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Drugs Crossing the River

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Susan Harbage Page
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It is sometimes easier to find the drugs rather than the mules.

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.

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 border patrol agent.

In this regard, Cantu narrates his story of transformation, not knowing at first what to expect, and then going through various cases of finding immigrants, dead bodies, and abandoned drugs. I found it particularly interesting how he told the story of how abandoned drugs were easier to process than trying to find mules (human smugglers forced by the cartels to cross with drugs). This part of the narration confirms an almost child’s play give and take, where border patrol just deters enough to demonstrate it's doing its job, but yet somehow the drugs are still able to cross into the United States for mass consumption.

In another role, and surely, one of the most seemingly depressing jobs border patrol agents have; is finding the bodies of numerous nameless immigrants. Over the 2000’s, the Arizona desert became one of the busiest crossings for illegal immigrants. And when immigrants died, their bodies ended up at the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office, who still works today with the Mexican consulate to ID the bodies of many by either using documents left behind or recurring to a DNA test. In fact, the death of a Oaxacan immigrant commented by Cantu in his book made me recall a documentary produced by Gael Garcia Bernal in 2013 by the name Quien es Dayani Cristal?, the story of an immigrant's journey from Central America to the deserts of Arizona.

And this is why Cantu’s narrative is as relevant today as it was when it came out in 2018. Because time and time again, there are still deaths among immigrants that try to cross the border in hopes of a better life. The situations described by Cantu have not gone away, we have just been too focused on other stories to listen to the river flowing with the dead silent voices of our brothers and sisters from south of the border.

This book is truly an exceptional jewel and I recommend you read it if given the opportunity. Thank you for joining.

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Fall 2021: RIVERS meandering meaning2021 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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