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Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Mexican Migrants

Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Mexican Migrants

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Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Mexican Migrants

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3/5 (52 Bewertungen)
Länge:
340 Seiten
6 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 20, 2012
ISBN:
9781301539178
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

In this classic tale of life among undocumented migrants, Ted Conover, author of Newjack, immerses himself in a world few Americans ever see and fewer still come to know. He gets himself smuggled across the border, works on citrus ranches, accompanies workers to industrial L.A., Phoenix, Florida, and Idaho, and travels deep into Mexico to understand the poverty that begins the whole cycle. He helps migrants workers navigate America and sees it anew through their eyes. By turns harrowing and hilarious, Coyotes is an intimate journey with those who brave hardship and danger to seek a better life north of the border.

"There is grace in this book, even more wisdom. What makes it really glow on every page is Conover's realization that he is dealing neither with a crime nor a tragedy, but with another of those human adventures that make America a country that is constantly renewing itself ... remarkable." –The New York Times Book Review

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 20, 2012
ISBN:
9781301539178
Format:
Buch

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  • Houston, I remembered, was well known for its reliance on undocumented labor in the construction industry. It might be a good tip—and Alonso said Larry might even have a job for me, which would be a good way to be able to stick together for a while.

  • Cautiously we followed him down some side streets, Alonso whispering that I was about to learn about a “mafia de los coyotes”—one of the large smuggling organizations that controlled the illegal traffic in humans across the border.

  • From his accounts I judged Alonso to be clever and resilient. Like most Mexicans who cross, though, he was not book-smart. His ignorance of science and geography was astounding—but not, for him, a cause for shame.

  • Studies now show that one in five Mexicans will visit or work in the United States during some part of their lives, and project that one in ten of the Mexican-born will reside here by 2010.

  • America’s poor, young and old, take little interest in work so poorly paid it seems tantamount to begging. In Mexico, though, where work is tantamount to survival, the lowest job is still an opportunity.

Buchvorschau

Coyotes - Ted Conover

.

"Honest, funny, touching and important … There is grace in this book, even more wisdom. What makes it really glow on every page is Mr. Conover’s realization that he is dealing neither with a crime nor a tragedy, but with another of those human adventures that make America a country that is constantly renewing itself … remarkable.

— T.D. Allman, The New York Times Book Review

Absorbing … sharply observed and sympathetic … Mr. Conover’s description of what would normally be a routine plane flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles becomes a perilous, frightening journey for these workers; and a cross-country drive from Arizona to Florida (without a map) similarly takes on the nervous coloration of a thriller. In relating these events, Mr. Conover combines a sociologist’s eye for detail with a novelist’s sense of drama and compassion … he has defiantly succeeded.

— Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Compelling, often funny, and suspenseful … He evinces a deep understanding of and feeling for the men who must take such risks to get mere subsistence money for their families …

The New Yorker

"Ted Conover has written a book about the Mexican poor that is at once intimate and epic. Coyotes is travel literature, social protest, and affirmation. I can compare this book to the best of George Orwell’s journeys to the heart of poverty."

— Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown and Hunger of Memory

"A deftly written and compelling narrative … written with passion, wit and authority, Coyotes is … something to shout about."

Seattle Times

"Incisive and revealing … Coyotes has a very unsettling way of prodding reflection."

San Diego Tribune

"This engrossing story is also an important social document … Conover is a sympathetic and perceptive observer, but more than that, he is a superb storyteller … Coyotes is a book of astonishing veracity, and a galloping good read."

Wilson Library Bulletin

Conover’s book is full of good humor, the kind that hears the nightmare beneath the joke.

Village Voice

The 29-year-old Conover has but one other book to his credit … he, however, shows an insight and style that reminds you of more mature writers like Naipaul and John McPhee.

Houston Post

A superbly written, compelling, sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, extremely perceptive account … humor makes the book sing.

The Minnesota Daily

"Ted Conover’s Coyotes should be greeted with applause … a first-rate piece of investigative journalism that reads like an adventure."

Rocky Mountain News

COYOTES

A Journey Across Borders with America’s Mexican Migrants

TED CONOVER

.

Smashwords Editions

Copyright 1987, 2006 Ted Conover

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Conover, Ted.

Coyotes: a journey through the secret world of America’s illegal aliens.

