#Latinolit Banned Book Review: “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea

Dec 12, 2012
7:56 AM

Based on a true story that unfolded in the deserts and mountains of the Devil’s Highway region—a landscape so harsh and brutal that it even claims the lives of people born in adjacent deserts, and one that became the preferred “crossing” route for Coyotes (guides that lead crossers from Mexico to the US) once the corridors closer to urban areas such as Tijuana/San Diego and Ciudad Juárez/El Paso became too risky due to post-911 border policies.

Twenty-six men ventured through this deadly passage in May of 2001, led by a Mexican punk rocker Coyote known as “Mendez”. By the time their expedition was to come to a tragic end, only twelve would survive, that is, after a small mutiny driven out of desperation causes a small group to abandon and turn back to Mexico, and after Mendez and a conspirator, Lauro, collect the remaining group’s American dollars to “go get water and help” and abandon them to a grisly fate.

This book looks at the politics that drive these exoduses from both sides of the border, pointing out both the United States’ and Mexico’s faults and virtues—something we really enjoyed—but even more importantly, Urrea is a masterful wordsmith and storyteller and his verse and prose dazzle, even during the agonizing sections that scrutinize unbearable human suffering, the body and mind’s disintegration when subjected to these devastating conditions.

The characters in this story come to life with such haunting detail that you feel as though you know them by the time the story ends. Each is treated with a literary dignity that makes the story even more moving and dimensional; their likes and differences, the objects they choose to bring along, letters from loved ones stuffed into pockets, macho belt buckles, locks of punk rock hair, uneven teeth, hairstyles and mustaches all bring them to life with painterly craft and thoughtfulness.

“The Devil’s Highway” was banned in Arizona because it tells the truth—punto.

Bravo, bravo, bravo.


Please support these #LatinoLit bookstores before you buy anywhere else:

La Casa Azul Bookstore, New York, NY http://www.lacasaazulbookstore.com

Tía Chucha Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA http://www.tiachucha.com

Resistencia Bookstore, Austin, TX http://www.resistenciabooks.com

Casa Ramírez, Houston, TX 241 W 19th St – (713) 880-2420


Librería Barco de Papel, Queens, NY http://libreriabarcodepapelny.com

Girón Books, Chicago, IL http://www.gironbooks.com

Librotraficante Underground Library locations in AZ, NM and TX: http://www.librotraficante.com/index.php/underground-library/locations