It’s 2017 and news about improving the border along US and Mexico is plastered all over media. In fact, just recently The Independent reported that in exchange “for extending protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants,” President Donald J Trump wanted his immigration policies prioritized. One of his demands being the support to build “his promised wall along the southern border” (Click here for to read more). So I say, what better time than now to discuss Uri Herrera’s novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World. It couldn’t get any more relevant!
If you don’t already know, Signs Preceding the End of the World is a tale about a young Mexican woman and her journey to America. Sent off with a mysterious package and minimal instructions, Makina’s goal is to locate her older brother and bring him back home.
The novel touches on subjects such as emotional and physical connections, familial relationships, death, sexuality, self-discovery, but most importantly, borders.
Unless you’ve had parents, cousins, or friends that trecked across the desert or mountains in hopes to make it to America, you probably aren’t all that familiar with the insanity that is crossing over. (That’s not to say borders are limited to Central America and the United States, but being that Signs Preceding the End of the World centers around these two, so will this blog!)
Luckily for us, we’ve got the Internet and novels; two places where people can share their experiences and open our eyes to the unknown!
Focusing on the novel aspects, Yuri Herrera illustrates the border as a site of movement and activity. Right before Makina meets up with Chucho, the man responsible for safely moving her from point A to B, she comes across “a string of hotels facing the river” and “small groups walk[ing] the length of the line, moving farther from the glimmer of the northern city till they found their point of departure” (Herrera 34, 36). These descriptions show that there’s life around the border; that it’s not a desolate or sad place. And while crossing the border may be a nerve-racking experience, especially with the knowledge of patrols looming on the other side, there’s also a buzz of excitement lingering in the air.
Another passage that illustrates how the border is porous is when “one of the first to strike it rich after going north came back to the Village” (Herrera 44). This scene shows how people come and go, crossing the border with the intent of returning to their homeland; their roots. And I want to bring attention to this because while we usually think of Central Americans migrating to America to stay permanently, there are many that dream of returning. This results in the border not solely existing to separate Americans from Central Americans, but also Central Americans from their own.
So, while I’m aware Signs Preceding the End of the World is fiction, that doesn’t mean the relationships, the emotions revolving immigration and borders, or the journey is any less real. I think Makina is a representation of Central Americans. Her journey is their want to reconnect with lost family members, and borders are the challenges they must face to finally reconnect; to find themselves and loved ones.