(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
In Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman, a young woman, Makina, makes her way through the border into the United States. When she first crosses, it “had hardly been more than a few dozen yards” when she noticed that the sky was “already different, more distant or less blue.” By thinking this, Herrera is implying that the United States is simply less than Mexico.
As usual, many U.S. citizens and a great deal of Mexican citizens believe that the United States is obviously better than Mexico in every way possible. But why is that? If the sky is already visibly different, then the whole entire atmosphere of the United States is different. If the sky is already more distant, then the U.S. is farther away from maybe it’s own citizens. If the sky is already less blue, then the U.S. is automatically less vibrant and colorful than Mexico.
So then why did Herrera want to make that assumption so clear and dominant in the book? Because crossing into this so-called ‘great’ country isn’t as glamorous as it seems.
Makina only crossed in order to retrieve her brother and bring him back into the U.S. It was never for her benefit. By making it about bringing the brother back to Mexico, Herrera is suggesting that not every single person who doesn’t live in the U.S. necessarily wants to live there. Herrera constantly bags on the U.S. in a negative and demeaning way through sly situations that Makina goes through, and it may not be picked up on. But Herrera does it in such an integrated way because he only wants it to be implied and not said out directly, or else the whole undertone of the book would be ruined.
Herrera is implying that the U.S. is not seen as the ‘better’ country in most Mexican citizens eyes, and he does this in order to elevate his main character’s personality and to shut down the well-known belief that the U.S. is a wonderful country.