These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

the devil's highway

i will try not to make tis a political statement. but it might end up being that, despite what i'm going to write about.

tuesday night i was assigned to attend a talk by luis urrea on his book "the devil's highway." it's an account of 26 people crossing from mexico into arizona through an area of desert called "the devil's highway." fourteen of them died. it happened in may 2001.

urrea is an imporessive speaker, serious, yet making jokes. not really jokes but musings that made the audience at hope college laugh.

to make his way toward the book, he first gave background about himself, where he came from, his roots, his relationship with his parents and his missionary work that eveually led to the book. it all tied together.

he talked about his mexican father. his white mother. his birth in tijuana and moving to an area near san diego, calif. he talked about being called a greaser or wetback. he as a child he said he took it literally and would check his back, which was not wet, nor did he have any grease on his body. that made people laugh.

but his talk centered on immigration. he said it was a human issue. i think most people try to make it abstract or link it to other things like terrorism. sometimes i wish those people who say that would really lsten to themselves. what self-respecting terrorist would attempt a walk through 100-plus temps through a desert to get from mexico to arizona when it's so much easier to walk across from canada to america? no one.

with this situation, so many people perish trying to make the trip to america, the land they view as being bountiful. they take those risks to get here to make money and send back home.

i talked to a womanamed dora after the talk. she said she's torn. she's mexican and american. she knows it's wrong that they cross illegally and that they need papers to be here legally. however, she has family in mexico that earns $7 a day to support a family and they talk about "the united." they see people like dora (who works for a school district as an aide) as having luxury items. it's the perception they have because she lives here. perhaps it's not much but it's probably more than what they've got. in fact, it is.

dora also mentioned a child at the school once talking about coming over illegally with a group that included his family. one in the group was an old man. they group went on and on. the old man couldn't keep up. the boy remembers the group having to leave the old man behind because he couldn't keep up. if they'd stayed behind, they'd all be caught. i guess the boy never knew what happened to the old man. one can only wonder. he may have died of exposure and been picked clean by animals.

what a harsh reality. people go through so much to get here. they make it. tey're scorned, jailed, beaten, driven off, called derrogatory names. why? because they're brown peole with darkhair and eyes, who have thick accents, can't english very much and are seen as second class people.

would they do that to canadians? probably. they look pretty white. if they get rid of the "eh" there's no problem. they'd fit right in.

it's easy for an issue to lose any sort of "face" to it. when thee's no face, people see the problem and never realize or know the humans behind the issue.

as urrea said, we need to talk about it.


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