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Crossing Over by Ruben Martinez

Crossing Over (2001)

by Ruben Martinez

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At 5:15 AM, April 6, 1996, Benjamin, Jamie and Salvador Chavez are hiding in the camper shell of a 1989 GMC truck as it races down Avenida Del Oro, a two lane California road trying to outrun the pursuing Border Patrol. At 70 miles per hour, with twenty five illegal immigrants stacked like cordwood , the truck goes off the road, airborne and lands on its roof. The Chavez brothers and five others are dead.
Cheron, about 200 miles west of Mexico City, is a town where everyone goes North. Some never return. Some come home after the harvest in the United States or to attend festivals or family events, such as the Chavez brother’s funeral. Many send money to family in Cheron. Some are building homes for their retirement. They live in two worlds and two cultures not entirely at home in either.
Ruben Martinez lives with them on both sides of the border, from Cheron Mexico to a safe house (actually a trailer) in Cobden Illinois, Warren Arkansas, Norwalk Wisconsin and St. Louis Missouri and tells their story. It is fascinating. I have studied immigration, legal and illegal, in a couple of classes, but this firsthand account gave me a new perspective. The fact that I knew several of the locations, from Carbondale Illinois, where I went to school, the nearby farm community of Murphysboro and my hometown St. Louis. Although the author has a clear bias, he is a second generation immigrant; the book is not a polemic. It made me rethink a number of my assumptions. ( )
  JustMe869 | Aug 4, 2009 |
The only non-fiction book chosen for the book club - not well received. No one came to the meeting that month. ( )
  Eveningbookclub | Dec 13, 2007 |
  heidic | Jan 29, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312421230, Paperback)

Not since Ted Conover's Coyotes has a book revealed the underground culture of illegal immigration from Mexico as well as Crossing Over by Rubén Martínez. This up-and-coming author writes of what he calls "a Mexican Manifest Destiny" that continually pierces the southern borderline of the United States--a "line [that] is still more an idea than a reality." Martínez begins with the awful story of the three Chávez brothers, all killed when a truck carrying them and some two dozen other illegal aliens tried to outrace border patrol agents and flipped. Martínez learns of their fate and travels to their peasant hometown in southern Mexico to distil the motives of migrants. Then he follows the rest of the family north as they fan into the United States. Crossing Over is written in the first person and is highly anecdotal, but Martínez constantly makes observations that break free from these narrow confines. "Mexicans have always had an uncanny instinct for finding the soft spots of the American labor economy," he notes at one point, explaining how it is that millions of poor people who barely speak English can thrive, in their way, north of the border. Crossing Over is an outstanding book, and required reading for anyone interested in Hispanics and the new America. --John Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:48 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Both an award-winning journalist and a poet, Martinez tracks a migrant family from Mexico to the U.S., and shows how migrant culture is changing America. 13 illustrations. The U.S.-Mexican border is one of the most permeable boundaries in the world, breached daily by Mexicans in search of work. Thousands die crossing the line and those who reach "the other side" are branded illegals, undocumented and unprotected. Crossing Over puts a human face on the phenomenon, following the exodus of the Chaacute;vez clan, an extended Mexican family who lost three sons in a tragic border accident. Martiacute;nez follows the migrants' progress from their small southern Mexican town of Cheraacute;n to California, Wisconsin, and Missouri where far from joining the melting pot, Martiacute;nez argues, the seven million migrants in the U.S. are creating a new culture that will alter both Mexico and the United States as the two countries come increasingly to resemble each other.… (more)

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