Mexican-American poet, novelist and essayist Luis Alberto Urrea has made a career of writing about those who cross the border in search of better living conditions only to find a life of abuse and squalor.

Urrea is the author of “The Devil’s Highway,” an account of the journey of a group of Mexican migrants lost in the Arizona desert. He dedicated himself to telling the stories of migrant workers and their families after having the following exchange with a garbage picker in a place called Ladrillera, near Tecate, Mexico.

… He walked over to me and he was looking, he said, “Qué estás haciendo?” “What are you doing?” I said, “Oh nothing, I’m just writing in my journal.” “Ah. What’s a journal?” I said, “You know, it’s a diary, right.” “Oh good, yeah. What’s a diary?” I said, “Well, it’s a book, and I write in it.” He said, “What are you writing about?” I said, “Writing about what I do, what I see.” And he said, “Wait a minute. You’re writing about this place?” And I said, “Yup.” And he said, “Are you writing about the people here?” I said, “Yeah, I guess.” And he said, “Are you writing about me?” And I said, “I probably am now.” And he said, “Is anybody going to read this?” And I said, “I hope so.” And the man said to me, he said, “You know, that’s good, that’s good. Write about me. Write about me.” He said, “I was born in the garbage dump. I’ve spent my entire life picking trash. And when I die, they’re going to bury me in the garbage.” He said, “So you tell them I was here.” I don’t know if that was a blessing or a curse, right?

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.Moyers & Company:


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