The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border
by Francisco Cantú
Riverhead Books (February 6, 2018)
Advance copy provided by the publisher
A native Texan, I have visited several areas along the Texas-Mexico border: Brownsville/Matamoros; McAllen/Reynosa; Laughlin Air Force Base, near the Rio Grande; Big Bend National Park; and El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. For several years, my father was a partner in a land lease for deer hunting; he would leave home (Beaumont), head west on I-10, and travel for what seemed like, from childhood memories, forever.
My father had a friend with a daughter my age and about once per year, during the winter deer season, we would travel with them to West Texas; I remember it being cold, requiring many layers of clothing, and thinking of the trip as an adventure. The memory that stands out to me most is that of an evening when we were walking outside and I noticed some movement down below, through the brush, and some faint lights. I asked my father about it and he said, "oh, that's just the wetbacks, trying to cross the border at night so that they don't get caught."
Too afraid to ask my father for the meaning of the term, it would be years before I fully understood the meaning of "wetback;" I think this is where my love of the culture and people of Mexico began, and it led to further study during my undergraduate and graduate school years as well as a six month term in Guadalajara in 2005, the year before newly-elected President Felipe Calderón took office and declared "guerra contra el narcotráfico en México" - war against the drug cartels in Mexico.
From this information, you might gather that I have strong feelings about immigration reform; I think that author Francisco Cantú has included them all in The Line Becomes a River. There is nothing political about this book - there are only two, very brief, mentions of "President Obama's executive order" and only in relation to one particular migrant - but he poetically showcases the humanity of immigration and how he first tried to avoid it, during his time as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, and then embraced it in order to acknowledge his personal conflicts and help those around him.
Both thought-provoking and heartbreaking, Cantú's work does not read like nonfiction; you also do not need to have knowledge of Mexican history, or border crossings, to enjoy this book. Alternating between personal reflections, stories from experience in law enforcement and recent research findings, Cantú offers a beautiful perspective on a harsh reality.