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The Devil's Highway
In May 2001, in an area called the Devil's Highway, twenty-six illegal immigrants struggled across the desert border into the U.S. Most of them died in their effort. Using this tragedy to illustrate the fate of many immigrants, Urrea sheds light on the faceless border officials, the smugglers, and their exploited human cargo. With compelling, creative narration, Urrea traces the lives and desert ordeal of these two dozen men, and faults what he considers backward Mexican and U.S. border policy for their deaths. This book is powerful testimony to the tragedy that sadly awaits many.
Synopses & Reviews
In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, a place called the Devil's Highway. Twenty-six people — fathers and sons, brothers and strangers — entered a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it. For hundreds of years, men have tried to conquer this land, and for hundreds of years the desert has stolen their souls and swallowed their blood.
Along the Devil's Highway, days are so hot that dead bodies naturally mummify almost immediately. And that May, twenty-six men went in.
Twelve came back out.
Now, Luis Alberto Urrea tells the story of this modern Odyssey. He takes us back to the small towns and unpaved cities south of the border, where the poor fall prey to dreams of a better life and the sinister promises of smugglers. We meet the men who will decide to make the crossing along the Devil's Highway and, on the other side of the border, the men who are ready to prevent them from reaching their destination. Urrea reveals exactly what happened when the twenty-six headed into the wasteland, and how they were brutally betrayed by the one man they had trusted most. And from that betrayal comes the Inferno, a descent into a world of cactus spines, labyrinths of sand, mountains shaped like the teeth of a shark, and a screaming sun so intense that even at midnight the temperature had only dropped to 97 degrees. And yet, the men would not give up. The Devil's Highway is a story of astonishing courage and strength, of an epic battle of men against circumstance. These twenty-six men would look the Devil in the eyes — and some of them would not blink. Spectacularly written, The Devil's Highway is the great leap forward for one of America's finest writers, a trip to hell and back that is not only an astonishing piece of investigative reporting but also a literary tour de force.
"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 Award — 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 others — whom the media labeled the Yuma 14 — 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 mélange 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. (Apr. 2) Forecast: Urrea has received coverage for his previous writing projects in numerous arts-related publications and has a loyal fan base. A six-city author tour and radio interviews will expand his audience further. The book has been optioned as the debut movie of Tucson-based Creative Dreams Inc. and is scheduled to begin filming in October 2004." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A horrendous story told with bitter skill, highlighting the whole sordid, greedy mess that attends illegal broader crossings." Kirkus Reviews
"Urrea...is keenly attuned to such eloquent and awful ironies and uses them to punctuate the The Devil's Highway, a painstaking, unsentimental and oddly lyrical chronology of the traveling party's horrific trek through the Sonora." Washington Post
"The imaginative license Urrea takes...produces a powerful, almost diabolical impression of the disaster and the exploitative conditions at the border. Urrea shows immigration policy on the human level." Booklist
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 alive with a richness of language and a mastery of narrative detail that only the most gifted of writers are able to achieve.--Los Angeles Times Book Review.
About the Author
Urrea is the recipient of an American Book Award, a Western States Book Award, and a Colorado Book Award, and he has been inducted into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame.
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History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Latin American