Author Luis Alberto Urrea was Bill Moyers’s guest on this week’s edition of “Moyers and Company.” Urrea has dedicated his life to telling the stories of the people who live along the 1,969 miles of border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and “Anglo” mother, Urrea grew up in a home that was both literally and metaphorically on the border between the U.S. and its neighbor to the south. His most recent book is called The Queen of America, but he is perhaps most famous for The Devil’s Highway, the tale of 26 Mexican men who set out to cross some of the most forbidding desert in North America in search of work and a better life. 14 men died on that crossing when the group’s guide became lost.
The book has proven to be an international sensation and it was one of the texts removed from schools when the Tuscon, Arizona school district canceled its Mexican-American studies program.
In this episode of “Moyers and Company,” entitled “Between Two Worlds – Life on the Border,” Moyers and Urrea discuss Urrea’s “conversion” as a young man, when he went to Tijuana with a relief organization and became involved in the lives of the city’s garbage-pickers, the people who dig in Tijuana’s garbage, looking for glass and metal to re-sell. The experience, according to Urrea, was transformational, and inspired him to devote his life to giving these people and others like them a voice.
The author believes that letting the “social Darwinists” who are against immigration dominate the conversation about the topic is a mistake. Looking at the question from the perspective of the immigrants themselves changed his thinking, he said, when he asked himself what these people believe they are coming to in the U.S., and what they are leaving behind them in their native country. Other Americans, he asserts, could benefit from doing the same.
Watch the full episode, which aired Friday, May 4, below: