Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway tells the harrowing story of the Yuma 14. In May, 2001, a group of 26 men attempted to cross the Mexican-American border through the Devil’s Highway, the highly dangerous desert in Mexico and southern Arizona. After their coyote abandoned the group, only 12...
men survived. This region is so treacherous that Border Patrol often refuse to travel through the terrain.
Through Urrea’s investigative reporting on the tragedy, he brings the reader back to the hometowns of Mexicans who risk their lives to illegally cross the border to explain the circumstances behind their decision-making process.
The border does not simply separate two countries. It separates two cultures and two distinct ways of life. Many Mexicans grow up in poverty-stricken rural communities connected with unpaved roads. These people grow up with a lack of upward mobility and a general sense that they do not have many opportunities.
Just a few miles to the north, stories of jobs offering financial independence trickle back to the Mexicans. Thus, these men ultimately chose to take the dangerous journey north for two reasons. First, they seek new job opportunities to make extra money which they can send back to their families in Mexico to provide a better life for them.
Second, these men seek to break out of the oppressive culture that permeates Mexico. This culture does not offer new job opportunities. This culture allows gangs and criminals just as much power as law enforcement in specific regions. The idea of living in a more equal society draws people to it.