Saturday, July 9, 2011


It's been a quiet week, and I spent part of it reading Ted Conover's Coyotes.  Although it's an "older" work (it came out in 1987), it still strikes me as very interesting and very relevant. 

Conover spent a year crossing and recrossing the US-Mexican border with (in most cases, illegal) Mexican migrant farm workers, working alongside of them in Arizona and Florida and visiting them in L.A. and Mexico.

In particular, Conover describes the economic relationship that has fostered illegal migration between the two countries--the fact that, in certain regions of Mexico, there is a lengthy history of migration back and forth for work during the growing season, and that this is a relationship fostered on both sides of the border, in spite of the law.

He also highlights many of the paradoxes of immigration law--that Mexican workers have frequently been not only encouraged to come but also brought to work in the US at times when their labor was needed to sustain the economy, even though their presence was, in fact, "illegal."

The key players in this relationship are the "coyotes": individuals who negotiate transportation across the border for a fee.  As Conover learns from a Mexican hunting coyotes (the animal, that is, not the human variety),
...they're the most suspicious creatures on earth.  Sometimes you see them in the orchard, in the early morning or else at sundown...but only if you're alone, for two people will always scare the coyote off.  Before they leave the trees to cross a road, they look both ways.  They want to know if anything's there.  And if they hear the slightest noise, the slightest disturbance, they'll go back into the trees.  They hate the daytime.  And they trust nothing, nobody. (238) 
What I find particularly interesting is the way in which terms such as "migrant," "immigrant," "legal" and "illegal" have shifted over time, from the Bracero Program to its demise, from 1983's "Migrant and Seasonal Worker's Protection Act" (MSPA) and 1986's "Immigration Reform and Control Act" (IRCA).

And, as Damien Cave's article "Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North" in the July 6th edition of The New York Times suggests, the terms and the definitions of this relationship are bound to change again soon.

Finally, in completely unrelated news, my garden looks great.  Tomatoes, eggplant, cilantro, dill, basil, cantaloupe, jalapeno peppers and red peppers are here or well on their way...

 And I've been making jam (apricot, strawberry, cherry, blueberry), jelly ("jalapeno gold" and red pepper & balsamic vinegar), and watermelon rind pickles:

So good things are always lying in wait. 

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