Briana's Reviews > The Devil's Highway: A True Story

The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
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Apr 13, 2010

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bookshelves: law, political-philosophy, serious-works
Read from April 16 to 18, 2010

I am really excited to read this book which I found on Terri Windling's fabulous blog.
I grew up in Texas and have lived in two other border states, New Mexico and California. Everyone I know has strong feelings about immigration--legal, illegal and otherwise. Mexican, Latina, and Chicana cultures are as familiar to me if not more so than my own ethnic heritages, so I would like to have a better informed opinion of the whole situation. I don't think it really dawned on me just how much things have changed in our post 9/11 world until I was in Big Bend national park last winter asking about the Rio Grande river rafting trip. Prior to 9/11 there was a place along the river where rafters would dock, and walk over a wooden bridge into Mexico, the borders were open and relations were good. After 9/11 and the changes on the border this stopped, now people will occasionally leave "care" packages on the other side of the border that disappear almost as soon as they are put down, but there is no connection between the two lands, interaction between the people, and I can't help but wonder, where is the care in that? So hopefully Mr. Urrea will be able to help shed some light on this fractured and sometimes non existent dialogue.

4/19/10-finished the book, it was both better and worse than I had hoped. This particular story documents in journalistic fashion the crossing of a group of immigrants from Vera Cruz looking for seasonal farm work in Florida. One of the biggest surprises to me was that the members of this group (which became famously known as the Yuma 14 because there were 14 documented deaths out in the middle of the desert) decided to cross over illegally for what I considered banal reasons. Most of them were not looking to stay in the US forever, rather they wanted to pick up some extra cash by picking citrus in the Florida groves in order to buy a new roof for their home back in Vera Cruz, or get their wives some new furniture or buy their kids school uniforms. The same type of economic reasons that I would say, take a second part time job--specific situations that require an extra bit of capital--nothing sinister or scary, they weren't even planning to stay in the country long-term. I learned about the grisly death of hyperthermia that each of the victims suffered out there in the dessert and I appreciated Urrea's own surprise that the Border Patrol guys came off much more concerned about the issue than he (or I) would have originally given them credit for. All of the usual things can be said about the book and the situation--its awful, heartbreaking, what to do, whose to blame--and this is where the book fell a bit short for me. I was hoping for more of an analysis of US/Mexico border policy, I need a primer on the economic decisions made on both sides of the fence that determine, augment, and in many cases damage our relationship with our neighbors to the South. I am confused about why we have companies that have jobs available for so-called illegal immigrants but then national policies that discourage immigration by making it illegal--that seems to have the same logic as printing out money, distributing it to the public but then saying that if you try to buy any goods with the currency you will go to jail--I'm sure I'm missing something here. So I am continuing to look, if anyone out there has a good suggestion hit me up!
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