The unforgiving landscape of the desert acts as an additional barrier to Mexican immigrants trying to make it across the border. The natural features of the desert are presented in almost a quasi-mystical way, as if the desert were possessed with dark, malevolent spirits hellbent on doing evil. Wherever one turns in the desert, there is always something guaranteed to strike fear into the heart. As well as the boiling desert sand, there are also snakes, scorpions, spiky trees, and cacti. All the natural features of this harsh, brutal environment come together to create an apocalyptic vision of hell on earth.
In giving his account of the Wellton 26's terrifying ordeal, Urrea draws a parallel with Moses leading the people of Israel into the wilderness. In this way, he hopes that more Americans will empathize with the plight of Mexican immigrants, instead of shrugging their shoulders at what's happening on the border and preferring not to think about it.