The Devils Highway Book Essay

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The Devils Highway Book Essay
The Devils Highway Book Essay

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Copyright © 2004 by Luis Urrea Reading group guide copyright © 2005 by Luis Alberto Urrea and Little, Brown and Company (Inc.) All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Hachette Book Group 237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017 Visit our Web site at The Little, Brown and Company name and logo are registered trademarks of Hachette Book Group First eook Edition: November 2008 ISBN: 978-0-316-04928-3 Contents AUTHOR’S NOTE PART ONE: CUTTING THE DRAG Chapter 1: The Rules of the Game PART TWO: DEADMAN’SSIGN Chapter 2: In Veracruz Chapter 3: The Coyote and the Chicken Chapter 4: El Guía Chapter 5: Jesús Walks Among Us Chapter 6: In Sonoita Chapter 7: A Pepsi for the Apocalypse Chapter 8: Bad Step at Bluebird Chapter 9: Killed by the Light PART THREE: IN DESOLATION Chapter 10: The Long Walk Chapter 11: Their Names Chapter 12: Broken Promise Chapter 13: The Trees and the Sun Chapter 14: Helicopters PART FOUR: AFTERMATH Chapter 15: Aftermath Chapter 16: Home ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ABOUT THE AUTHOR EXTRAORDINARY ACCLAIM FOR LUIS ALBERTO URREA’S THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY “A reading of The Devil’s Highway will undoubtedly brace your soul and remind you that all of us, rich or poor, brown, white, black, or yellow, are traveling through these parts for only a little while. … This intense and somehow, despite all the torture and death and betrayal it stands as a witness to, congenial book gives some of [those who’ve died crossing the border] the chance, however briefly, to cross back over the final border and return to the light.” — Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle “Luis Alberto Urrea ventured into the world of pollos and polleros, and his book rings with the authenticity and authority of an eyewitness. At the same time, he writes with empathy and insight about the migrants and the agents he accompanied into the wilderness. Above all, the tale he tells in The Devil’s Highway 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.” — Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review “Urrea’s prose takes you right down to the desert floor as the men struggle to survive, in the same way Jon Krakauer put you atop Mount Everest in his book Into Thin Air.” — Michael Kapellas, Naperville Sun “A powerful, almost diabolical impression of the disaster and the exploitative conditions at the border. Urrea shows immigration policy on the human level.” — Gilbert Taylor, Booklist “Luis Alberto Urrea’s approach is a smart one: instead of writing a dry, fact- based piece of journalism littered with excerpts from official documents, he paces the book like a novel, full of detail and emotion. He spends time with the border patrol, showing the good and the bad. He doesn’t make martyrs out of the walkers. Instead of railing passionately against the Mexican and American governments—his sympathy clearly leans toward those who try to cross—he saves all the facts and figures for the last chapter, presenting them calmly. By then, no matter what your opinion on border policy, you’ve been sucked in by the story and characters. The writing is exceptional. The descriptions of the desert’s beauty are poetic. … It’s a beautiful book about a horrible trip.” — Emiliana Sandoval, Detroit Free Press “The best thing I’ve read in years. Like his brilliant Across the Wire, Luis Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway is rich, intimate, powerful, terrifying, and absolutely necessary. Everyone should read this book.” — Stewart O’Nan “A painstaking, unsentimental, and oddly lyrical chronology of the traveling party’s horrific trek through the Sonora. … Patient, well-crafted, and heartbreaking.” — Chris Lehmann, Washington Post Book World “Urrea has been preparing to tell this story his whole career, and he does it brilliantly. He’s a natural investigator, alive to all the galling ironies of policy, prejudice, and circumstance, and he knows the terrain. … The Devil’s Highway is strong medicine: a grisly parable, but an ultimately fitting tribute to the dead.” — Brad Weiners, Outside “From the sad personal effects of the dead men to the unexpected poetry of a survivor’s police testimony, Urrea has created a full-blooded narrative.” — Dylan Foley, Newark Star-Ledger “Tragic drama puts a human face on the foibles of mankind. Luis Urrea has put a face on one of the great tragedies of our time, death and survival on the U.S.-Mexican border. Like the ancient Greek plays, The Devil’s Highway elevates the death of the Yuma 14 to the role of tragic heroes. So we can say a new genre is born in our land; call it Frontera tragic drama.” — Rudolfo Anaya “Luis Urrea writes about U.S.-Mexican border culture with a tragic and beautiful intimacy that has no equal. … His uncanny ability to remain perched on the hyphen between two countries/identities as a careful observer of both worlds—of how they blur and yet remain separate—is the unique gift of The Devil’s Highway. … The book’s rare power is that it is both epic in scope—a trek through the wilderness in search of ‘the promised land’—and intensely personal.” — Tom Montgomery-Fate, Boston Globe “A tour de force account of an adventure unlike the ones you’re used to reading.” — Jonathan Miles, Men’s Journal “Sublimely written. … Urrea puts all his skills to their best use in telling how and why an ordinary event—an illegal border crossing— went so terribly wrong.” — Jeff Baker, Portland Oregonian “Luis Alberto Urrea stuns us into judgment with a poetically austere account of the tragedy that he calls ‘the big die-off, the largest death event in border history.’ Urrea has a talent commensurate to the task.” — Anne Bartlett, Miami Herald “Dramatic as a Tolstoy novel, full of hope and injustice, with overtones that are positively biblical. … Urrea’s own gift for precise and original language should put this book on the map.” — Susan Zakin, LA Weekly “Impassioned and poetic. … Urrea has written one of the great sur-realistic tragedies of the global age. He has captured the fantastic and incongruous set of forces, images, and happenings that make up the contradictions that are the borderlands.” — Jefferson Cowie, Chicago Tribune “The Devil’s Highway is a stunning book: powerful, poetic, passionate, and moving. It takes a single tragic incident, refracts it through history and mythology, and uses the result not only to examine the relationship between the rich and the poor, the weak and the powerful, but to illuminate the nature of human beings at their most desperate, their most devious, and their most courageous. Quite simply, it’s superb.” — John Connolly “An evocative, nonlinear narrative style makes the book read more like highbrow adventure literature than narrative journalism.” — Alisa Roth, Newsday “Few authors could write so entertainingly about such tragedy, fewer yet could do so with authority, and perhaps only one could be fair to the U.S. Border Patrol at the same time. Luis Urrea has a large heart and a wicked wit, and has written a wonderful book.” — Ted Conover “An important book—one that is beautifully written as well as shocking. If you read it, you will never forget about the untold scores of men and women —and children—who die every year in the dead-liest stretch of desert in America.” — Ann LaFarge, Taconic Press “A masterstroke, an instant classic of the literature of that brave new world of our future we call la frontera, the border. Urrea writes with wit, passion, skill, and love. His is a very human book about a very human tragedy happening every single day in the deserts around us.” — Jon Shumaker, Tucson Weekly “A riveting account of the 2001 border crossing of twenty-six Mexican men into the stretch of Arizona desert commonly called the Devil’s Highway—a nod to its ghastly history of rotting corpses and scorching conditions. Urrea’s exhaustive research and incisive analysis provide searing sociopolitical context, while his poetic prose viscerally captures the group’s horror at being abandoned by their guide and the ritualistic death march that claimed fourteen lives.” — Raymond Fiore, Entertainment Weekly “A horrendous story told with bitter skill, highlighting the whole sordid, greedy mess that attends illegal border crossings.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Take a walk on the dead side. The largest folk movement in human history is taking place on the U.S.-Mexican border. Nobody talks about it. This slaughterhouse fries and mangles at least 400 people a year. Nobody talks about it. The Devil’s Highway is coming to Main Street. Open your ears and eyes, wash the blood over your hands, and read Luis Urrea. We gotta talk. Now.” — Charles Bowden “Urrea can cut loose and surrealistic when the story warrants it, but just as nimbly rein in to focus on facts. … Those familiar with Cormac McCarthy’s western novels will undoubtedly hear familiar tones in the mythic ring of some of Urrea’s phrasing.” — Kathleen Johnson, Kansas City Star “With great wit and pathos, the author skillfully recreates the events leading to the walk across the border that killed so many so mercilessly. … A poignant and harrowing story everyone should read.” — Vivian Lake, Puerto Rico Sun “A stunning work of narrative journalism that puts a much-needed face on a notoriously divisive issue.” — Marc Ramirez, Seattle Times “Artful. … Confident and full of righteous rage, Urrea’s story is a wellcrafted mélange of first-person testimony, geographic history, cultural and economic analysis, poetry, and an indictment of immigration policy.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Powerful. … A harrowing journey from the streets of Veracruz to a morgue in Arizona. … What The Devil’s Highway does is personalize human misery on so vast a scale that it is usually portrayed exclusively in statistics.” — Edward Morris, Bookpage “Shocking. … Urrea is able to recreate the ill-fated crossing with the startling accuracy of an eyewitness. … The Devil’s Highway is a stunning contribution to the literature of current affairs and has all the potential to incite outrage and, most hopefully, change.” — Rigoberto Gonzalez, El Paso Times “A border story sung in the voice of a true border son, a fronterizo. … Urrea’s voice soars with polished ease from cynical to lyrical. … The Devil’s Highway will haunt you.” — Judy Goldstein Botello, San Diego Union-Tribune OTHER BOOKS BY LUIS ALBERTO URREA Nonfiction Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border By the Lake of Sleeping Children: The Secret Life of the Mexican Border Nobody’s Son Wandering Time Fiction The Hummingbird’s Daughter In Search of Snow Six Kinds of Sky Poetry The Fever of Being Ghost Sickness Vatos For the dead, and for those who rescue the living Coyote’s gone with most our money