The Devil's Highway: A True Story

The Devil's Highway: A True Story

by Luis Alberto Urrea


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316010801
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/19/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 19,869
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.75(d)
Lexile: 890L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

The Devil's Highway

A True Story
By Luis Alberto Urrea

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2004 Luis Urrea
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-74671-1

Chapter One

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 windy cave overlooking the western desert, and he resents uninvited visitors. Mountains are called do'ags. In the side of one do'ag can be found the twin caves where the spirit of the evil witch, Ho'ok, hides. The coyote-spirit of the place is called Ban, and he works his wicked pranks in the big open spaces.

Everywhere, red shadows. Tiny men live underground, and they are known to the Yaqui Indians hereabouts as Surem. In the past, before the first white man died, uku, the devil, controlled all the corn until the crows stole it from him and let some of it slip so men could eat. Mexico's oldest hoodoo, La Llorona, the wailing ghost, has been heard rushing down nearby creek beds. And its newest hoodoo, the dreaded Chupacabras (the Goat Sucker), has been seen attacking animals, lurking in outhouses, and even jumping in bedroom windows to munch on sleeping children. An Apache witness said the Chupacabras was a whispering kangaroo. It said, "Come here." He swore it did.

The plants are noxious and spiked. Saguaros, nopales, the fiendish chollas. Each long cholla spike has a small barb, and they hook into the skin, and they catch in elbow creases and hook forearm and biceps together. Even the green mesquite trees have long thorns set just at eye level.

Much of the wildlife is nocturnal, and it creeps through the nights, poisonous and alien: the sidewinder, the rattlesnake, the scorpion, the giant centipede, the black widow, the tarantula, the brown recluse, the coral snake, the Gila monster. The kissing bug bites you and its poison makes the entire body erupt in red welts. Fungus drifts on the valley dust, and it sinks into the lungs and throbs to life. The millennium has added a further danger: all wild bees in southern Arizona, naturalists report, are now Africanized. As if the desert felt it hadn't made its point, it added killer bees.

Today, the ancient Hohokam have vanished, like the Anasazi, long gone in the north. Their etchings and ruins still dot the ground; unexplained radiating lines lead away from the center like ghost roads in the shape of a great star. Not all of these paths are ancient. Some of the lines have been made by the illegals, cutting across the waste to the far lights of Ajo, or Sells, or the Mohawk rest area on I-8. Others are old beyond dating, and no one knows where they lead. Footprints of long-dead cowboys are still there, wagon ruts and mule scuffs. And beneath these, the prints of the phantom Hohokam themselves.

In certain places, boulders form straight lines, arrayed along compass directions on the burning plains. Among these stones are old rock piles in the shapes of arrows. They were left by well-wishers in 1890, aiming at a tinaja (water hole) hidden among crags. Cairns that serve as mysterious signposts for messages long forgotten mix with ancient graves. Etchings made in the hardpan with feet or sticks form animals centuries old and only visible from the air. Some of these cairns have been put in place by Border Patrol signcutters (trackers), and they are often at the junction of two desert paths, but the cutters just smile when you ask what they mean. One more secret of Desolation.

When the white men came, they brought with them their mania for record keeping. They made their way across the land, subduing indigenous tribes, civilizing the frontier. Missionaries brought the gentle word of the Lamb. Cavalrymen bravely tamed the badlands, built military outposts, settlements, ranches, and towns. Cowboys rode like the wind. Gunslingers fell. The worst bandits you could imagine drank rotgut and shot sheriffs, yet lived on in popular mythology and became the subjects of popular songs and cheap fictions. Railroads followed, and the great cattle drives, and the dusty range wars, and the discovery of gold and silver. In the great north woods, lumberjacks collected the big trees. The Alamo. The Civil War took out countless citizens in its desperate upheaval.

Every Tijuana schoolkid knows it: it's the history of Mexico.

If the North American continent was broad ("high, wide, and lonesome"), then Mexico was tall. High, narrow, and lonesome. Europeans conquering North America hustled west, where the open land lay. And the Europeans settling Mexico hustled north. Where the open land was.

Immigration, the drive northward, is a white phenomenon. White Europeans conceived of and launched El Norte mania, just as white Europeans inhabiting the United States today bemoan it. They started to complain after the Civil War. The first illegal immigrants to be hunted down in Desolation by the earliest form of the Border Patrol were Chinese. In the 1880s, American railroad barons needed cheap skilled labor to help "tame our continent." Mexico's Chinese hordes could be hired for cheap, yet they could earn more in the United States than in Mexico, even at cut rates. Jobs opened, word went out, the illegals came north. Sound familiar?

Americans panicked at the "yellowing" of America. A force known as the Mounted Chinese Exclusionary Police took to the dusty wasteland. They chased the "coolies" and deported them. And today?

Sinful frontier towns with bad reputations. Untamed mountain ranges, bears, lions, and wolves. Indians. A dangerous border. Inhabitants speak with a cowpoke twang, listen to country music, dance the two-step, favor cowboy hats, big belt buckles, and pickup trucks. That ain't Texas, it's Sonora.

January 18,1541.

Sonoita (also known as Sonoyta) was perhaps not much more than sticks and mud, but it was a stopping point for a Spanish expedition in search of, what else, gold. Even in 1541, Sonoita was the unwilling host of killers and wanderers. The leader of this clanking Spaniard patrol was a firebrand known as Melchior Diaz. He didn't especially want to spend his holidays in the broiling dust of Sonoita, but he was deep into hostile territory. It was commonly believed that the natives of the Devil's Highway devoured human children. The Spaniards weren't planning on settling-spread the cross around, throw up a mission, and hit the road in search of better things.

Melchior Diaz was trying to reach the Sea of Cortez, lying between the Mexican mainland and Baja California. Perhaps he knew that ahead of him lay the most hellish stretch of land in the entire north. The dirt paths he rode his horse down on that day are now the paved and semipaved barrio lanes of modern Sonoita. Some of the hubcap-popping boulders in Sonoita's hillside alleys are the same rocks on which Melchior's horse's shoes struck sparks.

He died trying to kill a dog. He probably didn't have anything against canines-his troop had dogs that they used to hunt down game and humans. But there were also the feral creatures that dashed in from the out-skirts of the settlement to slaughter his sheep. Melchior Diaz kept his sheep in small brush corrals, attended by his Indian slaves. But the wild dogs had a way of sneaking off with lambs when nobody was looking.

And Melchior was cranky. He had spent his holidays far from home, among the savages, and even Tucson was only a small scattering of huts and lean-tos. He couldn't have been farther from Mexico City or Spain. Sonoita was the end of the world. A Christmas in this outpost did not inspire joy. Besides, conquistadores were notoriously short on joie de vivre.

Melchior rode well, and he rode well armed. He certainly carried a sword and a fighting dagger. He probably carried a harquebus and a long metal-tipped lance, the M16 of the day.

Melchior was a strong man and a powerful fighter. In the narratives of the Coronado expedition, we see him plying his trade: "... the horsemen began to overtake [the Indians] and the lances cut them down mercilessly ... until not a man was to be seen." This rout of natives serves as the preface to the story of death that begins with Melchior Díaz.

We know that he was riding his horse down one of the settlement paths. We can project the smells swirling around him: horse, dirt, his own stink, chickens, smoke, dung. Not all that different from the smells of today.

He was approaching his sheep pen, perhaps where the Asi Es Mi Tierra taco shop, or a Pemex station stands today. Melchior squinted ahead and-Damn it to hell!-those lazy slaves of his had allowed a dog to get in the pen!

Perro desgraciado!

No record states how Melchior entered the pen, but it doesn't seem likely he stopped to open a gate. Not Melchior. He jumped over the fence, and in jumping, somehow he bobbled his lance throw and missed the dog entirely. You can see the dog yipping and sidestepping and making tracks for the horizon, casting wounded looks over his shoulder. And here is where Melchior Diaz died. The record states that Melchior, somehow, "passed over" the lance. Did he fall from the horse? No one knows, but the lance managed to penetrate his gut and rip him open.

