Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book Review: Lives on the Line

As someone who believes that the human element of the immigration debate in the U.S. is central to the way decisions should be made, as opposed to profits and segregations of people based on the piece of earth they were born, this book Lives on the Line: Dispatches from the U.S.-Mexico Border was a breath of fresh air. Author Miriam Davidson takes her readers to Ambos Nogales - the sister cities that straddle la frontera just to the south of Latino PolĂ­tico headquarters, bearing the same name.

Those of us who live in the border region in its bi-cultural society understand that the human condition is lived very differently due to the current configuration of the international border. This book explores the economic impact of the maquilas - factories - that have risen on the other side of the line in response to so-called free trade agreements as well as several intimate stories of those who live in Ambos Nogales.

Environmental impact, human rights abuses of workers, the lives of Tunnel Children, and the effects of the growing militarization of our region is wonderfully woven throughout the chapters. Its power is in the storytelling. Readers are shown the work of community activists who work tirelessly for answers to their cancer-stricken neighborhoods and the political games that continue through this current era, transported to the work and passion that fuels humanitarian work in the shelters and soup kitchens of Nogales, Sonora, and get an idea of what its like to be an abandoned child that seeks refuge in the underground tunnels that perforate the line.
On a deeper level, the people of Ambos Nogales are leading the way to a new relationship between the United States and Mexico. Forever linked by geography, the two countries are becoming increasingly intertwined economically, socially, and culturally. In Ambos Nogales, people have lived this way for generations. They know how to celebrate and find strength in difference. They know that when Americans fight for the rights of Mexicans to a decent standard of living, we fight for the our own as well. People in Nogales have much to teach us about tolerating paradox and contradiction.
If you've been reading here for any amount of time, you can see how that exerpt would be music to my ears. I enthusiastically recommend this quick-read book offered by the University of Arizona Press to get an idea of what it's like to call la frontera home. It is more than just a collection of stories, it's a call to action to bring about a more just world.

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