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The Devil's Highway: A True Story Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (April 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316746711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316746717
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In May 2001, 26 Mexican men scrambled across the border and into an area of the Arizona desert known as the Devil's Highway. Only 12 made it safely across. American Book Awardâ€"winning writer and poet Urrea (Across the Wire; Six Kinds of Sky; etc.), who was born in Tijuana and now lives outside Chicago, tracks the paths those men took from their home state of Veracruz all the way norte. Their enemies were many: the U.S. Border Patrol ("La Migra"); gung-ho gringo vigilantes bent on taking the law into their own hands; the Mexican Federales; rattlesnakes; severe hypothermia and the remorseless sun, a "110 degree nightmare" that dried their bodies and pounded their brains. In artful yet uncomplicated prose, Urrea captivatingly tells how a dozen men squeezed by to safety, and how 14 othersâ€"whom the media labeled the Yuma 14â€"did not. But while many point to the group's smugglers (known as coyotes) as the prime villains of the tragedy, Urrea unloads on, in the words of one Mexican consul, "the politics of stupidity that rules both sides of the border." Mexican and U.S. border policy is backward, Urrea finds, and it does little to stem the flow of immigrants. Since the policy results in Mexicans making the crossing in increasingly forbidding areas, it contributes to the conditions that kill those who attempt it. Confident and full of righteous rage, Urrea's story is a well-crafted mélange of first-person testimony, geographic history, cultural and economic analysis, poetry and an indictment of immigration policy. It may not directly influence the forces behind the U.S.'s southern border travesties, but it does give names and identities to the faceless and maligned "wetbacks" and "pollos," and highlights the brutality and unsustainable nature of the many walls separating the two countries. Maps not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

So many illegal immigrants die in the desert Southwest of the U.S. that only notorious catastrophes make headlines. Urrea reconstructs one such incident in the Sonoran Desert, the ordeal of sun and thirst of two dozen men in May 2001, half of whom suffered excruciating deaths. They came from Vera Cruz; their so-called guide came from Guadalajara. Jesus Lopez Ramos was no master of orienteering, however, just an expendable bottom-feeder in the border's human-smuggling racket. Tracing their lives and the routes to the border, Urrea adopts a slangy, surreal style in which the desert landscape shimmers and distorts, while in desiccated border settlements criminals, officials, and vigilantes patrol for human cargo such as the men from Vera Cruz. The imaginative license Urrea takes, paralleling the laconic facts of the case that he incorporates into his narrative, produces a powerful, almost diabolical impression of the disaster and the exploitative conditions at the border. Urrea shows immigration policy on the human level. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother, Urrea has published extensively in all the major genres. The critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 13 books, Urrea has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. The Devil's Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. An historical novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter tells the story of Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as the Saint of Cabora and the Mexican Joan of Arc. The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with The Devil's Highway, was named a best book of the year by many publications. It has been optioned by acclaimed Mexican director Luis Mandoki for a film to star Antonio Banderas.
Urrea's most recent novel, Into the Beautiful North, imagines a small town in Mexico where all the men have immigrated to the U.S. A group of young women, after seeing the film The Magnificent Seven, decide to follow the men North and persuade them to return to their beloved village. A national best-seller, Into the Beautiful North, earned a citation of excellence from the American Library Association Rainbow's Project. A short story from Urrea's collection, Six Kinds of Sky, was recently released as a stunning graphic novel by Cinco Puntos Press. Mr.Mendoza's Paintbrush, illustrated by artist Christopher Cardinale, has already garnered rave reviews and serves as a perfect companion to Into the Beautiful North as it depicts the same village in the novel.
Into the Beautiful North, The Devil's Highway and The Hummingbird's Daughter have been chosen by more than 30 different cities and colleges for One Book community read programs.
Urrea has also won an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story (2009, "Amapola" in Phoenix Noir). His first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life and in 2000, he was voted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame following the publication of Vatos. His book of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of ForeWord magazine. He has also won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being and was in The 1996 Best American Poetry collection. Urrea's other titles include By the Lake of Sleeping Children, In Search of Snow, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time.
Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Customer Reviews

