayed with them through labors,and helped them set up again in homes. In the long mostly nights of letting babies come I heard many stories of young women traveling anyway ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, entertaining, emotionally gripping read. Coyotes tells the story of a journalist who follows Mexican undocumented workers and their coyotes--traffickers, for lack of a better term. He writes with admirable clarity, showing the plight of the undocumented worker without beating the reader over the head with a policy argument.

Of course the immigration issue is a perennial hot-button one. We talk about how we protect American jobs, and we talk about how we treat those less fortunate.
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: border-stuff
Shit. What a poorly-conceived book. The author comes across as a self-congratulatory putz touting his accidental ability to "get in the shit" and come up with some juicy first-hand accounts of riding in a van with people crossing the US/Mexico Border illegally.

I tried like hell to get into it, but was cut off at every pass by this jerk-off. He makes statements like, "I was probably the most educated person X had ever met," and "Though there was great poverty, the Mexican side of the border did
May 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed, Coyotes is first-rate undercover journalism. Ted Conover lived and worked among Mexicans working illegally in the U.S. -- sharing their jobs, living space, food and (as much as is possible for a gringo) the risks they take to be in our country. The book is about 20 years old, but it still feels fresh and relevant for today's immigration debate

Conover is a solid writer and he wisely frames the novel firstly as adventure tale, secondly as cultural
May 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
From 1984-85, Ted Conover, an undercover journalist, crossed the Mexican/US border several times with illegal Mexican migrants. He also lived in a small settlement in Mexico besides working in fields in AZ and FL. This book helps give a sense of what it was like during that time period to be an illegal migrant. The characters are all well-meaning and eager to work. The picture of illegal Mexican immigrants painted in this book is much different from what is described in our media today. I may ...more
Nov 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
A blonde-haired, blue eyed journalist enters the society of illegal Mexican migrant workers. Journalistically, this is a great, well-written read and look into the world of illegal border crossings, human trafficking, the underground agricultural industry, the language and society of migrant workers, and the effects on families on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

Anyone who has scorn of "The illegals invading our country and stealing our jobs" or who thinks a wall across the border is a good
Vanessa Perez
I wanted to like this book, but it felt outdated. I appreciated many of the immigrants' stories, but really struggled with paying attention at the end. I know immigration has been around forever, but I feel like it changes with the times, and when this book was written, perhaps it wasn't such a hot button issue. I think this book is great for the history of unauthorized entry, but it doesn't really speak to the current day and the journey that immigrants face here in 2017.
Sep 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction

Pairing this book with Dying to Cross was very informative. The illegal immigrant experience is one most of us would not endure. The story was interesting while the writing was clunky.
Jeremy Saldivar
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was great. Ted did an amazing job shedding light on the life of a immigrant. Some funny, some hardening, and some sad. The stories told really puts in perspective the reasons why immigrants do what they do. I highly recommend it. A lot of people can learn from this read.

Thank you Ted for owning this project and making it a masterpiece. My grandparents migrated to the USA in the 60’s/70’s. My grandpa and grandma worked low paying, bottom-feeding jobs, including picking cotton
Gowdy Cannon
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This bold is 30+ years old. But the author can spin a ripping good yarn. What incredible stories he has. Whatever I've done to associate with immigrants in my neighborhood, he's done 100x as much. He tells stories straightforward and with superb detail. I don't feel like I'm being preached at. He's balanced and fair. Parts are hilarious, like the language barrier moments. Parts are sobering, as when people suffer great physical harm due to the work they do. I learned a lot from this book, about ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Goodreads is telling me I should read this because I read Enrique's journey. I read Coyotes soon after it was published because I really liked Ted Conover's first book about riding the rails. I liked this one more. Although I would say it's probably dated now, given post 9/11 immigration and now post-Trump immigration. But Ted Conover's work is admirable--he dives into his subjects and reports on them. After I read this book I went on to read Whiteout:lost in Aspen, and Newjack, about going ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I know a lot of immigrants and know it is not an easy subject. Conover did a great job pulling me even deeper into the story, and although the book is 30 years old, it still resonates today. At one point, I put the book down for the night to get ready for bed, when it hit me: "There are people in the desert right now living what he just described..."
Robert Hibbard
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Fascinating book and look at undocumented migrant workers clandestinely crossing into the U.S. from Mexico and working as narrated by Ted Conover, a journalist, who spent countless hours living and traveling with them. One thing, though, I strongly dislike the term illegal migrants used on the cover of the book, which may have been a more accepted term when the book was written in the 80's.
Theresa Setzer
Conover is an excellent investigative journalist and his efforts with this book are no exception. I have read a lot on this subject and was not as surprised or moved as other readers but if you are interested in this subject I definitely recommend picking this up. It feels a little dated but that does not take away from the importance of this issue.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a real eye opener. Once I started I could not put this book down. Although the events take place in the 80's the personal stories of these migrant workers and the author's time with each of them made me feel like I was right there. I highly recommend this book.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: immigration, mexico
I found this book at a little free library, and it was a good pick! The tone is engaging, and it was truly fascinating to look at both the immigration situation and the everyday effects of racism in the 1980s as compared to 2019. So much has changed, yet some things remain the same.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read, told through the eyes of a white American man living and traveling and working with Mexican men in both Mexico and the United States. It's told through an anecdotal lens from 1984-1985. He was much more than a journalist to the friends with whom he bonded. I got to share a glimpse of what Mexican life can be like--both in Mexico and as illegal immigrants in the United States. It left me wanting to know what the current state is like, what remains similar and what ...more
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dusty by: Alan Hastings
Shelves: read-in-2008
A solid piece of narrative journalism. Certainly the deepest (and presumably the most accurate) story I've read about the United States' failed struggle to secure its southern border against Latino immigrants.

To tell this story, the author, Ted Conover, adopts an ingenious and engaging gimmick: He travels to Mexico, builds relationships with Mexicans intent on following the "illegal" route to work in the United States, then smuggles himself back into his own country at their sides. In the
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
A great adventure is happening and the author documents it very well. Even though this book was written in the 80's, the story remains the same. Young men, mostly, making an extraordinary effort to cross the border to work for lower than minimum wage. They live on nothing, in the poorest of housing conditions and work 50-60 hours a week. Their women and children remain at home wondering when they will ever come back. The money they earn goes to buy roofing material for their family's home in ...more
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
"Coyotes" is the name given by Mexicans to the men who smuggle them into the US and transport them illegally within the US. Traveling with Mexican farm workers, writer Ted Conover crossed twice into the US. He worked with them, picking oranges in Arizona, and drove with them to farm jobs and harvests in Idaho and Florida.

Conover writes with a clear eye and doesn't disguise his feelings for his subject matter. He is able to create and sustain suspense over many pages, including a days-long
Oct 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Published in 1987, this account of the lives of illegal immigrants remains highly relevant today, given the harsh politicization of the issue. One passage I marked, which could have been written in 2011:

"Often they are mentioned in the same breath as drugs that are smuggled across, or terrorists that might try to be. What crosses the border is dangerous; the Southwest is our 'exposed flank.' There is a nagging fear that we've gone to sleep with the back door unlocked.

"In Mexico the migration
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Ted Conover, a "master of experience-based narrative nonfiction" (Publisher's Lunch), is the author of many articles and five books including Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes, Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Mexican Migrants, Whiteout: Lost in Aspen, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and finalist for the Pulitzer ...more
“Often they are mentioned in the same breath as drugs that are smuggled across, or terrorists that might try to be. What crosses the border is dangerous; the Southwest is our 'exposed flank.' There is a nagging fear that we've gone to sleep with the back door unlocked.

"In Mexico the migration is less imagined and more concrete. It's something people from the poorest and most remote corners of the republic have participated in for years -- at least as far back as 1848, when the United States, through the Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, acquired nearly half of their country, stranding many Mexican nationals in a foreign land. Then, as now, migration has been recognized to be a two-way street, of people leaving home for a while, working, and then mainly returning home. The relatively fast pace of American industrialization, coupled with Mexico's economic and demographic crises, has accelerated the movement north. Today, if you are among the majority of Mexicans -- those with very little money -- working in the United States is not merely something you hear about, but something you might consider. It is one of life's few options.”
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