In the Yuri Herrera novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, we are met with a contrast that showcases what is perhaps the malignant stereotypes of immigrants to the US and the point of view of a young woman who takes part in the experience of crossing the border.
Makina is not your typical young woman. She’s gritty, and employs a no nonsense, tongue in-cheek personality. She sets off on a quest, leaving her home in Mexico to set towards the American border to retrieve her brother. This highlights what is perhaps the most common and attractive enticement for migrants coming to this country: family. It is astounding how scarcely people are empathetic towards the motives of the well-meaning immigrants they view as criminals, those who come to America for the promise of more opportunity and to provide a better life for their loved ones. The poem “New Colossus” by Emma Lazurus which sits on the base of the statue of liberty—the most symptomatic symbol of the American spirit—states: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” America is meant to be a melting pot of dreamers. However, many American citizens see American land as a possession to be owned, to be tucked away safely so that no one will threaten nor their ownership of it nor its contemporary existence.
The truth is, migrants do not come to take. The allure of this country is undeniable, but the superiority complex that is evident in the American way of thinking is one that promotes the idea that everyone wants to be here and that there is not enough country to go around, causing malignant possessiveness. Makina is by contrast, completely unattracted to the American lifestyle, and embarks on her journey with little in her bags and plans to return as soon as possible: “She was coming right back, that’s why that was all she took” (70).
Makina clearly does not see the US through rose-colored lenses. The observations she makes throughout her journey are not those of wide-eyed admiration, but instead she takes an approach that shows she feels her ties to her own country deeply “ … on staring up at the sky Makina thought that it was already different, more distant or less blue.” (55) Makina is critical of the things and people she sees: “on versing out to the street they sought to make amends for their momentary one-up by becoming wooden again so as not to offend anyone” (75). Her mindset would prove boggling and perhaps even ironically offensive to those who, unwilling to make room, would be eager to cast her away only to learn that they wouldn’t need to.