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Living on Both Sides

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Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Navigating two sides of a boundary. View to the east from the Montezuma Pass Overlook at Coronado National Memorial, Arizona, United States. Visible are Montezuma Canyon and the Montezuma Pass Road. The road is a historic feature contributing to the memorial's status on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hi, I am Marco Macias, a history teacher here at Fort Hays State University. Thank you for tuning in, and welcome to a BookByte of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, a fascinating narrative from Francisco Cantu. In the book, he describes his experiences growing up on the border and then pursuing a career in border patrol for several years. Traversing through the desert, he learns to understand the inhumanity of forcing immigrants across the desert and returns to civilian life.

Hi, I am Marco Macias, a history teacher here at Fort Hays State University. Thank you for tuning in, and welcome to a BookByte of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, a fascinating narrative from Francisco Cantu. In the book, he describes his experiences growing up on the border and then pursuing a career in border patrol for several years. Traversing through the desert, he learns to understand the inhumanity of forcing immigrants across the desert and returns to civilian life. Afterward, he discovers the particularities of family separation as an undocumented friend visits his dying mother and can’t come back after decades of living in the United States.

The main strength of Cantu’s story is his ability to humanize his experiences within Border Patrol and those of the undocumented immigrants that try to cross from Mexico daily. Living on the border is not the same as being on the boundary, and Cantu masterfully demonstrates this by exploring the nuances of being a Mexican in the United States.

In this regard, Cantu narrates the story of his mother, a woman of Irish, German, and Mexican roots, who had to navigate through her identity. Her story at Coronado National Park is exemplary of many who cross the border and establish themselves on this side. Seeking identity depends on many things and finding oneself is not always a straightforward task. First generation immigrants try their best to blend in and encourage their children to do the same. But subsequent generations might seek to understand their past, their heritage, their sense of belonging to a country that is not always welcoming to their culture, a culture I will add, that has been here for generations.

And much like the river, the cultural identity is alive, because it is reflective of people that make their lives on both sides of the border. To live on the border, does not always equate to being from the borderlands. A borderlander can function culturally on both sides of the border, seeks the benefits of living on both sides of the border, and yes, engage in colorful conversations in Spanglish. And it is not that one does not know the language, it is just that our brains are wired to survive on the edge.

This is why Cantu’s narrative is as relevant today as it was when it came out in 2018. Time and time again, when reading the story, I found myself identified with the contradictions and distinctions related by Cantu.

Being from the borderlands brings a unique perspective, but Cantu captures its essence and transmits it here, and therefore this book is truly an exceptional jewel that I recommend you read if given the opportunity. Thank you for joining.

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Fall 2021: RIVERS meandering meaning 2021 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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