The desert ground must have seemed terribly hard as he hit it. As Melchior died (it took twenty gruesome days)on his stinking cot, he burned and howled. Flies settled in his entrails. Maybe the very dog that killed him drew near to sniff the rich meaty scent. The fallen angels of Desolation came out of the Cabeza Prieta, folded their hands over him, and smiled.

The land had been haunted before Melchior died, and it remained haunted afterward; 150 years after his death, Catholic apparitions plagued the tribes. Various peoples had alarming encounters with meddlesome white women who flew above their heads. In the lands of the O'Odham, a white woman bearing a cross came drifting down the Devil's Highway itself. The warriors who saw her immediately did the only practical thing they could: they filled her with arrows. They said she refused to die. Kept on flying.


Excerpted from The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea Copyright © 2004 by Luis Urrea. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Devil's Highway 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Urrea takes you on a journey from Mexico to the United States through the Devil's Highway. You become a witness of the hardships these group of young Mexicans went through in order to live a better life. Some succeeded, but others were left to die with hopeless dreams. This is happening everyday. There is no other book out there that can make you feel like your witnessing what's happening. I highly recommend everyone to read this book.
Hrsrdr More than 1 year ago
Urrea's horrendous telling of the hardships of the Devil's Highway--the route in the desert of Southern Arizona which Hispanic illegals must take to get in to the United States--portrays all sides of the story: the border patrol's, the illegals', and that of US citizens. He specifically writes about the story of a group of 26 men who tried to sneak into Los Estados Unidos under the "coyote" (leader) Jesus Lopez Ramos, telling of their downhill struggle from which only 12 returned, and those barely alive, so dehydrated they were almost mummified, vomiting blood and sick from drinking their own urine. In a direct, morbidly fascinating style that hits home with the reader's sense of justice and sympathy, he animatedly tells the story of individuals who are just trying to make a better future for themselves and their families, while still making it fair to the border patrol. It is a convicting work likely to leave the reader with dramatic reforms in opinion of "illegal aliens." The style in which it is written is painfully humorous and easy to relate with. It is also obviously well-researched and very unique. My only dislike would be that sometimes it is so direct it becomes too uncomfortable to read for long stretches at a time! It slams things into perspective like nothing I've ever read, except maybe John Grisham. Five stars: if you want something interesting, absorbing, and very moving, this is the book for you. I have not read any of Urrea's other works, such as Across the Wire (winner of the Christopher award) or By the Lake of Sleeping Children, but will definetely look into them in the future. Many of my favorite fiction works pale compared to this. Read it. You will not be disappointed.
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
A stunning exposé of life on the Mexico-US border, ¿The Devil¿s Highway¿ examines politics and government policies by telling the story of 14 doomed ¿walkers¿ who attempted to cross the border into America by following an ill-prepared and inexperienced ¿Coyote¿ who was supposed to lead them to freedom but instead guided them to their deaths. Urrea¿s style is both lyrical and brutally blunt as he combines poetic imagery with the stark realism of the damage the desert can do to an unprepared traveler in the course of mere hours. His approach is objective until the point when objectivity is impossible. He portrays all of the players in this ill-fated drama with an even hand¿the Border Patrol agents, the walkers, the Coyotes, the Mexican gangsters who engineer (and profit from) the trips, the families left behind¿and he leaves the inevitable conclusions to the reader. Although this book is no political diatribe, the story Urrea tells reveals the cruelty and the inhumanity behind current immigration policies and laws. And while there are no easy answers to the immigration dilemma, there are certainly ways to improve the sorry state of US immigration policy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pulls your heart strings. Moving and heart wrenching. Fourteen men whose poverty in their home country forced them to seek a better life in the United States ultimately dying a horrific death. I think of them with every drink of water I take as if by quenching my thirst I am quenching theirs.
veronicac311 More than 1 year ago
