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Cutting for Sign Hardcover – January 18, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Combining trenchant observations with an understated style, Langewiesche, a correspondent for the Atlantic , limns people and places on the troubled U.S.-Mexico border. Traveling from affluent San Diego, Calif., to poverty-ridden Brownsville, Tex., the author zig-zags across the frontier, describing border guards and human rights monitors, maquila managers (business technicians) and labor organizers and the frustration and foreboding among them all. In the ranching town of Marfa, Tex., he describes the long-running power struggle between Anglos and Mexicans and the position of an outsider, famed sculptor Donald Judd, who has established a nonprofit foundation and provides medical benefits for Mexican laborers: the ranchers consider him a subversive; the Mexicans call him a fool. In Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Langewiesche finds "one tough border town," corrupted by drugs. The book's title comes from customs agents who "cut for sign," looking for evidence (a tire track, a footprint) of illegal entry. They may be skilled, but, as the author observes: "There are 400 million crossings of the border every year, and the future belongs to free trade." The border, he concludes, is a "word game" and "more intricate than a simple boundary line." Mexico's problems, he notes, have become ours.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Langewiesche has lived and worked near the U.S.-Mexico border and wrote an extensive piece on the topic for the Atlantic in 1992. This book expands on his experiences in cities such as San Diego, Tijuana, Nogales, Mexicali, and El Paso, as well as in rural areas. He meets ranchers, farmers, Border Patrol agents, civil rights activists, artists, and many others from both countries. He also provides some historical background on relations between the United States and Mexico, from the Mexican Revolution to the drug trade. Although a less intimate account than Luis Urrea's Across the Wire ( LJ 1/93), this well-written volume is a thoughful introduction to the complex people and issues of the borderlands. Recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.
- Gwen Gregory, U.S. Courts Lib., Phoenix
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (January 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679411135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679411130
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,269,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By on December 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a former City Manager of Marfa, Texas, I have observed and experienced first hand many of the incidents described in the book. For instance, the morning gathering of area ranchers at the former Thunderbird Restaurant, totally devoid of Hispanic participants; the persistent overtones of bigotry amoung many of the well established Anglo citizens;and, there are still semblances of the old "Patron" system alive and well.
While I can't prove that my dismissal from my position as City Manager was based on the fact that I am Hispanic, I have no doubt that the racial aspect played a part in the decision to terminate my services. Many local residents have told me that the Mayor could not stand a smart well-educated Mexcican making him look bad.
In any event, the description of Marfa and the region surrounding it are all surprising accurate. The author most certainly has a deep sense of morality, and an uncanny method of lucidly describing people, situations, and injustices.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I grew up on the Mexican border, and Langewiesche beautifully captures the schizophrenic love/hate relationship entangling the two sides. He writes with the clean, precise lines of the journalist, but gives the end result a spin of philosophy that could only come from really feeling the people and places he visits. Much like his second work, "Sahara Unveiled", this is much more than reportage. It's too bad not more people have read this book...I think it would greatly help Americans' understanding of border relations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Justin F. Gaynor on May 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
The first chapter of this book is as well-written as anything I've ever read. While the details of the book are now out of date, the general problems remain, and this is a great source of information about how things work (and don't work) along the border. Highly recommended, if you can get your hands on a copy. I enjoyed this even more than Langewiesche's later, better known books.
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