(Vintage departures)

1. Alien labor, Mexican—United States.

2. Aliens, Illegal—United States.

I. Title.

HD8081.M6C65 1987 33i.6'2'72073 87-6101

ISBN-13: 978-0-394-75518-2 ISBN-IO: 0-394-75518-9

Author photo copyright 1986 Richard Larson

Map copyright 1987 David Lindroth

Cover design by Tatiana Villa

Ebook formatting by www.ebooklaunch.com

ALSO BY TED CONOVER

Rolling Nowhere

Whiteout

Newjack

The Routes of Man

Table of Contents

Foreword

Preface 2006

The Gringo and the Mexicano

Deep into the Orchard

Welcome to L.A.

Phoenix to Florida at 25 MPH

In the Land of Avocados

Coming into the Country

Epilogue

Afterword

.

Thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger, as ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

—EXODUS 23:9

Acknowledgments

Without the help of the following, this book could never have been written. Thanks to: Scott Lankford, Jay Leibold, and Eric Green, for manuscript suggestions. Dale Appelbaum, Elizabeth Krecker, the Richard Mallery family, Lupe Sanchez, Joaquin Lira, Laurie Martinelli, Nadine Wettstein, Matilde Martinez and family, Josie and José Ojeda, Francisca Cavazos, Phil Decker, Dr. Raymund Tanaka, Rita Goodman, Don and Niomi Devereaux, and the good people of the Arizona Farmworkers Union. Brad Segal, Katie Conover, Jerry Conover, Jacquelyn Wonder, Pamela and Jay Kenney, and Ross McConnell, in Colorado. Jim and Joey Christiansen and families, René Flores, Dogie, Christie Evans, Rick Larson, Teresa Keenan, Simon Boughton, Marvin Stone, William MacDougall, and John Crewdson, in various states. Hilario Pacheco and family, Peter Copeland, Joe Keenan, Richard Meislin, Patricia Morales, Marcia and Victor McLane and the people of the Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City, Lie. Eduardo Chávez Padilla, and Jorge Fragoso and family, in Mexico. Bob Roberto Grande Boorstin; Seth O. Lloyd; Peter Engel; David Rosenthal, my editor; and especially Jack Rosenthal and Sterling Lord, my agent, in New York City. Elizabeth and David Beim and Janet Conover, belatedly. Much of my research/travel in Mexico was made possible by an Ernie Pyle Fellowship from the Scripps-Howard Foundation and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Small portions of this work may have appeared previously in short articles published by IAPA member newspapers and in Grassroots Development, the journal of the Inter-American Foundation.

Most of all, my thanks to those Mexicans brave enough to entrust me with their story.

.

Foreword

I met my first illegal alien while researching an earlier book on American railroad tramps. Both of us were sneaking through the Southern Pacific yards of Bakersfield, California, having ridden into town on different freights. When he appeared between two boxcars and asked me simply, Mission? I knew we were looking for the same thing, the local rescue mission, the Jesus Saves. My Spanish then was not great, but we could communicate; and, over the next couple of days, Enrique Jarra and I became friends.

From that meeting I realized that many Mexicans rode the freights—it was a way of getting around while staying out of the public eye—as well as something else: that, much more than the tired, aged tramps I had been sharing camp fires with, these people were the true present-day incarnation of the classic American hobo. Unskilled, single (or traveling alone, at any rate), immigrant, they were here to work their tails off in the finest American tradition. The skin was darker, the faith Catholic, but in most other particulars they bore much resemblance to my late great-grandfather, an immigrant from Norway, here to make a new life by doing America’s work.

By later traveling and working with Mexicans for more than a year, I caught a glimpse of the United States from the underground perspective of an immigrant group that may profoundly change our country. Lacking here is a good account of the experiences of female immigrants: while it was a challenge for me to earn the trust of Mexican men in the States, it was nearly impossible to gain the confidence of Mexican women. This is a project which I hope will be undertaken soon, and best by a female researcher. Also, though several of my companions asked me to use their real names (and spread the legend of their exploits), nothing has been revealed that would make it easier for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to apprehend aliens. The INS, I was surprised to discover, often knows where they are and how they move, even if it doesn’t always act on the information.

