Category Archives: Luis Alberto Urrea

page 219 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

I like that he does some of the math here. It’s indisputable that workers have to pay taxes and illegals can’t claim a refund, and illegals still have to buy food and gas and rent and so taxes are being paid all over the place without any of it having to go back to the payee. Industry has a ‘good thing going’ by keeping wages low and hiring illegals. Everyone knows it happens and nothing is done about it.

page 213 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

On one side there are people who are dying horribly in the desert, on the others are people who want to keep the desert pristine and free of towers that could save lives. At what point does idealism have to give way to the practicality of reality? Is saving the desert more important than saving lives? But also, how do we keep people from having to go into the desert in the first place?

page 204 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

Giving the survivors jobs and a pass to stay in America is the least we can do, but the price is so high. One of the men has extensive nerve damage and could easily hurt himself in the meat packing plant – and besides, who really wants to work in a meat packing plant – they’ve gone from being baked to being frozen. Though I’m sure they’re grateful for the work.

page 192 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

There’s an allusion here (maybe unintentional) to Don DeLillo’s ‘Underworld’ when the airplane scrapyard is mentioned while the dead are escorted through town like celebrities. Something about the absurdity of American culture and priorities, but also the weird beauty of the world where so much emphasis is placed on the dead while the living struggle to not die, or at least struggle to be heard and taken seriously.

page 185 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

It’s the absurdity I love the most here, “women held strange little pitchers to the ends of their [the walkers] penises and collected the dark fluid and whisked it away to peer at in stark rooms”. As if the bodily fluids were more important than the person, or is a person just a collection of bodily fluids, is this a take on Dr. Strangelove and ‘precious bodily fluids’ / ‘purity of essence’?

page 167 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

The images of the delirious men pulling the American dollars from their pockets and tearing it into pieces is like one last effort for the men to have some control over their fate, as if they can tell the universe / desert that they don’t care about the damn money, about America. It’s the last thing they have power over: the power to give up and reject their dreams.

page 157 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

Waiting as “rote as factory work”, “They were in the dirt like animals”, “Six o’clock in the morning took ten hours to become seven o’clock. A week later, it was eight o’clock.” Time slows as you slowly die, as if time is leaving you as you leave your body until the moment when you die and time stretches out to infinity. But for these people it was torture, like an endless factory job for KFC’s chicken farms.

page 156 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

“They were buried in the Granite Mountains” even though they were still alive. I got on Google maps to look at this region (Yuma and Pima counties, Arizona) and as bad as the books makes it seem I think it’s even worse when you see it. Hard to believe anything can live out there but it’s also quite beautiful too. A land of extremes, confusion, death, and beauty.

page 146 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

“I just have to get there, I just have to get there” (to America) to make enough money to come back, marry his girl, and everything to be alright. Of course it’s a total dream, but it’s all a dream and it’s a dream like the fever dream of the dying in the desert who see crystal cities and demons. But you only have to be starving just a little bit to believe the American dream.

page 145 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

$1700 @ 15% interest is $255. It doesn’t say if that’s monthly (probably) or weekly (unlikely, but the world is cruel enough that it’s very possible). At a minimum wage job in America at the time was $5.15 /hr. If you worked 40 hours a week (and it’s unlikely they had it this easy) they would make $206 /wk before taxes (however that works for illegals) but let’s say it’s $175 /wk X 4 = $700 – $255 = $455 /mo. Jesus.

page 125 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

Interesting how he compares crossing the literal border with each successive border crossing of heat exhaustion: first it’s Heat Stress, then Heat Fatigue, then Heat Syncope, the Heat Cramps, then Heat Exhaustion, and finally Heat Stroke. I’ve gone as far as borderline between Heat Fatigue and Heat Syncope, which is an unusual feeling of disorientation. To go beyond that is just terrifying.

page 107 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

While probably not as bad as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, hiking in sand is a bitch. It’s hot, your legs hurt almost immediately climbing, and you really do slide back half a step for every step forward you take I can’t imagine doing it for 2-3 days – damn near wiped me out when I was in my late 20’s, healthy, and only was at it for a couple of hours.

page 92 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

Groups of 30 or less were what went across the border, any more than 30 and it was too large of a group to control. But 30 is still a lot of people, that’s like a whole classroom of students, and even half of that size can be hard to keep everyone doing what you want or need. 30 is like a teacher feeling her class is overcrowded, and so the coyotes feel the same way probably.

page 78 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

It’s not just the pop culture that is tied into how people think about immigration and being a coyote / gangster, but also how religion and culture play a role in that by being a coyote you are, in a way, acting like a “civil rights activist” taking back the America that was stolen from you at gunpoint. This argument is, for sure, far more enticing than anything else.

page 62 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

A lot of mention of popular media, such as the film Traffic, the TV show The Sopranos, and even the cartoon character, Chespirito. All of this seems to add up to a sense that popular media informs how reality works, how the coyotes use these media tropes to maintain power and elicit fear in not only their “clients” but also in the people who investigate them.

page 50 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

There are probably a lot of Don Moi’s around, all of them taking advantage of the poor and hopeful. I always wondered how people afforded the huge cost of getting to America if they had no money ” loans from loan sharks who worked with the smugglers and took a bug % of future earnings (not that there’d be much so they were basically serfs living in America).

page 34 of 239 of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

They come here with literally nothing in their pockets in hopes that they will get a job plucking chickens for KFC who will then also use them to cook the chickens in their restaurants. This is juxtaposed with the total lack of opportunity in Mexico and inability to get the government in order to make anyone’s lives at least better than risking a journey across the border to puck chickens for KFC.