And all our hope. Left us just this side Of Mexico. Home feels like heaven Compared to this. I know the buzzards overhead Hold salvation in their kiss. It’s this bad, crazy sun That makes me think like that. I lost my mind And I lost my soul And I know That I’m never going home. —THE SIDEWINDERS AUTHOR’S NOTE This account was based on many sources. Interviews and travel, of course, provided many insights and testimonies. I was granted unusually generous access to documents and governmental reports from both Mexico and the United States; these were central to the collection of stories. Border Patrol reports, sheriff’s department reports, Mexican consular reports, Justice Department reports, legal documents, testimonies and trial documents, correspondence, and many hours of taped interrogations and confessions went into the research. Due to concerns about the personal safety of the survivors, their actual depositions were sealed. I spent hours in federal defenders’ offices, in various consulates, in Border Patrol stations, with Samaritan groups, in diners over cups of coffee, in Migra trucks, and on the Devil’s Highway itself. At the time of this investigation, the survivors were material witnesses in a criminal case, and were also clients in the notorious civil suit against the United States; because of this, they were shielded from direct contact with me. The hours of their torment, however, were well documented, often in their own words. And the Mexican officials who handle their cases were forthcoming with information, sometimes offered surreptitiously, off the record, or representing messages the survivors wanted heard. Some of the sources for this book did not choose to be—or could not be— quoted directly. The year I spent researching and traveling consumed four leather-bound notebooks of about 144 pages each. Much of that material, of course, was tangential. Still, about half of each notebook went into this book. Certain passages, nevertheless, were subject to educated conjecture. For example, no number of letters to Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos, aka Mendez, will ever be answered. He simply won’t answer questions, largely to protect his loved ones from payback by the Coyote gang. Fortunately, his testimony and writings and taped pensées are available for study. Any discussion of his private thoughts and motivations could only be taken on faith based on his various statements—some of them contradictory. The opinions of his attorney and of the Mexican officials who dealt with him were also of great help in decoding the cipher that is Mendez. Furthermore, some conversations were implied—they are presented in the text as possibilities based on recollections and inferences from the recorded testimonies. These are shown without quotation marks. Where the actual words are known, they are presented as straight dialogue. Finally, although I wasn’t with them on the morning when they awoke lost in the Sonoran desert, I have spent many spring mornings there. I know the smell and sound of the dawn quite well. I know the time of year. And I know the weather conditions in which they found themselves. The Wellton 26 had scant time to worry about the nature aspects of their journey. But no story about death and the Devil’s Highway could rightly exist without the strong presence of Desolation, in all its intimidating glory. PART ONE CUTTING THE DRAG 1 The Rules of the Game Five men stumbled out of the mountain pass so sunstruck they didn’t know their own names, couldn’t remember where they’d come from, had forgotten how long they’d been lost. One of them wandered back up a peak. One of them was barefoot. They were burned nearly black, their lips huge and cracking, what paltry drool still available to them spuming from their mouths in a salty foam as they walked. Their eyes were cloudy with dust, almost too dry to blink up a tear. Their hair was hard and stiffened by old sweat, standing in crowns from their scalps, old sweat because their bodies were no longer sweating. They were drunk from having their brains baked in the pan, they were seeing God and devils, and they were dizzy from drinking their own urine, the poisons clogging their systems. They were beyond rational thought. Visions of home fluttered through their minds. Soft green bushes, waterfalls, children, music. Butterflies the size of your hand. Leaves and beans of coffee plants burning through the morning mist as if lit from within. Rivers. Not like this place where they’d gotten lost. Nothing soft here. This world of spikes and crags was as alien to them as if they’d suddenly awakened on Mars. They had seen cowboys cut open cacti to find water in the movies, but they didn’t know what cactus among the many before them might hold some hope. Men tore their faces open chewing saguaros and prickly pears, leaving gutted plants that looked like animals had torn them apart with their claws. The green here was gray. They were walking now for water, not salvation. Just a drink. They whispered it to each other as they staggered into parched pools of their own shadows, forever spilling downhill before them: Just one drink, brothers. Water. Cold water! They walked west, though they didn’t know it; they had no concept anymore of destination. The only direction they could manage was through the gap they stumbled across as they cut through the Granite Mountains of southern Arizona. Now canyons and arroyos shuffled them west, toward Yuma, though they didn’t know where Yuma