The Devil's Highway

by Luis Alberto Urrea

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In The Devil's Highway, why did Mendez abandon them in the end?

Quick answer:

In The Devil's Highway, Mendez is portrayed as the young, inexperienced and naive youth that he is. He is a man with little education and has been brought into people smuggling by a man named Maradona. When Maradona abandons the group in the desert, it is understood that Mendez experiences great fear and decides to leave the group alone to their fate in the desert rather than lead them any further.

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Let us remember that Urrea expertly paints the background of Mendez and depicts him as the young, uneducated and rather naive youth that he is. Also, let us remember that Maradona, the man who first got him into people smuggling in the first place, has already abandoned the group, leaving him with his group of illegal immigrants alone and not knowing all the paths necessary to lead them to safety. We can only imagine the fear and the responsibility that Mendez experienced when he realised that Maradona had deserted him. His decision to leave the group to their fate and to try and trek his way out of the desert with Lauro is therefore a decision that was based on fear of being caught by the ever-vigilant Border Patrol guards and the realisation that he is left in the middle of the desert in charge of a group of men when he doesn't even know where to take them. Although he is found guilty by the judge at the end of this gripping account, at the same time we can't help but feel sorry for him, as he was left in a terrible situation.


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