This is an unedited book review that was originally published in August 2018. As such, it was housed on an archival page. Therefore, it is unedited, and just put here.
The Yuma 14 are the center of this story. “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea is a gut wrenching kick to the balls of anyone that has a heart. I was a bit wary about reading it, because I was once an illegal immigrant. My father and mother brought me here in the circumstances of this book, only we made it. But there are a lot of immigrants that never make it, and this book really punches you in the guts and turns until you’re crying for mercy. Urrea doesn’t hold back, he writes a very interesting, investigative history lesson about what is going on in the lives of people trying to get here. It is one of the hardest books I’ve ever read, and it brought me to tears on several occasions.
14 people dead in the desert. 11 survivors. 14 dead after they were abandoned by coyotes, human smugglers. These men had families. These men were looking for a better life. They trusted someone to help them, and they were abandoned in the desert of Arizona, where 14 of them died from heat exhaustion, and dehydration. It’s in this story that you find out what it takes to get to America, and actually survive. A gallon of water, perhaps two, and 30 miles of desert stand in your way on this highway from hell. This story highlights the delirium, the determination, and the subsequent death of individuals that were trying to get through. Those that didn’t are memorialized by the reasons why they moved forward, why they died, and the details concerning the aftermath of their death. The survivor’s memories are shot, the trip seemed insane. They were abandoned, left to die.
Urrea does an incredible job in telling you the story. But at one point, he steps back. He describes the layers of what heat exhaustion does to the body. Then he discusses how it feels to die from dehydration. A pile of folded clothing sits next to dead bodies. Why a pile of folded clothing? Delirium? No. As it turns out, according to “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea, when you’re dying of exhaustion and dehydration, the impulses in the body collapse the nerve endings hurt, and people that go through this cannot stand the movement of clothing on their skin, so they take it off. They fold it, and they die. The excruciating details of the layers of the mind and body as one dies cripples the senses, and you’re left wiping tears as you read through what these men went through before they breathed in their last breath in the middle of the desert.
Captured perfect is the mindset of the American. I’ve grown up with people that have heard my story and they are callous. The assume that Mexicans are no good. We are stealing resources. We were driven in with limos and money. We have jobs that they could’ve had. We are rapists. We are murderers, we are unwanted. This book highlights the callous attitude of the border patrol, and of a lot of Americans that do not see the humanity of anyone crossing the border. They see these people as illegal, criminals, and that’s it. Yet these men are examples of over 1400 that died on the Southern California border just last year according to recent studies. That’s just Southern California. This book details the callous nature of humanity, especially when the wife of one of the lost men shows up. The border patrol tells her that they have him, dead, on a slab, and then leaves her. No consoling, no positivity, nothing, he’s dead, we have him, good luck. This is how people treat me and others that have a story of gut wrenching tears and fears.
This is an insane story. I looked at the original news stories for this too. The “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea highlights things so well. There’s no fluff. It’s told as though a survivor is speaking to you. Urrea traps a voice that is haunting. He shows the elements of playfulness in the Mexican culture, the dreams and aspirations of the men crossing the border. Then he juxtaposes that with the realities that they faced. Trying to eat cactus to survive. Detailing drinking pee to possibly survive, and dying of thirst. Death on the border. Death in America, and to the border patrol, the police, and to the average American, good riddance. In this election year that I read this, I don’t want to vote. I don’t want to know this. I don’t want to live in this country. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are guilty of this callous attitude towards my struggle, my people, and this story. “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea kicks you in the guts so hard you have gravel left in it. It’s sick.
Luis Alberto Urrea, you have opened up some serious wounds for me. I’m hurt. I’m wounded, I’m bleeding. This is the story of my people, my brothers, my family, my dad, my mother, and myself. I don’t know why I survived, and don’t know how we made it to become citizens of this country, but this is one hell of a narrative. A true story that should be told to every American. This is not just a Mexican story; this is an American story. This is love, pain, sweat, death, and dreams in one book. One hell of a book.
You can buy “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea by clicking here, and getting it from Amazon.