Chapter 13 Summary

The Trees and the Sun

After Mendez leaves the walkers to die, the men start walking on their own. At one point they see a Migra truck on patrol, but they are unable to run fast or far enough to reach it.

The heat is unbearable, a “hurricane of sunlight,” and when the men find a few scraggly mesquites, they spread out to capture some of the meager shade. They grab onto the tree trunks to keep themselves in as much shade as possible. 

Later, the Border Patrol calculates it took the men twelve hours to walk ten miles. By nightfall Monday, about fifteen of the men have thorns in their feet, according to survivors’ accounts.

In a last effort before their reasoning skills are gone, the men light a great fire, hoping someone will see it while on patrol and rescue the walkers. Reymundo Jr. is “desperately ill,” and several others are near death. The strong ones start the bonfire; although it burns all night, no one comes. Many of them know now that they are dead men and begin secretly to wonder who will be the first among them to die. Some pray to live; others pray to die.

On Tuesday, May 22, the temperature is 108 degrees at two o’clock in the afternoon—and the men walk. The group is fracturing into smaller groups and men begin to drop their belongings, knowing they will soon die anyway. Sixteen-year-old Edgar Martinez is the first to fall, burning with delirium. A mile later, Abraham Morales falls next. No one will claim or identify his body until a month after it was recovered.

The survivors later say they did not know who or how many of the group were dying because they, too, were dying. Other men go crazy in their delirium before dying. One man tears off his shirt and tries to bury himself; another smashes his face into a large cactus and cries out to his mother.

Mario and Isidro Manzano find some prickly pears, and the liquid from these cactus fruits saves their lives. Reymundo dies in his father’s arms. Reymundo Sr. and another man are in such despair that they tear all the American money they had saved into little pieces before giving up and letting the desert claim them. Nahum Landa survives, but later he remembers so many of those around him dying. He is not sure why he survives; perhaps it is a miracle.