What a brilliant story being told.
Ian Medeiros
The Devil's Highway is a stirring story of twenty-six men who crossed the Mexican border into the harsh Devil's Highway of Southern Arizona.
American Immigration Council's Community Education Center
I highly recommend the book, a thoroughly researched, well written and compelling story.
Jim Hunt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Fernandez VINE VOICE on May 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Urrea delivers a moving novel based on the true story of the Yuma 14, fourteen Mexicans (from a group of 26) that tried to cross the border and enter the US illegally through the Arizona desert and succumbed in the attempt. The author presents the facts efficiently and his conclusion follows: Mexicans trying to cross the border are human beings like everyone else that had the bad fortune of facing tough economic condition; they should be respected.
The author describes the conditions and historic events that lead to the beginning of the illegal immigration into the US and draws a clear parallelism with our times, when there are several tasks in the US that Americans are reluctant to do, thus illegal immigrants are needed for this. When price changes in international markets adversely affected the Mexican economy and overpopulation became a problem, some Mexicans decided to come to the US. They ended up with a comfortable life, so when others found out, a growing interest in crossing the border developed.
Organizations of coyotes were formed to provide supply for the growing demand, and the poor people seeking a better future became just a means to an end. These individuals in their attempts have to fight against the heat of the desert, thirst, exhaustion, "la migra" (Border Patrol) and the coyotes themselves. On top of this, the control at the border has intensified throughout the last years, so the groups seeking a new future have to go through more dangerous paths each time. In the case of the twenty-six Mexicans that are the center of this story, the point of entry was the Devil's Highway, a deadly desert in Arizona that has claimed numerous victims through the years.
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48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By S. Harris on July 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
"The Devil's Highway," is a pretty good book. Urrea sees no sacred cows - unless discussing the poor individuals who dare to cross over to the U.S. The border landscape is murderous, and the "Coyotes" that lead the illegals across are predators and gangsters. It's all about money. Urrea does his best to give each of those who suffered through the 2001 ordeal (the Yuma 14 (those that died), or Wellton 26 (the entire party), take your pick), faces, lives, hopes. They are people, and not just rotting bodies found in the desert. Still, I get the sense that "The Devil's Highway," is a bit padded. There are also a few inaccuracies (Department of Interior police as a separate body from the BLM? An inaccurate description of a Tarantino movie), which left feeling that Urrea was shooting from the hip. Given the subject matter, he can't help but hit his target (which is extended to both sides of the border), but when I see mistakes (even nitpicky ones), I wonder, whatever the book, what other ones am I missing? Further, Urrea's style will remind you of Hunter Thompson, or even James Ellroy. This is high-risk writing, that hooks a reader, but can also annoy when unnecessary slang is used. At its worst, it seems like the writer is more interested in being hip than telling the story. It's a high wire act. Urrea for the most part stays on that wire, but there were a few times where the slang gets to be annoying.

But even with a slightly padded feel to it, it's the last twenty or so pages of the "Devil's Highway" that deliver the goods. Urrea could easily expand on those twenty pages and write a new book the current state of things Mexican - and American.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Books In Review on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Pulitzer Prize finalist, Luis Alberto Urrea, has written about the struggle people desperate enough to risk their lives crossing the Mexican/American border (Arizona) in search of a better life. The story itself is as old as the hills but this time, he paints a picture of the area so vividly, that if you've been anywhere in this region, you'll appreciate his descriptions even more. The people who abound, from many walks of life (and not only Mexicans), faced the oppressive heat and lack of water, not knowing where they'd land up, were brave and courageous. Urrea unfolds the account of the twenty-six men who ventured into the unknown and in search of a better life, and the "human hunt" that followed them. Their fears and dreams, the desert's own laws, and the stretch known as The Devil's Highway is all explained. Doggedly they pursue freedom but the price is extremely high, as the desert has obstacles few humans can survive. Urrea does a great job describing the officials whose job it is to patrol this particular area along the Arizona/Mexican border, as well as the brokers who help arrange these trips to freedom - usually at a high cost.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Denise M. Caramagno on May 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazing book! I couldn't put it down and read it from cover to cover in one day. Urrea has a gift for language and he applies it here. This is the story of 26 men from Veracruz. Urrea could have recounted the story of how 14 of them died in the desert and left it at that. This would still be a book worth reading... but he went way beyond those confines. He took the story of those 26 men from Veracruz and put it in historical, cultural and geographical context. He opened a window onto other worlds and onto our own. He portrays the immigrants, the border patrol and even the coyote, without judgment. He allows the reader to come to her/his own conclusion. Powerful, poetic and unforgettable. I finished it and got back on line to order everything else he has published.
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