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Bo o k Re view s Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots & Qraffiti from La Frontera. Ed. by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, John William Byrd, and Bobby Byrd. El Paso, Texas: Cinco Puntos Press, 2003. 253 pages, $18.95. Reviewed by Megan Sibbett Inclán Utah State University, Logan A s a book catalogued under both Latin American studies and cultural studies, Puro Border encompasses much more than traditional texts. It is a haunting and empowering work that represents the U.S.-Mexican border unlike any other book in its field. Editors Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, John William Byrd, and Bobby Byrd have marvelously combined different voices from all sides of the border to tell stories and histories that attempt to capture the conflicted and beautiful essence of the border we have estranged ourselves from through censorship, neglect, and culture. Some of these voices include those of Leslie Marmon Silko, Cecilia Balli, Francisco Vásquez Mendoza, Julián Herbert, and Roberto Castillo Udiarte. These authors write in opposition to one another, covering issues of illegal immigration, government and border politics, the life of coyotes, drug lords, maquiladoras, gender clashes, the wilderness, and the often ignored border atrocities. Francisco Delgado. $26. Oil on canvas. © 2002. Cover illustration for Puro Border. Reprinted with permission of the artist. 7 4 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 6 In his rambunctious introduction, Bobby Byrd states that Puro Border is “an ornery, bull-headed book” that creates direct contrasts to the outright ignorance and insolence projected onto the U.S.-Mexican border from both sides (13). Within the pages of Puro Border, the authors engage in what Byrd sees as an “angry politics and struggle” that is pregnant with an understanding that will “seed the earth” (15). In “Camera of Dirt,” Charles Bowden provides a telling quotation from photographer Julián Cardona that metaphorically challenges every person’s accountability toward his or her border relationship. “I think a photograph uncovers what is hidden and then what is hidden comes before the public eye. You must confront yourself in this mirror of reality” (31). After reading Puro Border, readers, too, must confront themselves in a mirror of reality, refusing what Debbie Nathan describes as a “negative hallucina­ tion”— an erasure of what confronts them (166). The border’s multidimensional personality and history become revealed within each author’s account. Gary Paul Nabhan writes in “Open Letter to My Relatives” that the border is incapable of completely dividing people. “A fence cannot divide those of us who live on either side. We need one another. That’s why we gather on fly ways, migration routes, and underground railroads. We’ve learned to outmaneuver governments. Oh, they can hinder us, but I doubt they’ll ever halt our flow” (26). Yet, Puro Border also demonstrates how border politics and border events not only halt but also bring death to hundreds of people. The text’s conflicting ideas, stories, passions, and border relationships effectively demonstrate the hidden and often ignored histories of the border. Robert Draper draws upon the beauty of the border, which he states is not “the innocent kind” but one that is violent, stark, and full of vicious secrets. He writes that “crimes and outrages” happen along the border, outrages that need to be seen and faced. The text also includes photos, statistics, folk tales, and folk songs, making it one of the most unconventional and comprehensive border texts (119). Because of its non-traditional exposure of the border, Puro Border con­ tributes greatly to western American literature. The knowledge that is gained through Puro Border forces us to question traditional understandings of the bor­ der as well as pursue aspects of the border that remain silenced or disregarded. It is rich with life and death, atrocity and beauty, and confronts each reader on a multitude of levels. ...


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pp. 73-74
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