The Devil's Highway Summary & Study Guide

Urrea, Luis Alberto
This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Devil's Highway.
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The Devil's Highway Summary & Study Guide Description

The Devil's Highway Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Devil's Highway by Urrea, Luis Alberto.

The following version of the book was used to create this guide: Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Devil’s Highway. Little, Brown and Company, 2004.

In The Devil’s Highway, author Luis Alberto Urrea describes the events surrounding the deaths of 14 Mexican migrants in the desert in May of 2001. Part I: Cutting the Drag begins with a chapter titled “The Rules of the Game.” Here, Urrea provides a brief overview of the “Devil’s Highway” and its history, as well as the fates of the men walking in the desert. He explains the impact that these deaths had on the Border Patrol in Wellton, which found and rescued them, as well as the broader, nationwide immigration crackdown in effect.

Part II: Dead Man’s sign opens with Chapter Two, “In Veracruz.” Here, the author takes the reader to the eastern state of Veracruz, explaining how the men were recruited for the journey and why they chose to leave home. In Chapter Three, “The Coyote and the Chicken,” Urrea describes the organization of the family-based gang (the Cercas family) responsible for orchestrating and financing the migration north. In Chapter 4, “El Guía,” Urrea rounds out the picture by describing Mendez, the guide for the trip, and his motivations for joining the gang as a guide. Chapter Five of Part Two, “Jesús Walks Among Us,” shifts to the interviews conducted with the survivors from the hospital. It continues to describe Mendez’s previous jobs as a guide and the circumstances surrounding his attachment to this particular May 19 trip into the desert.

Chapter Six, “In Sonoita,” describes Mendez and the men from Veracruz, as they converge on Sonoita—the small town where they will catch a bus north. In Chapter 7, “A Pepsi for the Apocalypse,” Mendez and the walkers are transported by bus to within 100 yards of the border. They cross, and begin their walk across the desert. In Chapter 8, “Bad Step at Bluebird,” the men are approaching their first marker, Bluebird Pass, when they see lights that they believe are Border Patrol. Panicked, Mendez leads the men in the wrong direction. In Chapter 9, “Killed by the Light,” Mendez leads the men out into the desert during the day. The men are beginning to wonder if they are lost. The author describes, in terrifying detail, the six stages of death by hyperthermia.

Part III: In Desolation opens with Chapter 10, “The Long Walk” and describes Mendez’s increasingly erratic behavior and various missteps as a guide. In Chapter Eleven, “The Names,” the author reviews the reasons why the men left home. In Chapter Twelve, “Broken Promise,” Mendez and the other guide, Lauro, take some of the men’s money and leave them, promising to bring help and water to the group. Men are beginning to go crazy and, in Chapter 13 titled “The Trees and the Sun,” the group witnesses its first deaths. Chapter 14, “Helicopters,” recounts the search and rescue efforts of the Border Patrol after agent Mike F. spots some members of the group.

Part IV: Aftermath opens with a chapter of the same title, explaining how the survivors are interrogated and rehabilitated at the hospital. Rita Vargas, the Mexican consul for Calexico, accompanies the dead bodies back to Veracruz. In Chapter 16, “Home,” the men are greeted as martyred heroes and Mendez is charged with 25 smuggling counts and sentenced to years in jail. The author describes the related policy changes and current situation around the border after the Yuma 14 incident. The Afterward, written ten years after The Devil’s Highway was published, updates the reader on how immigration issues have progressed and provides some insight into the author’s intentions and artistic choices made in writing The Devil’s Highway.

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