Book Review: Coyotes, by Ted Conover
Reviewed by Bruce Rhodes
Author Ted Conover took all sorts of risks to cross the border, work and live with both would-be and successful migrants in this highly credible account of the cat-and-mouse game between migrants and 'la migra'. Both Conover and Ruben Marquez, author of Crossing Over, get shoulder-to shoulder with migrants, to provide informative first-hand accounts of the ordeals faced by Mexicans seeking a better life in 'El Norte'. One big difference between the two authors is that Conover is a very un-Mexican-looking WASP from Colorado, doing his best to blend in with his adopted friends. This aspect of the story has very interesting implications, including the complete dismay of 'coyotes' contemplating being paid to spirit a white man back into his own country!
The dynamic of the migrants' going from mistrust of Conover to acceptance is fascinating and telling. Conover, through his actions and by the way he wrote about them, educates the reader about both the cultural and attitudinal differences between Mexicans and Americans that are likely to persist, as well as the common values that are ultimately shared by the two peoples.
On one excursion to the USA, the Mexican police apprehend Conover and his Mexican cohorts just south of the border. A remarkable, disturbing series of events unfolds, that the author describes magnificently.
On both sides of the border, life isn't always as it first appears. There is an elaborate underworld of migration and drug running, and conflicting forces that, in turn, support and thwart these activities. More than a few businesses, and law enforcement bodies, on both sides of the border, have roots that connect them to this underworld. Conover bravely positions himself in the middle of this seemingly irresolvable, ever-changing conflict, to expose the mechanics of the illegal migration business, and the attitudes and motivations of the players involved.
I highly recommend this book. You'll also want to read Crossing Over, discussed earlier, and Lives on the Line by Miriam Davidson.