This book was a page turner. After reading this book I decided to go on a roadtrip on I-8 through the Devils Highway. This book helps the reader understand what the people feel when crossing through the desert from Mexico to the U.S. It helped me understand why they crossed and how they go about getting across. Sadly, it also details the slow and torturous death that they encounter when they get lost in the desert and can't find anyone to help.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Urrea brings to life the issue in the hearts of everyone living along the southern border of the US. It is an issue that should be in the hearts of everyone in the US. Unless you have lived and experienced border life first hand, you have no idea what is happening, why it is happening, and the realities of possible solutions. Urrea brings you as close to living on the border as one can get without actually living here. It is not intended to bring about a need to forgive all illegal immigration. It shows you what does happen--from all points of view. Buy it, read it, live it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Highway is a nonfiction book that tells the story of twenty-six men who tried to cross the dangerous border between the U.S. and Mexico. The area the men tried to cross is a desert located in southern Arizona, with temperatures rising up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The desert is infamous for killing illegal immigrants who attempt to cross it. In the novel, the theme of desperation puts people in drastic situations, occurs throughout the book though different literary techniques. The first part of the book provides the reader with background information of the land, the practice of crossing the border, and the roles of the border patrol and migration. This segment contains lots of factual information with little story plot, which is a weakness in the text, as all the information can get lengthy at times, making it boring to read. The second part of the book gets into the real story, the trip of the twenty-six people who crossed the border all in hope to make a better life in the U.S. These twenty-six became known as the Welton 26 after fourteen men died in the desert on the trip. The poor conditions the people had back at home in Mexico forced them to give up their lives to people who profited from sending them in the desert. A man named Mendez is the main character in the novel, he transports people across the border for in order to earn little extra money. Both the people who gave their lives up to attempt to make it to America and Mendez, were put in situations that relate back to the theme of desperation. This is because on both sides, people were put into situations were they became desperate for money. After Mendez was sent to work in a more dangerous part of the desert by his unforgiving bosses, he rounded up a large group of twenty-six people to transport across the border. Mendez and his group set out for the desert and walked all day. That night, a set of headlights started to approach the group, causing everyone to drop their belongings and run. Mendez believed this to be La Migra, but once the group was split up and everyone was scared, the headlights disappeared. Once they all regrouped, the group began to wander off in uncharted territory. This was the key turning point in the novel where everything went wrong. From that point on, the group began to wander off course for miles without water. When the group became exhausted from all the walking and extreme heat, Mendez told them that if they gave him the little money he had he would go off and get water for them. Everyone in the group complied and Mendez set off alone. After hours of waiting, the group realized that Mendez had no intention of coming back for them and the only way they had a chance of survival was to start walking. The group aimlessly walked in the desert and people began to die of hyperthermia. Eventually, the twelve survivors were found by U.S. immigration officers and were transported to a nearby hospital where the story became international news. This drastic situation was driven from the people's need to make money due to the situation they were all put in. Overall, the book is very factual with little character development. This makes it a good read for someone who wants to learn about the Wellton 26 and how illegal immigrants cross the border, but it is not the best for someone who is looking for a good story.
RichardGilbert More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing work of immersion and investigative journalism--crossed with poetry, for the physical descriptions of the desert and of the illegals' sufferings are stunning. Truly inspired, this is book is the product of great insight and work. It reads like a novel but is documented. Whatever side you stand on in the border wars, this book's insight and compassion for all sides, illegal Mexicans and Border Patrol officers, make it required reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this time of immigration 'reform' this book presents a timely and accurate account of immigrants' fight to enter the USA. Urrea delves into the goings on at ground zero of the battle that the poorest of the poor from Mexico must overcome in order to earn the almighty dollar. This is the story of a group of migrants who made the treacherous journey north through the unforgiving Arizona desert. Their story will open up your eyes to the daily plight of these forgotten people. A must read book for anyone interested in border issues.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best book I've read on border issues. Urrea's facility with language and sense of story lift this book above the rest. He's turned investigative journalism into high art. It's graphic, painful, enraging and human.