BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: The border ran right down the middle of our depressed little apartment. Kitchen was the United States, living room was Mexico. Walter Cronkite was the ambassador to both countries.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. There is no stretch of territory in the world quite like the borderlands between the United States and Mexico. A vast swath of terrain, a long and tortured history, and an endless stream of humanity both separate and join our two countries. It’s as complex a coupling as you will find anywhere.

From Brownsville and Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico, the border runs along the Rio Grande River to intersect with the Continental Divide, where it turns toward Tijuana and San Diego on the Pacific Ocean. One thousand nine hundred and sixty nine miles snaking through desert and desolation, dividing towns and cities marked now by stretches of steel and concrete fence, with infrared cameras and sensors, National Guardsmen, and Border Patrol agents. Well over a hundred million people cross this border every year, one way or another.

One day in May eleven years ago, 26 Mexican men set out across the murderous stretch of desert known as the Devil’s Highway, heading for Arizona, and hopefully, for work. Twelve of them made it. Fourteen were scorched alive by the torrid sun.

Their story became a stunning work by the author Luis Alberto Urrea. No one writes more tragically or intimately about border culture than this son of a Mexican father and Anglo mother. Born in Tijuana and raised in San Diego, he grew up in both worlds, and they appear and reappear in his acclaimed novels, essays and poems -- fourteen books in all, including his most recent, Queen of America. Luis Urrea remains close to the people and places of the border – from the garbage pickers he knew in Tijuana to the desperate travelers on the The Devil’s Highway.



BILL MOYERS: I’m delighted to be here.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I can’t believe I’m here.

BILL MOYERS: You must grow weary of talking about The Devil's Highway.


BILL MOYERS: Which is a classic. But anyone who's read it, can never forget those 26 men setting out across that inferno, can feel the heat of the sun on the sand, can sense the foreboding of the mountains, can experience the thirst on their lips. And it still awes me today and humbles me to think what they will go through to try to get here.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: It's unbelievable what people go through. And, you know--

BILL MOYERS: What's the mirage that seduces them?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Life. You know, we have this illusion that they're criminals, or they're coming to steal welfare or, you know, take our jobs. You know, I've got to say, if you at all travel the country, you see the jobs that people do who come here, I'm not going to do those jobs. And it, for example, a couple years ago, the strawberry crop came into Washington State, massive strawberry crop, the same year that the undocumented didn't show up. The work crews, for whatever reason, stopped coming. Those crops rotted on the ground because they couldn't get U.S. citizens to come out and just pick them. Even for free. Take them. People wouldn't do the effort. That's, you know, it's shocking, too. I feel like, you know, if people just stopped for a second and looked at what those guys, first do, and second accomplish when they get here. What fascinates me is the people who are the most angry at those walkers seem to be kind of social Darwinists, you know, post Ayn Rand Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged kind of characters who see these foaming hoards of alien critters coming in here. And, you know, the truth is that the entrance exam is so stringent and so incredibly brutal that the people who do make it here, I think, have proven themselves to have mettle and to have vision and strength in the kind of discipline that's hard for us to even imagine.

BILL MOYERS: Although many of them don’t get here. Out of the 26 who went along the Devil's Highway in your book, only 12 came out. And it still grips me as to why these men would endure this inferno, temperature you write at midnight is 97 degrees, to come to this country to do stoop labor.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: People don't know that these folks are often recruited. These guys were in Veracruz, you know, they were, most of them had small plot coffee, traditional little coffee stands in the hills, that their family passed down. And they could augment their work with coffee, and coffee prices took a dive. The Mexican economy took a dive. One of the men was a bottler at a Pepsi-Cola plant, he carried bottles around. And so they were in trouble. And these guys sent this character known as a hooker, “el engachador”-- not a hooker as in prostitute, but, you know, an angler. And he went in there and he made his presence felt, and he rooked them. He told them, "Look, we'll send you to the United States and one summer of work, picking oranges. How hard can that be? That's not hard. And we make you all this money." And they said, "We can't afford the trip." And he said, "We'll lend it to you at a high interest rate." These are men who've never had credit cards, or-- so they sold themselves to the company store, basically, blood to a shark. It was a mafia operation. And then they come to the U.S. and they're turned over to guides. The experienced guide didn't show up, so the inexperienced guide, being macho and bold, says, "I'll take them." And that walk isn't really harrowing. The walk is up a ridge. You walk for basically two days, mostly at night, and you get to a ridge above Ajo, Arizona. You can see the town below. And they wait till the border patrol is gone, and they walk down the hill. Guy calls on his cell phone, cars come out of the reservation, pick you up, and take you to Phoenix. You go to a safe house with an attached garage, garage door opens, car drives in and closes, no one ever sees you. You get sent to Florida the next day. Now, what happened is, the guy got lost, and they're in hell, and they can't find their way out. But more and more people died that way. And the criminal element that started taking over-- when I was a kid, coyotes were sort of Captain Jack Sparrow, you know, these sort of amusing little pirates. And then they started getting creepier. And then when the narco world started taking over and organized crime started taking over, I think there's a generation of coyotes and then smugglers that got really dangerous. And it's hard sometimes because the free operators, the sort of rogue charming guys, are still there. But they're getting regulated out by the hard-core criminal.

