Chapter 4 Summary
“Three guides led the Wellton 26 into the desert: one will forever remain anonymous, one is only known by a code name, and one became infamous in the borderland.” Guides (guìas) are generally paid a hundred dollars per person to lead people across the border and never reveal their names so they cannot be identified.
The guides for the Wellton 26 did very few things right; one of them is that they did not give their walkers cocaine or other drugs to help them walk faster and longer.
The leader is a nineteen-year-old Guadalajaran boy. If his clients had not died, he would have earned three hundred dollars for this job. It is the largest group he has ever guided. He wears his hair in an easily identifiable “punk rock style” that both the survivors and the Border Patrol agents distinctly remember.
The Unites States agents refer to him as “Rooster Boy,” and he has been deported at least once. He lives with his girlfriend in a run-down house in Sonoita with his girlfriend, Celia Lomas Mendez. They sleep on a mattress on the floor. He and his friends have nothing, not even modern plumbing, although they all have pagers and cell phones.
“Every week, walkers are left to die by their guias.” It is a standard practice by Coyotes. Border Patrol agents as well as the Mexican consular corps have plenty of horrific tales to tell. One driver’s van breaks down thirty miles from the interstate. He tells his passengers it is an easy five-mile walk and sends them off before setting the van on fire. He says he will be back to get them with another van, but of course he never returns. Many walkers in that group die, including a nineteen-year-old pregnant woman.
In 2002, a pollero driver has twenty-three passengers in his van when he drives the wrong way on the interstate; he drives without lights to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint. The van demolishes four cars before stopping. The van driver dies along with four illegals and one innocent driver. Some reports claim there were thirty-three passengers, some of whom were likely Brazilian.
The guìa is twenty-five-year-old Alfredo Alvarez Coronado; he is paid three hundred dollars per group of travelers, equal to one month’s salary working in the fields in Mexico. Thirty-one illegals end up in the hospital and, of course, the recruiting organization does not offer to pay their bills. Any passengers who cannot afford a seat inside the vehicle ride in the trunk or are strapped to the engine blocks.
These heartless guides are easy to find because they are looking for a better life and are willing to do anything it requires to get it. So many are willing to do this job on the Devil’s Highway that no one even notices them until they nearly die.