May 9, 2003

Puro Border, a collection of writings about La Frontera

A new book gives important information about the U.S.-Mexico border, its people and its culture. A must for those interested in the problems people living in both sides of the region face everyday.

By Pablo De Sainz

The border. La frontera. A big word that’s used to describe a region, a culture, a people, and a way of life. Can we really understand it? Can we really define it? Can we really call it our own? A group of writers and photographers have come together in a new book to try and give meaning to la frontera.

Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots and Graffiti from La Frontera (Cinco Puntos Press) is a new book that should be read by anybody who’s interested in learning more about the border as a region, as a culture and as a society.

“Puro Border … is a collage rooted in the best writing from both sides of the border, plus photographs and graffiti (corridos, newspaper clips and facts) revealing life in la frontera,” writes one of the editors, Bobby Byrd. “The result is a book with a fronterizo perspective –an ornery, bull-headed book that stands contrary to the super-processed media bites spit out by the conglomerates and to the blatant disrespect that we receive from Washington, D.C. and México, D.F.”

In more than 30 entries that include everything from fiction to poetry and essays, Puro Border narrates the past, the present, and the future state of the border. It includes the opinion of writers and photographers who’ve lived at la frontera, and also the opinion of those who maintain a love/hate relationship with the border.

“I don’t talk about her, and she doesn’t talk about me,” writes editor Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, comparing his relationship with la frontera to that one he has with his ex-wife.

The book is divided into six main sections, each one with a different topic. “The Border is the Place Where We Live” talks about the border as a region, as a place where people live and suffer and die; “Everything is Going to be Different” includes testimonies from immigrants who’ve crossed the border looking for a better future; “Quién está manejando la plaza?” gives a glance at the world of drugs at the border; “May Our Daughters Come Home/Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa” discusses the problems women face at the border; “Rasquachismo” is about popular culture; “The Place of Wilderness” focuses on the environment.

One of the most striking features in Puro Border is the unofficial list of the names of the women who’ve been killed in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, during the past decade. “This is not an ‘official list’ of the murdered women of Juarez. In fact, there are no official lists available from police authorities”. This topic is covered in an essay included in the book. “The Dead Women of Juarez,” by freelance journalist Sam Quinones, is one of the best written pieces in the book.

One of the funniest essays in Puro Border was written by a local Tijuana writer, Roberto Castillo Udiarte. In “Johnny Tecate Crosses the Border Looking Sort of Muslim,” Castillo uses an ironic point of view to talk about the long lines at the San Ysidro Port of Entry due to the exhaustive searches.

Other outstanding pieces in Puro Border are “Tijuana Wonderland,” a memoir about a Tijuana childhood by Luis Alberto Urrea; “The Border Patrol State,” a history of la migra by Leslie Marmon Silko; “La Plaza,” a deep look at the world of drugs in Mexico, by Terrence Poppa; and “All Jokes Will Be Taken Seriously,” a Chicano’s life in two borders, by David Romos.

Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots and Graffiti from La Frontera gives important information about the U.S.-Mexico border, its people and its culture. A must for those interested in the problems people living in both sides of the region face everyday.

Title: Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots and Graffiti from La Frontera
Editors: Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, John William Byrd, and Bobby Byrd
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Price: $18.95
Year of Publication: 2003
Number of Pages: 253
ISBN 0-938317-59-8

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