What La Migra does not know—what it perhaps cannot afford to know—is the more human side of the men and women it arrests, the drama of their lives. That’s what this book is about. It is not a policy book, but a story. It relates to policy only insofar as I hope through it to flesh out a missing perspective in the immigration debate: the perspective of those whom the whole thing is about. I think that the terms of the debate have tended to dehumanize Mexicans, turning them from people into illegal aliens. But because we as Americans control their destiny in so many ways, it is urgent that we know more about these people who ask little more than to wash our dishes, vacuum our cars, and pick our fruit.

How to know them? It seemed important to move beyond newspaper coverage. The truly meaningful things about a people are not learned by conducting an interview, gathering statistics, or watching them on the news, but by going out and living with them. To get to know Mexicans you need to speak their language, be willing to put up with living conditions less comfortable than our own, and, especially if you look and were raised as differently from them as I was, you need to believe in the subversive idea that a human is a human, and that human beings everywhere, with a little effort, can come to understand and even like each other.

This is not the whole story, but I have tried to make it their story.

Ted Conover

Denver, Colorado

May 1, 1987

Preface to the Vintage Edition, 2006

It’s strange to think that twenty years have passed since the journey recounted in this book. Strange because my memories—of Mexican villages, of border crossings, of my companions—remain vivid. Strange because I don’t feel twenty years older. And also strange because, despite all the attention it has received, the immigration situation not only remains unresolved but in many ways has gotten worse.

Of course, I did not expect everything to be fixed by now: the border is long, our countries’ disparity in wealth huge, and the U.S. appetite for cheap labor insatiable. But it does seem that few meaningful steps have been taken to reform the dysfunctional status quo. And, in these fast-changing times, problems that are not attended to often become bigger problems.

The border has surely become an even tougher place. With Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, the U.S. government began to increase law enforcement and to construct new and larger walls and fences along the urbanized parts of the border. Would-be migrants had to travel farther, and across more difficult terrain. There have been many consequences. A rise in the cost of crossing is one: a coyote-assisted journey from the border to Phoenix, for example, which ran about $300 when I wrote this book, has risen to $i,500-$2,000. With this kind of money at stake, coyotes are more likely than ever to be involved with organized crime.

The death toll taken by this gauntlet rises a little bit every year, now averaging about one migrant a day. Many, of course, die in mass tragedies that have been the focus of the latest books about the border, notably the death by exposure of fourteen in the Arizona desert in 2001 (retold by Luis Alberto Urrea in The Devil’s Highway) and the death by heat and suffocation of nineteen people in a Texas truck trailer in 2003 (recounted in Jorge Ramos’ Dying to Cross). (Ruben Martinez takes as his starting point in Crossing Over the deaths of three brothers in the back of a smuggler’s truck loaded with twenty-seven people that rolls off the highway as it is pursued by police in California. And Sonia Nazario breaks new ground on the migrant trail of blood, sweat, and tears by focusing on the gauntlet run by Central Americans, particularly children seeking a lost parent in the United States, as they make their way north through Mexico in Enrique’s Journey.)

Another concern of today is the recurring appearance of vigilante patrols along the U.S. side of the border, and, at the level of state government, recurring initiatives to arrest the undocumented. While these get a lot of press attention on both sides of the border, they typically die out and serve mainly to highlight the frustration of many Americans that the border remains porous.

This anxiety is not necessarily anti-immigrant; several of the 9/11 hijackers were also visa violators, and the fact that two of them received new student visas in the mail six months after perishing in the suicide attack on the Twin Towers does not bolster one’s confidence in the Department of Homeland Security (which absorbed the immigration service in the months following 9/11). Though a tiny fraction of the whole, migrants from nations besides Mexico use the southern border to sneak into the United States too. It seems only a matter of time until a terrorist is discovered to have come in via the border with Mexico.

But that is a very different subject from everyday immigration by Mexicans, with its long history and economic motivations. While much of the exotic drama of immigration takes place along the border, the larger, deeper story is perhaps to be found in the towns and cities of the interior United States and of Mexico. Since I write about that Mexican story in this book, let me say a word here about my own country: Immigration from Mexico, official and unofficial, is changing the United States in ways that were only beginning to become apparent when I did my research in the mid-1980s. Back then, nativists warned of an Anglo-Latino split along the lines of the English-Quebecois divide then so worrisome in Canada, of an America rent in two by language and other cultural differences. To be sure, there are communities, mainly in border states, with a yawning divide between Mexicans and non-Mexicans. But the fears of some sort of civil war have proven continuously unfounded. Rather, Mexican culture has been absorbed, changing mainstream America in the process. Migrants’ children tend to grow up speaking better English than Spanish, and quickly become translators for their parents. A major milestone in this shift in the American character, from my perspective, came around 1996 when salsa replaced ketchup as America’s bestselling condiment. Like bagels and stir-fry, salsa ceased to seem like ethnic food and became, simply, what we eat. And Mexican, it seems—despite the nostalgia of conservative mossbacks—is increasingly a part of who we are.

