Land of Opportunity or Land of the Dead?

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In many of the texts that we’ve read in class, the authors often create mirror images of the characters within someone else. In Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, the main character Makina was created in the image of Quetzalcoatl.

Quetzalcoatl was an ancient Aztec god that was described to be a plumed serpent. He went on a journey to Mictlan, Land of the Dead in order to retrieve the bones of humans so that he could repopulate the earth. When Quetzalcoatl tried to ask for the human bones back, the King and Queen of the Dead were reluctant to hand them over. They made Quetzalcoatl pass a series of tests before he could take the bones and these tests were designed for him to fail. When he passed all the tested and the King of the Dead handed over the bones, the rulers of Mictlan set a trap for Quetzalcoatl so that he could not leave their arena with the bones.

In a very similar way, Makina set out on a dangerous journey to retrieve her brother from the other side of the border. Along the way, Makina had to pass various “tests” before she could continue on with her mission. The author created a parallel between Makina and Quetzalcoatl to imply that the United States is not actually the Land of Opportunity, but rather the Land of the Dead. When Makina makes her journey she experiences both literal and figurative death.

“She saw her belly before her legs or her face or her hair and she was resting there in the shade of the tree. And she thought, if that was any sort of omen it was a good one: a country where a woman with child walking through the desert just lies down to let her baby grow, unconcerned about anything else.” (43).

In this scene, Makina saw that there was a literal decaying body, which was symbolic of ruination and loss of hope.

Not only that, but Makina’s hopes experienced a figurative death upon encountering the corpse. Everything that she thought about the United States came crashing down; it was not a land of freedom and goodness, because the first thing she saw was death and ruination.


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