Chapter 10 Summary

The Long Walk

It is Sunday, May 20, at dawn. The Wellton 26 survivors are later as unclear about the day’s torments “as they are about where they walked.” The walkers are now in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge area.

As the walkers’ despair grows, so does their rage. They are angry at Mendez, the desert, their own government, the American government, white people (gringos), Don Moi, El Negro—and they are determined that someone is going to pay for their misery once the walkers get out of the desert.

It is clear from evidence discovered later that Mendez knew his pollos were going to die if they did not get to Ajo. (The Border Patrol believes Mendez was only trying to save himself and the walkers just followed.) The Coyote zigzags his walkers in the hopes of finding someplace familiar, and the group no longer has any “real integrity as a unit.” The line of walkers is scraggly and spread out; sometimes they cannot even see the others in their group. Mendez thinks he has found Charlie Bell Pass, which would have funneled directly into downtown Ajo; however, this pass leads only to more burning desert.

Few of the walkers have any water left. The Guerrero brothers have some water but must keep it to ensure the family survives; Mendez has water but refuses to share it. Mendez lets the men rest until nightfall and says it is only a few more miles; the walkers know he is wrong.

The temperature that night is still 94 degrees; since it will not get any cooler, Mendez orders his pollos to their feet. The signs, discovered later, show that Mendez’s brain is beginning to misfire as he erratically sets and changes course. The men are “like a machine breaking down, starting to shake itself apart.”

Even if they had still had water, the men are “lost in the wilderness, small blue dots in a vast empty map.” Mendez loses any remaining sense of direction and leads the group on a “suicidal hike” toward Yuma; the group follows him like zombies. There is no reasoning to their movements as they travel in a giant reverse-U shape twenty miles wide.

Finally someone, perhaps Santos, figures that maybe they can backtrack and just return to Mexico, but Mendez refuses. Most of the men follow Mendez, who is clearly the leader even though he is obviously lost; a handful follow Santos. The others watch them leave. “No trace of them has ever been found.”

It is 90 degrees at nine o’clock. Rafael Tamich expresses concern over two of his friends; Mendez says it is not his problem. Again Mendez has them all hopelessly lost, and again he tells them they will rest that night and will only have to walk a “few more miles.” Tomorrow they will begin to die.