Synopses & Reviews
The acclaimed author of Rolling Nowhere has taken another adventure, this time on the underground railway that operates across America's southern border. To discover what becomes of Mexicans who desperately slip into the United States, Ted Conover disguised himself as an illegal alien, walked across deserts, hid in orange orchards, waded through the Rio Grande, and cut life-threatening deals with tough-guy traffickers in human sweat. This electrifying account is the harrowing vision of a way of life no outsider has ever seen before.
"The title refers to the name given to those people who smuggle illegal aliens into the United States. Conover lived among the people who pay 'coyotes' enormous sums of money to be brought into this country secretly under conditions that are full of physical threat. The most touching part of the book is the description of Conover's visit to Ahuacatlan, the province from which many of the men he has met come. Here he witnesses what has happened to the families left behind. While the money the men have earned has resulted in some improvement, there is still enormous poverty in their lives, and their home life is drifting toward disintegration. There is humor, too, including a hilarious episode in which several men pool enough money together to fly from Mexico to Los Angeles but must find the appropriate clothing and behaviors to avoid arousing suspicions by 'La Migra.' Conover has done a good job of capturing the difficult lives of these men who want only to earn a decent wage to support their families." Barbara Weathers, School Library Journal
"This is the most objective account of illegal immigration from Mexico I've read, and one reason is that the writer the author of Rolling Nowhere, an account of riding freight trains with hobos is so subjective. Interviews with 'experts,' ranging from an American labor organizer to a Mexican priest, are there for those who want sociological analysis. But they're interjected naturally and gracefully into Mr. Conover's first-person account of his travels with the migrant workers who start out as the subjects of his book and wind up friends he respects, admires and, in probable violation of United States immigration law, sometimes helps to reach their destinations. Another reason this book is so good is that Mr. Conover has such a true eye for human and topographical detail....There is grace in this book, even more wisdom. What makes it really glow on every page is Mr. Conover's realization that he is dealing neither with a crime nor a tragedy, but with another of those human adventures that make America a country that is constantly renewing itself." T.D. Allman, The New York Times Book Review
"Conover, author of an earlier book on hobos, studies Mexican illegal aliens by living their life and crossing the border with them. His book is similar to John Davidson's The Long Journey North, but Conover takes dangerous personal risks, spends more time with his contacts, covers a larger group of Mexicans, and ranges across Idaho, Arizona, and Florida as he describes how these people migrate within the United States. His experiences in central Mexico effectively capture the immigrant's impact on his own rural community, although one wishes for deeper personal insights into his subjects' motivations. An eminently readable and revealing account. Highly recommended." Roderic A. Camp, Latin American Studies Dept., Central Coll., Pella, Ia
"This first title in the Vintage Departures series ('devoted to exploring the vastness of the world, of one's life, or even of one's own backyard') focuses on the world of illegal aliens. Conover, author of Rolling Nowhere, posed as an immigrant, crossing the border twice and learning first-hand about 'coyotes' those who sneak Mexicans and other Latin Americans across the border, often under murderous conditions. Menaced by hoods, arrested, freed, forced to dodge spotter planes, Conover spent a year, as he puts it, 'working, drinking, smoking, driving, sleeping, sweating and shivering with Mexicans.' His conclusion: 'It is urgent that we know more about these people who ask little more than to wash our dishes, vacuum our cars, and pick our fruit.' This well-written, anecdotal account offers an intimate glimpse of the United States from a perspective few citizens are aware of." Publisher's Weekly
"Ted Conover lived the bizarre life of the Mexican illegals. Theirs is a subterrestrial world of high-wire tensions, of brutal police, of sinister smugglers -- coyotes. A devastating document, this one must be read." Leon Uris
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.