PURO BORDER: Dispatches, Snapshots & Graffiti from La Frontera

Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, Editor, Bobby Byrd, Editor, John William Byrd, Editor . Cinco Puntos $18.95 (253p) ISBN 978-0-938317-59-3

Noreteño co-editor Bobby Byrd, a poet, describes the border as a place where "antiheroes" flourish in a "sort of anti-place, like a vacuum in the collective unconsciousness." Nearly 50 writers, photographers and illustrators from both sides of the border use portraits, statistics and poetry to mold a complicated, multidimensional likeness of the area. The editors set the stage with a measured rallying cry—"We are restless. We are angry." Yet in chapters like "Everything is Going to be Different" and "May Our Daughters Come Home," contributors express a tremendous range of emotions. This is, in some ways, a project about love, as is plain when Luis Alberto Urrea reveals his true feelings about "Tijuana Wonderland." It is also an activist's book, as when Maria Jiménez says that part of her work is "increasing public awareness that we are an abused community," or in the included lists of murdered women of Juárez or statistics about labor costs in Mexico. There is tremendously humorous riffing on stereotypes, such as Roberto Castillo Udiarte's "Johnny Tecate Crosses the Border Looking Sort of Muslim." Yet many writers place La Frontera deep within the personal: Crosthwaite calls the border his girlfriend: "There are girlfriends we are boastful about and there are girlfriends we guard like an expensive secret. This one I have locked away in my heart." From "Ropa Usada" to "Towers of Crap," it is exactly this kind of nuanced exploration of contrasts that animates this collection. It brings Mexican-American relations to a human scale with pride and without sentimentality. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
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