A moving account of a family's odyssey by "one of the brightest voices of a new generation of Hispanic writers" (Washington Post)
The U.S.-Mexican border is one of the most permeable boundaries in the world, breached daily by Mexicans in search of work. Yet the migrant gambit is perilous. Thousands die crossing the line and those who reach "the other side" are branded illegals, undocumented and unprotected.
In Crossing Over, Ruben Martinez puts a human face on the phenomenon, following the exodus of the Chávez clan, an extended Mexican family with the grim distinction of having lost three sons in a tragic border incident. He charts the migrants' progress from their small south-Mexican town of Cherán through the harrowing underground railroad to the tomato farms of Missouri, the strawberry fields of California, and the slaughterhouses of Wisconsin. He reveals the effects of immigration on the family left behind and offers a powerful portrait of migrant culture, an exchange that deposits hip hop in Indian villages while bringing Mexican pop to the northern plains. Far from joining the melting pot, Martinez argues, the migrants--as many as seven million in the U.S.--are spawning a new culture that will alter both countries as Latin America and the U.S. come increasingly to resemble each other.
Intimate, compelling, written with passion and engagement, Crossing Over tells the epic story of a family, a town, a world in motion.
Chronicling a family that lost three sons to a border crossing gone horribly wrong, Mart nez travels repeatedly from San Diego to the city of Cher n, in the state of Michoac n, about 200 miles west of Mexico City. Though treated by some of the Mexicans he meets as more of a gringo than a norte o (a Mexican who has lived in the north), Mart nez, an American of Mexican emigr parents, gets terrifically close to his subjects, following them from stultifying poverty in Mexico to mortally dangerous illegal crossings and harsh and also dangerous (and illegal) work in Arkansas, Connecticut, Missouri and California. Mart nez draws a wealth of social, ethnic, linguistic and economic nuance in completely absorbing narratives. Each of the 13 chapters begins with a facing-page photo by Joseph Rodriguez (with whom Mart nez collaborated on East Side Stories),showing us the cholos (gang members), coyotes (crossing guides) and pollos ("chickens" being led across), and also the everyday people whose lives are spread, one way or another, across the border. Mart nez is now at Harvard on a Loeb fellowship, has won an Emmy for his work as a journalist, is associate editor of Pacific News Service and a correspondent for PBS's Religion and Ethics News Weekly. His book is heroic in its honesty and self-examination, and in its determination to tell its story completely and fully.