Pressing matters await official action. Today there are ten to eleven million undocumented immigrants in the United States, up from five to six million when Coyotes was first published in 1987—a growing, semi-permanent population of unfranchised, uninsured poor people in a country where, according to the Constitution, all men are created equal. About one-sixth of undocumented people are under the age of 18, and among these children are a growing number whose predicament is Kafka-esque: born in Mexico or Central America, they crossed over when they were young and grew up as Americans—but without papers. My old high school in Denver, as well as many others, regularly graduates these children of the undocumented—young adults who, though as American-seeming as my own children, can’t qualify for government loans and scholarships, nor for resident tuition at many state colleges. And when the parents of these children get picked up and deported, uprooted along with them are the kids, for whom Mexico (or the countries to the south) is like a foreign country.

Studies now show that one in five Mexicans will visit or work in the United States during some part of their lives, and project that one in ten of the Mexican-born will reside here by 2010. I recently revisited a restaurant in a town in the state of Oaxaca where I hadn’t eaten since 1993, when my (American) wife and I got married there. A waiter I remembered from the time corrected me when I commented on his long, unbroken tenure: he’d left for three years recently to join the gold rush, and try his luck at a restaurant in New Jersey. But (and you will find a lot of Mexicans who feel this way), the experience hadn’t been a good one and now, he said, he was home for good. I like that aspect of being in Mexico: there, migration to the States isn’t about op-eds, political proposals that never succeed, and partisan grandstanding; it’s not about the purported constant, low-level drain on American resources or corrosion of our ideals of law and order. Rather, it’s about individuals and how things work out for them—or don’t. A cab driver I spoke to on the same trip told me he’d bought his taxi with money earned in a few seasons mowing lawns and blowing leaves in Missouri. His younger brother, on the other hand, hadn’t been so lucky; he’d recently tried to sneak across by impersonating the stuffing of the backseat of an SUV. I marveled at the ingenuity of this ruse and wondered aloud how it could fail. "When the migra was looking in the car, the man told me, I guess he moved."

*

Immigration is something Americans feel warmly about as history but nervous about as a current event. I learned about this in microcosm when, after writing Coyotes, I moved from Denver to the Colorado mountain town of Aspen and tried to capture the soul of the place in my book Whiteout. Aspen had already had many incarnations: Ute Indian settlement, silver-mining boom- town, ranch town, early ski town, lodestone to seekers of drugs, nature, and free love. By the mid-8os, Aspen was attracting a chic Hollywood element and the ski bums and aging hippies felt outpriced and alienated. How many Aspenites does it take to change a light bulb? asked a local friend of mine, the writer Bruce Berger. It takes ten—one to change the bulb, and nine to moan about how much better the old light bulb was.

That resonated with me because arriving in Aspen in certain ways had made me feel like a Mexican, trying to justify my recentness in the face of disapproving nativists forgetful that, just a few years before, they themselves had been new arrivals. The conservativism of those who live in special places and want everything to stay the way it’s always been (i.e., the way it’s been since they got there) is understandable—but also a lost cause, I think. Preserving historic architecture is one thing, but wanting the mix of people to stay the same is a backward-looking, codger’s way to live, one at odds with inevitable change and the ideals of a multicultural society.

Resistance to immigration, on a planet full of poor people, also seems linked to a fear of the claims they may make on things we already have. If these folks are not just faceless foreigners, in other words, but rather our neighbors, then common decency dictates that now we’re going to have to share—share roads, schools, hospitals, parks, whatever we have that’s nice. And watch as it all runs down. The larger truth, however, is that immigration is not a zero-sum game: migrants bring enterprise and vitality, and what we have to share is not a fixed amount but a growing amount. All evidence suggests that a rising tide will help us all.

Another kind of nervousness about immigration seems tied less to economic concerns than to a parochial, sometimes visceral fear of the unknown, of the stranger (particularly the young and fertile), of the dark horde. The best cure for this kind of phobia seems to me travel, a diverse range of friends, time spent in cities, and other forms of continuing self-education.