was and wouldn’t have reached it if they did. They came down out of the screaming sun and broke onto the rough plains of the Cabeza Prieta wilderness, at the south end of the United States Air Force’s Barry Goldwater bombing range, where the sun recommenced its burning. Cutting through this region, and lending its name to the terrible landscape, was the Devil’s Highway, more death, another desert. They were in a vast trickery of sand. In many ancient religious texts, fallen angels were bound in chains and buried beneath a desert known only as Desolation. This could be the place. In the distance, deceptive stands of mesquite trees must have looked like oases. Ten trees a quarter mile apart can look like a cool grove from a distance. In the western desert, twenty miles looks like ten. And ten miles can kill. There was still no water; there wasn’t even any shade. Black ironwood stumps writhed from the ground. Dead for five hundred years, they had already been two thousand years old when they died. It was a forest of eldritch bones. The men had cactus spines in their faces, their hands. There wasn’t enough fluid left in them to bleed. They’d climbed peaks, hoping to find a town, or a river, had seen more landscape, and tumbled down the far side to keep walking. One of them said, “Too many damned rocks.” Pinches piedras, he said. Damned heat. Damned sun. Now, as they came out of the hills, they faced the plain and the far wall of the Gila Mountains. Mauve and yellow cliffs. A volcanic cone called Raven’s Butte that was dark, as if a rain cloud were hovering over it. It looked as if you could find relief on its perpetually shadowy flanks, but that too was an illusion. Abandoned army tanks, preserved forever in the dry heat, stood in their path, a ghostly arrangement that must have seemed like another bad dream. Their full-sun 110-degree nightmare. “The Devil’s Highway” is a name that has set out to illuminate one notion: bad medicine. The first white man known to die in the desert heat here did it on January 18, 1541. Most assuredly, others had died before. As long as there have been people, there have been deaths in the western desert. When the Devil’s Highway was a faint scratch of desert bighorn hoof marks, and the first hunters ran along it, someone died. But the brown and red men who ran the paths left no record outside of faded songs and rock paintings we still don’t understand. Desert spirits of a dark and mysterious nature have always traveled these trails. From the beginning, the highway has always lacked grace—those who worship desert gods know them to favor retribution over the tender dove of forgiveness. In Desolation, doves are at the bottom of the food chain. Tohono O’Odham poet Ofelia Zepeda has pointed out that rosaries and Hail Marys don’t work out here. “You need a new kind of prayers,” she says, “to negotiate with this land.” The first time the sky and earth came together, Elder Brother, I’itoi, was born. He still resides in a wi ...
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The Devils Highway
Institution Affiliation



The book titled The Devils Highway written by Luis Alberto Urrea. The author explores a
journey of Mexican illegal immigrants through the desert on the southern Arizona border. The
author uses different writing techniques to provoke the readers in understanding his theme. The
theme of the book is the suffering of the illegal immigrants in their journey to the United States.
The author narrates the plight of the 26 immigrants across the desert and deaths of 14 of them in
the process. The book sheds light on the significant issues surrounding illegal immigration and the
untold suffering of these immigrants. He discusses the reasons behind these immigrations, the
human traffickers and the role of the border patrols.
Reasons for immigration
The book is central discussion is the illegal immigration of Mexican into the United States.
Illegal immigration into the United States has risen with the American government coming up with
strict measures to stop immigration. For instance, President Donald Trump policy to build a wall
and arrest and detention of the immigrants (Meckler, 2017). Mexicans immigrants for a long time
has made the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. The author sheds light on some
of the reasons behind the Mexican unlawful immigration into the United States. He notes the
desperation of the Mexicans because of the poverty and the failing economy in their country
(Garip, 2019).
The author points out poverty as one of the major causes of illegal immigration. He explains
that the Mexicans are experiencing high levels of poverty, which is motivating them to migrate.
They have no enough food to feed themselves, their families, and even a roof over their head. They



are lacking the fundamental needs for human survival, which is significantly increasing their
desperation. The author explains the poverty levels in the town of Veracruz, where the 26
immigrants lived.
First, they could barely afford to pay Don Moi the smuggler the fee to smuggle them into
the United States. In their conversation with Don, they explain that the payment is very high and
could not afford it. They end up taking loans and hoping to pay them back after they got the jobs
in the United States (Piper and Alaniz, 2018). Besides, the people of Veracruz are excited to see
the people from American with cars and telephones as this was very new to ...

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