Death and Rebirth via Borders

When we think about borders, many different images can come into mind. Wether it be physical borders such as a wall or fence that goes on for miles, or the metaphorical borders that are built by prejudice and ignorance, everybody has some kind of feeling or idea about what a border is. For me, that idea was genuinely altered by Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World.

In Herrera’s novel about Mexican-American migration, we follow a young girl named Makina who is on a journey from her small village in Mexico to the United States in search of her brother. Throughout her journey we see her change in several different ways and at one point in the story we read about her rebirth as a new person. Toward the end of her journey through several trials and tribulations she is given her American ‘papers’ and expresses the chilling words “I’ve been skinned.” These words from Makina were so powerful that they changed my entire view on immigration and what it means to ‘cross the border’.

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Until Makina’s story I had never considered the amount of change that occurs when you take on the journey of leaving your native country and entering a new one, whether it be legally or not. My own father is a Hispanic immigrant who entered this country through coyotes about 30 years ago. Although I’d heard more stories than I can count about his experience coming into the United States, I never considered the possible rebirth he might’ve experienced. Through Makina’s “skinning” we can see the transformation that occurs because of the journey she has just embarked on. The old Makina is dead and gone, and a newer, more wise version has been reborn. This idea of death and rebirth is something that thoroughly opened my eyes to the experience of immigration and has even made me look at my own father’s experience in new ways.

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