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This book was published seven years ago and should be required reading today. It describes how undocumented workers get to the farms, motels, fast food restaurants and factories of the United States and why they undertake that perilous journey through the story of a typical group of men who attempted to cross the Arizona desert on foot. It's brilliantly and humanely written, showing everyone from the Border Patrol to the coyotes who guide the group so disastrously wrong in a critical, but compassionate way. As the political rhetoric heats up here and we have successfully renamed the people who pick our oranges and cook our Big Macs illegal aliens, as though they were non-human and essentially evil, this book is more important than ever. While Urrea does have a bias toward compassion and understanding, he doesn't flinch from addressing the costs to everyone of the issue of workers crossing illegally to work in the north. He also illuminates both the reasons people would be driven to undertake an expensive and potentially deadly journey and the ways American immigration policy has created unforeseen consequences. If every article or book written on this topic were as well-researched and free of hyperbole, I think the national debate on immigration would be both more reasonable and more productive.
HHS-Students on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Reviewed by Kyle (Class of 2014)¿Heat stroke. Your blood [level] is as low as it can get. Dehydration has reduced all your inner streams to sluggish mudholes. Your heart pumps harder and harder to get fluid and oxygen to your organs¿ your sweat runs out¿ you are having a core meltdown¿ Your skin gets terribly sensitive. It hurts, it burns¿ your muscles feed on themselves. They break down and start to rot... The system closes down in a series. Your kidneys, your bladder, your heart. They jam shut. Stop. Your brain sparks. Out. You¿re gone.¿ ¿ Excerpt from The Devil¿s Highway. It is here that Luis Alberto Urrea¿s expert use of description really shines, and keeps the reader intensely interested. He vividly explains the process of hyperthermia, the result of being exposed to too much heat. The main characters experience this as they make an impossible journey across the deserts of Arizona, after illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico. However, the rest of the book struggles to keep up with this pace. The reader is quite simply provided with too much detail. The Devil¿s Highway is a true story, documenting the issue of illegal immigration into the U.S. from the view of both Border Patrol agents and a party of thirty or so ¿walkers,¿ desperate Mexicans attempting to cross the border undetected. Literally, the first third of the book is background information, simply filler. It feels as though this should have been a short publication, because the actual story of their trek is only about one third of the 220 pages. I felt overwhelmed with unnecessary information from the beginning. Names of unimportant people, dates, locations, and backstories fill the pages, and throw the reader¿s attention around. I often found myself forgetting what it was that I was actually reading about. This is not because Luis transitions from topic to topic poorly, but because there is just such a mass of information thrown at you. It also does not help that the book seems to be chronologically confusing. Instead of beginning at the start of the walkers¿ journey, the first page tells the reader how their journey ended. Then, Luis goes on to describe the setting, and practically its entire known history. So, at this point, I was already juggling several sizeable pieces of information. Next, after a pointless piece about Tucson, we are brought back to right before the end of the walk. Here, Luis describes the Border Patrol, for fifteen pages. Then it¿s back to the walkers, after the end of the journey. Shortly after that, he talks about how the bodies of the deceased were handled. Then, a little inside scoop about most walkers. Next, the condition of another setting, Veracruz. Then, how aliens made deals with Coyotes (the men who guided walkers across the wasteland) about making a journey. And finally, after another almost 40 pages, Luis resumes his telling of the actually story, from the very beginning. And this isn¿t even halfway through the book. The whole book continues on in this stumble-around fashion, all the way to the very end. In a nutshell, this is not a boring or slow book, it is just full of too much information. If you can keep up with the random tidbits, then you might actually enjoy this documentation, about illegal immigration into the United States.
karen_o on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This is recommended to those who are interested in even a general way about the issues surrounding the US-Mexico border. For people living in the area who feel that the subject matter may be a little too up-close-and-personal, I understand that, but the author did a very good job of getting through the bad parts very quickly so that you had a sense of it but weren't overhwelmed by it. Which didn't stop me from skimming some of that anyway. The book had quite a bit more to offer than just that with brief but cogent discussions of some of the larger issues causing the border problem in the first place and both the harm and good being done by the governments on both sides.
kacollins26 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Extreamly well written non-fic book about the difficulties of the US-Mexico border. To do so Urrea retells the story of 26 mexicans as they try to cross the border, only 12 of them make it out alive. Amazing and I would recommend it to anyone.
cathyskye on LibraryThing 27 days ago
