In The Devil's Highway, how do borders shape our culture and identity: 1.politically; 2. culturally; 3.morally; 4. economically?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the opening of Chapter Two, entitled "In Veracruz," the author paints a rather grim picture of the realities of life for inhabitants of small pueblos such as Veracruz. What defines their existence is the twinfold presence of rising indicators of poverty alongside an increased Westernisation. Due to its position so close to the border of the USA, the inhabitants of Veracruz were becoming more and more aware of the massive comparative wealth that people only a few miles away enjoyed because of being in a different country. They watched programmes such as CNN and saw the wealth that Mexicans who lived and worked in the USA were able to send back to their families, creating a myth of how easy it was to earn money across the border. At the same time, economically, there were massive issues to do with the prices of the bean crop, the price of tortillas and foreign debt. Note how Urrea characterises this situation and how he explains how this inevitably produced a desire for the inhabitants of Veracruz to take the risk and seek to go to the USA to enjoy the same material wealth that they saw others experiencing everyday:

The neighbours of these adventure-capitalists watched and watned. Their children were dying. Dengue fever had made its way up from the Amazon. Malaria was spreading again, and it was worse than before--this new black blood malaria. Corruption, political violence, indigenous revolution in the south. People in Veracruz were looking north, as inevitably as the rains came and the mosquitoes bit.

This quote demonstrates the reality of economic factors and how they impact our identity. The inhabitants of Veracruz were confronted day after day with their own harsh lives as defined by their lack of money, and could observe the comparative wealth of those who had relatives in the USA and were sent money. Whilst their own children starved and died, they watched the families of others prosper. Economically the USA became characterised in their own imagination as a place where the streets were made of gold and there was easy money to be made. The impact of such economic factors on the identity of the inhabitants of Veracruz is shown to be so immense that they are willing to place themselves into massive debt and in the hands of unscrupulous individuals such as Don Moi in order to have the chance of entering the USA and enjoying the same supposed wealth.

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