*

In the meantime, we go on with our lives. The Mexicans help to keep our economy humming, and the employment they find here in turn helps with theirs. I have moved to New York, perhaps the world’s greatest immigrant city, where there are fewer Mexican illegals than in the West but still enough that I can feel at home. I am proud that Coyotes remains in print, and hope it lives on a few years more. Also, gracias a Dios, this edition of Coyotes comes with a fine new subtitle, ending my longstanding discomfort over the original: A Journey Through the Secret World of America’s Illegal Aliens. Illegal alien always suggested to me not human workers but outlaws from another planet. I was sparing with the phrase in the text itself, and unhappy to have it on the cover. With this edition, that problem is at long last solved. For this and other friendly support, I would like to thank Edward Kastenmeier of Vintage Books. And for the opportunity to renew and reintroduce this story of mine, I would like to thank all of you, my readers.

Ted Conover

January 2006

Chapter 1

The Gringo and the Mexicano

SUN SLIPPED through the cracks left by poor workmanship, providing the shack’s only light. A space around the plywood slapped across the window, a slit between the corroding sheet- metal door and its jamb, tiny arcs between crumbling cinder blocks and the corrugated tin roof: if you stood in the right places the rays hit your shoes, surrounded by cigarette butts, everything dusty on the dry dirt floor.

Alonso, squatting down to give his legs a rest, surveyed the scores of butts. Lots of wetbacks waited here, eh? I thought of the minutes of worried waiting represented by each butt, the cumulative anxiety of them all. Already, since the coyotes had left us here, we had waited two hours; my cigarettes, now, were gone. No one but the coyotes—the smugglers—knew exactly where we were. If things were going according to plan, we were somewhere near the Rio Grande, and would soon be ferried across to the United States. But, if they disbelieved the story I had invented and still suspected I was an undercover cop, then ... anything could happen.

I was an unlikely client. Blond haired and blue eyed, I was in Mexico as a journalist, researching what illegal immigration to the States means to Mexicans. It had not been my plan, when I boarded a northbound bus in central Mexico, to cross the Rio Grande this way. But then I met Alonso. He was on his way to the border. Sitting next to him I realized that, with a partner lined up, I too might sneak across the border. It is better to see once than to listen many times, a Mexican farmer had told me a week before, when I was asking him about crossing. The words echoed in my brain. Alonso and I seemed to get along. The only remaining obstacle, it seemed to me, would be to convince smugglers that they ought to take me.

Intoxicated with the possibility of experiencing a crossing, I became possessed of a crazy confidence that somehow I could make it all happen. Now, exhausted and edgy from hours of tense negotiation, breathing the close, hot air of the shack, I felt I had ignored my better judgment. I had narrowed my options to one—there was no turning back. Yet too much could still go wrong. And the wrong move, in this sort of situation, could prove fateful.

The floor of the shack, slightly larger in area than a king- size bed, was really the only thing to look at. Scattered around it, besides cigarette butts, were a couple of planks, an old washbasin, a barrel, a quart beer bottle, and other trash. The bottle caught my eye. If worse came to worst, I thought, I could grab it by the neck, knock off the bottom against a wall, and have a weapon.

I joined Alonso at the window cracks, which afforded a view of the cooking area of an adjoining shack. A teenage girl was out there, trying to cook over a smoky wood stove while a teenage boy, one of the smuggling crew, flirted with her. He would reach from behind for the front of her body and, smiling, she’d hit him with a spoon. She was maybe fifteen, and very pretty. A group of prostitutes we passed outside a store on the morning’s drive out here had been pretty too. Naively, I had not expected beauty in this town made of rough-hewn planks and corrugated tin.

Tired of spying, we returned to our respective walls to sit and wait. Alonso whistled a tune through his teeth for a while. El Gringo y el Mexicano, he announced finally, reminding me of the popular corrida—or Mexican ballad—we had discussed the night before. Remember what happened to the gringo? The gringo of the title was a Texas rancher. He admired the young wife of one of his Mexican ranch hands, stole her away from him, and killed the Mexican for good measure. She was already pregnant with the Mexican’s son, however, and the boy, learning of his father’s fate, waited only until he was big enough to fire a gun to shoot and kill the Texan. Alonso was grinning.

