The mesoamerican corridor, central American transits, and Latina/o becomings


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© Cambridge University Press 2018. In a podcast interview with the online project Radio Ambulante, spearheaded by Daniel Alarcón, the novelist spoke with Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez about his acclaimed book, The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail. Martínez characterized Central Americans’ perilous movements through Mexico - as they travel up toward the United States on freight trains - as a crossing “through the most unknown Mexico, the Mexico of public lands, of small towns, but never the Mexico of resources. The Mexico of traintracks, not of highways” (Alarcón, 2014). Alarcón queried Martínez about The Beast’s title in Spanish - Los migrantes que no importan (2010) - and how the original heading, “The Migrants that Don’t Matter,” “has much more anger … a rage and a denunciation” (Alarcón, 2014). The Beast, Alarcón gauged, is “more poetic” (ibid). Something is amiss in Alarcón’s interpretation. Anger and poetic sensibility aside, Los migrantes que no importan cannot be equivalently translated into English as “The Migrants that Don’t Matter.” The train, in this geography, has shifted in meaning. Whereas the freight train was once made and used for the carrying of commodities that were packaged for delivery to other places, it is now Central American people who have become commodities themselves. This industrial and efficient mode of transporting goods is the only viable option for the movement of many Central Americans from the “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The urgency of the matter at hand - why as Martínez told National Public Radio (NPR), “Central America is bleeding” and “what it is that so many [Central Americans] are fleeing from” - would be lost in the United States, collapsed with mainstream perceptions on the threatening, brown tide of undocumented Latino and Latina migration (NPR, October 24, 2013). As Mae Ngai has shown, the production of the illegal alien depends on “a new legal and political subject, whose inclusion within the nation [is] simultaneously a social reality and a legal impossibility” (4). Needless to add, I do not minimize the magnitude of what is happening with regard to U.S. undocumented Latino migrations, the separation of families, social and national hierarchies, human rights violations, and, in Saskia Sassen’s general overview, “the unsettlements of daily life” (2009, 228).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Milian, C

Published Date

  • January 1, 2018

Book Title

  • The Cambridge History of Latina/o American Literature

Start / End Page

  • 674 - 690

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107183087

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/9781316869468.035

Citation Source

  • Scopus