Chapter 5 Summary

Jesús Walks Among Us

The Border Patrol knows him as Rooster Boy, but his name is Jesús. He once lived in southern Mexico and now lives in Nogales, Sonora, which is a “lively little town” just across the border from Nogales, Arizona. He works hard but gets little for his labor and wants something better.

In 2000, he meets eighteen-year-old Rodrigo Maradona. They work in a brickyard during the day; at night, Maradona has a more interesting job working part time as a Coyote, earning a hundred dollars for each walker he takes across the border—a thousand dollars a week, compared to Jesús’ hundred dollars a week. Maradona tells Jesús he can become a gangster (the term used by Coyotes for one another), too.

Jesús is not noteworthy in any way except for his “cool” haircut. It is “quite attractive to people like him to become a Coyote.” He has money, a house, and a cell phone; he even has a patron saint, Saint Toribio, who claimed that he was a citizen of a “church without borders.” The young men convince themselves they are civil rights activists liberating the poverty-stricken class. Others see them as macho outlaws the governments of two countries are trying to stop. 

Much of the Devil’s Highway is militarized. An Air Force base, shared with Marines, is on the border; Air National Guard aircraft regularly fly over the area. Beside the base is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; the Organ Pipe is the most dangerous national park in the United States.

Tribal police from several reservations patrol the border and local sheriffs patrol one hundred and fifty miles of border; Pinal Air Park is also patrolled. Native American trackers help the Border Patrol, DEA, and INS agents work the border. Citizen groups also regularly work the desert, as do various human rights groups trying to save walkers from dying.

Jesús and Maradona wait for Chespiro to call. Maradona knows the walking route, but Jesús does not; Maradona teaches him. Chespiro sends some illegals, and the two Coyotes herd them to a bus bound for Sanoita. He drops them at El Saguaro and the entire group steps into the United States, about thirty miles from Wellton.

They begin walking at sunset and Maradona is confident, although it is hotter than expected. They stop at the Mohawk rest areas for water and toilets. All goes well, and the walkers are picked up and driven to Phoenix.

After two months, the Border Patrol and the Mexican Migra disrupt this route. Jesús dresses like the walkers so he will be deported with the others if he is arrested. Although Jesús tries to remain invisible as a Coyote, he is recognizable now and El Negro needs “an invisible man,” so he sends Jesús and Maradona to Sonoita. Their only concern is being in a new area of the desert, but El Negro has locals prepared to help them.