"Very funny," I said to Alonso, who, with his perpetual good spirits and high energy, was as fine a person as existed for breaking the tension in a situation like ours. By the way, when are you going to introduce me to your girlfriend?

"Ha! Never! One look at the size of your North American wallet, and you’ll have a wife. " Thus reminded, I moved my roll of cash to my shirt pocket, inside my sweater, because the coyotes had seen it in my sock.

"They told me not to trust you," he said, back when you left the restaurant to get the money. This was nothing new—other Mexicans, seeing a countryman traveling with me, had issued him similar warnings: He may seem nice, but he’ll fuck you over. That’s how gringos are. This was, in fact, the first of three warnings Alonso would receive while we were together. I looked at him closely in the dimness, listened for more, to see how he had taken it. But he was silent. Finally I had to prompt him.

"And? ... "

"And nothing, " said Alonso. I’m here, right?

"Yes. You and I are here." Silently I thanked God he was there. I’d be going crazy if he weren’t. A long silence.

"My God," he exclaimed suddenly, who ever would have thought I’d find myself in a coyote’s shack with a gringo? My parents’ll never believe me!

*

Alonso and I had been traveling partners for only three days, but in the difficult circumstances of those days, trust had already saved us from some fixes. We met for the first time while waiting to board a northbound bus in San Luis Potosí, in central Mexico. Besides us, only one other passenger, a middle-aged businessman, waited on the platform outside the nearly empty Tres Estrellas de Oro coach from Mexico City that afternoon. And where are you two young men going? the businessman asked politely.

Alonso, young and slight, was smartly dressed in jeans, a light blue snap-up cowboy shirt, and a sturdy leather belt that widened in the front to form its own buckle, interwoven with lanyard and lots of studs. His black, pointed-toe cowboy boots had the Mexican-style heel that angles rakishly forward, sometimes giving the wearer a peculiar rolling gait. He looked about twenty, and had jet black hair and strong Indian features—except for the very un-Indian grin, with which, nodding, he invited me to answer first.

"I’m going to Monterrey, to talk to some people at Radio XEGdo you know it? ‘La Ranchera de Monterrey?’ "

The men nodded. It was one of Mexico’s—probably North America’s—biggest radio stations, beaming 100,000 watts of ranchera music to AM listeners twenty-four hours a day. Ranchera, with its accordion, bass, and guitar, is Mexico’s country music, especially popular in the north. I had tuned it in a couple of times on my car radio while driving across the American Midwest at night. I’m a writer, interested in ranchera songs about the indocumentados who travel north to work in the United States.

"Ah, los mojados," said the businessman—the wetbacks. And you, young ma—

"Well, hey, that’s me," interrupted Alonso, beaming. Yo voy de mojado. I’m going as a wetback.

I couldn’t believe it. In the States you might know a Mexican for weeks before he would make an admission like that. The older man looked uncomfortable. Are you serious? I said. There seemed to be no coyness about Alonso, no irony.

"Sure. I’m headed for Texas. Got to stop off in Monterrey first to see if some friends want to go. "

On the bus Alonso and I sat across the aisle from each other. I gave him my card, which he placed in his wallet with great care. Maybe if I was a writer, he said, I could help him learn to speak English. He had already crossed into the States three or four times, he said, and picked up a little: plees, fren’, no got money, no speak Engliss, you got beer? one momen, plees, money order, house. He knew some of the numbers from one to ten but had difficulty with the others, his tongue and lips contorting into awkward, impossible shapes.

Did he spell it A-l-o-n-s-o or A-l-o-n-z-o? I asked. Whichever you like, he reassured me. It’s the same either way.

"But which way do you spell it?" He shrugged and looked out the window at the desert.

All afternoon we

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  • (4/5)
    A book so old and still so timely. Excellent
  • (4/5)
    A wonderful and what appears to be very accurate accounting of the life of the Mexican migrant worker - and the Coyote. Author has a good eye and ear for his subjects.
  • (5/5)
    I highly recommend this book! It was written 20 years ago but don't let that turn you off, the story of undocumented workers and their journey is fascinating and insightful, plus Conover's writing is pitch perfect (not once did he come off as exploitative of the people he met or self congratulatory for having "suffered" through the experience). Reading about real people gives a human side to a political hot topic. It doesn't aim to make political statements, but let you see the other side of the story. Very good.
  • (4/5)
    This book was an amazing glimpse into a lifestyle that many people experience but many more do not understand.