Yuri Herrera’s novel “Signs Preceding the End of the World” tells the story of a young woman named Makina. In Yuri’s tale, Makina lives her everyday life in a small mexican town ravaged by a long forgotten silver mining industry. Makina is sent to deliver two messages to the United States, one for her brother and one for a member of a Mexican gang.
Herrera’s novel is in many ways an archetypal Hero’s Journey as it follows Makina on her trip across the Mexican border. For Makina, her “everyday world” is represented by her small mining town, where she is forced to contend against piggish men and the very earth itself as the town is torn apart by sinkholes. Where other literary heroes receive their call to adventure from a wise old master, Makina has to make due with a fat sweaty old man. Signs Preceding the End shows the grim realities for many people who wish to make their way into the US, as Makina is forced to navigate dangerous river crossings and hostile ‘anglos’ that impede her path. Eventually, Makina manages to reach the United States, which she refers to as “the abyss” on at least one occasion. Where many people see a free (if not always forward thinking) home, Makina sees a dark mysterious place full of people angry that she would even dare to cross into their territory.
Although it is not yet clear whether Makina will be enriched by her journey into the unknown, her story clearly lays out the grievous problems with America’s attitude towards immigration. After Makina finally finds her brother and leaves him with his new life, it is clear that she is headed for much more strife as she makes her way back to her everyday world. For her sake, one can only hope that her story doesn’t end up a tragedy in the end.