First Line: 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.So many illegal immigrants die in the desert Southwest of the U.S. that only notorious catastrophes make headlines. Urrea reconstructs one such incident in the Sonoran Desert, the ordeal of sun and thirst of two dozen men in May 2001, half of whom suffered excruciating deaths. (The press labeled them the Yuma 14 although there were more than fourteen men and Yuma had nothing to do with it.) Tracing their lives and routes to the border, Urrea's surreal style makes the desert landscape shimmer and distort as the pages turn. The way that Urrea blends the terse facts of the case into his narrative produces a powerful, almost diabolical impression of the disaster and the exploitative conditions at the border. Urrea does a masterful job of humanizing this whole situation--which is exactly what is needed.This book is an eye-opener and has encouraged me to research this topic more. This is long overdue, and I'll be trying to make up for lost time.
Gwendydd on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Well-written, and a surprisingly good read considering how depressing the subject matter is. Sometimes a little over-sensationalized, but Urrea seems to handle the evidence well. Does a really good job of showing how complex the issue is, and of portraying the people on all sides of the issue. Contains a lot of good information about the issues involved.
Hoker on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The Devil¿s Highway is an oddly compelling read as it takes you through the life and death of illegal immigration. It presents a view point you may not have considered before if you are a Sirius Patriot Radio fan. I wasn¿t sure if I would like it, but it is a fine read, if you keep an open mind.
bherner on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Seriously depressing, but compelling reading about illegal immigrants dieing in the desert trying to get into the U.S. Every chest-thumping anti-immigrant yahoo should be forced to read this book.
xollo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is one of my all-time favorite books, and one I recommend more often than all others, especially to men. It¿s the gruesome true story of 28 men emigrating from Mexico into the U.S. across the desert on a particular route known as The Devil¿s Highway. Their coyote, or guide, is inexperienced, gets them lost, and leaves them to die in the desert. You will never think about heat, thirst or the desert the same way again. Urrea is a poet and novelist aside from being an award-winning non-fiction author, and his amazing unraveling of this ill-fated border crossing is nothing short of mesmerizing¿and oddly beautiful. He humanizes the immigrant workers we so frequently disregard. Images from this book still haunt me. Have a big glass of cool water with you when you read this one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hailee-Holoubek2HH More than 1 year ago
Devils highway by Mr. Urrea was a very good book. Although some parts were rather boring, I really enjoyed this book! The nonfiction madness is about immigration. Its about several men who go into the dessert to America in search of freedom. These men are looking for jobs in search of a better life for their families. These men hope to find that in their travel. But as we know that deserts don't have any water and the sun is very hot. But what we don't know is that this desert is "cursed" and their are vicious snakes, bugs, etc. So read this book to learn about these peoples lives and who lives and dies. Hey, that rhymes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BryanJ More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Highway is based on a true story about Yuma 14, written by Luis Alberto Urrea. Yuma 14 was a tragic event that left fourteen(out of a group of twenty-six) illegal immigrants dead trying to cross the Arizona Desert. To some people living in Veracruz and in other parts of Mexico, it just isn't enough. Most can't afford modern appliances like TV. Some can't even afford an education. To them the United States seems like the place to live. Getting into the United States from Mexico isn't easy and some hire smugglers to get them across. These smugglers can get you into the United States by buses and elabroate schemes, but that costs more. To most that isn't an option, so they hire Coyotes, or guides, to help them walk their way through the rough terrains and the Arizona Desert. 26 people embarked on the same journey through the unforgiving landscape but only 12 survived after being ditched by their guide. Urrea does a fantastic job describing the Border Patrol and the politics floating around illegal immigration. He says from the Mexicans' point of view their seen as some kind of fearsome but respectful cowboys. Sure when the patrol find some walkers they'll give them water and maybe even joke around but their still under arrest. He also talks about steriotypes, how some started, why they exist. The first half of the book was very factual and slow going. It was very hard to keep up with the diffrent nicknames, sectors, and the individuals. Somewhere in the book it eventualy got into the actual story of Yuma 14. From their it was still very slow. It had some very exciting moments, like a father losing his son, but I just couldn't connect. The story it self was very good, Being smuggled into the US then getting ditched by your guide in the harsh arizona desert. The book also showed human nature at its best and worst. i would only suggest this book to people who actualy knows a bit about the US Mexico border. The story is great. It is just very slow going, and factual. If you already know a bit about the border it might be easier to read, then i say go for it cause it is a good book.