A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail
By Rubén Martínez
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805049084, 384pp.)
Publication Date: October 2001
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.
Ruben Martinez, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and poet, is associate editor at Pacific News Service and a correspondent for PBS's religion and ethics news weekly. Author of The Other Side, he has appeared as a commentator on Nightline, Frontline, and CNN. He lives in Los Angeles.