Reminded of Aqua Prieta.

by Gabriel Neely

The Devils Hwy: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea, is not a new book; it was released in 2004. For whatever reason it was unknown to me until seeing a recent interview with the author on Moyers & Company. Ergo, I read the book and am glad I did.

In January of 2005, on a rock-climbing trip to Cochise Stronghold, Arizona, my friends and I drove across the border to explore. It was raining, the desert was wet for once, along with the large granitic domes, and our climbing on hold.

Getting into Aqua Prieta was simple: you drove in. No checkpoints, no customs. No one is worried about those heading in. This remote corner of the west is far removed from the resort complexes; we found industry instead, along with rows of shops with trinkets and boarded, broken liquor stores and motels. The local tavern keepers were curious as to our situation, especially after learning we were not off-duty Border Patrol. They were friendly. We were an oddity.  Few Gringos travel to the northeast corner of Sonora.

The cross back was complex: you waited. Long lines of cars, longer searches, with rickety concession stands and zealous salesman to pass the time. Open market. Small boys, on foot, pattered the dusty way, trying to sell candies and snacks, their version of a lemonade stand, except the stakes were higher. One boy even went for it, in front of dozens of cars and a small army of Border Protection Officers. He ran and he climbed a fence and landed in a narrow, dry drainage made of concrete. It was the void between. He raced higher towards the next and final fence. He did not get far. It was a daring act. He was barely a teenager, but old enough to understand urgency. He made a choice.

Sonora/Arizona Landscape

I still wonder if he ever crossed. Maybe he ventured (risking his life) deep into the deserts and through the mountains and canyons that transcend this political line? I hope he found what he was looking for. The landscape and our desires have little to do with our structure; it is the same on both sides. In The Devils Hwy: A True Story, Luis Alberto Urrea looks, importantly, beyond the borders and conditions we create and into the human condition-that universal search for a better life.

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