BILL MOYERS: Does it ever occur to you as a writer that other people are suffering for your material?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Oh yeah, oh absolutely. But I try to do honor to them. In fact, when I went down to start researching “The Devil's Highway,” the first guy I spoke to was the Mexican Consul in Tucson. And he was not happy that I was there. And the only reason he spoke to me is that I have family in the Mexican government. One of my cousins is an ambassador. So he let me in. And he listened to my case. And then he said, "You know what, you don't care. Your publisher doesn't care and Americans didn't care. You're here because it was a catastrophe. So it's, you know, saleable, it's big. But this tragedy happens every single day, one person at a time. And no one's down here to write about them." And I-- you know, that was one of those wakeup calls. And I had to be honest and I said, "You're right, nobody cares. That's why I'm here. Because this is a Titanic, maybe people will care. Maybe we'll make them pay attention because of this spectacular story, and they'll start to care about the smaller story." Which I think, in a lot of ways, has happened.

BILL MOYERS: But earlier, before The Devil’s Highway, you went back to Tijuana as a missionary?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Well, yeah, I guess, relief work. I call it missionary, you know, they-- but yeah. They-- it was a group out of a Baptist church. And people had been telling me about this pastor, Pastor Von. "You've got to go see Pastor Von." And they'd always tell me, "You know, you won't like him that much because his politics are to the right of Attila the Hun." You know, I'd say, "Oh wow, great. That's tempting to me, a Baptist preacher who's a right-wing-- that's what I want to--" But it turns out that Von was just the most real and wise. I call him a Zen Baptist instead of a Zen Buddhist.

BILL MOYERS: I know them. It seems to me that you were the one who was converted when you went back to Tijuana. You--


BILL MOYERS: Even today when you talk about those garbage pickers and the kids eating dogs and they're looking out and seeing the American dream like a mirage across the border, it seems to me that you flipped to see the world as they saw it.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I did, because you can be from a place but not know it. Do you know what I mean? Sure, I was born in Tijuana and I had known Tijuana my whole life. But that doesn't mean that anybody I knew had ever gone to that tar paper or cardboard shack. Nobody had ever gone to the garbage dump to talk to garbage pickers. In fact, if I was radicalized, which I think I was in some ways, the radicalizing moment came when I was a little boy with my dad and my aunt and some of my cousins in downtown Tijuana. And we had gone to a restaurant to eat, we were going to eat chicken, Mexican style brassiered chicken, it was a big deal. And we were walking into the restaurant and there was an indigenous woman begging on the sidewalk, probably mixed. What they call Marias, you know. And she had the outfit and she had the baby. I still remember her. And she had that “limosna por favor” and put her hand out. And my aunt kicked her. She said, "Largate perra!” “Get the hell out of here, dog!" And kicked her and went inside.

And I was so shocked because, you know, this was my auntie, right? What's this violence? And I was embarrassed and I was mortified and horrifi-- I didn't know what was going on. And we went inside to eat and it was very clear to me that here we were, the white-- this is where I started understanding. We were superior and that was a dog. And my cousin, Margarita, we were all eating and I noticed she was taking the food when no one was looking and putting it in her lap in the napkin. And she snuck out and fed the woman. That haunted me. It's always-- it still haunts me to this day, that moment. So when I walked into the Tijuana garbage dumps and one of the women, mostly indigenous people, one of the women put her arms around me. She said, "You know why I love you? You're not afraid of us." How can you not change? And Pastor Von was very sly. He saw what I was like. I had my Hollywood hair and all this stuff. And you know the first job he gave me? Washing the feet of the garbage dump pickers. That'll transform you. You think you're doing something nice for them and you realize that you're on your knees washing these feet and you start wanting to cry because these people are trusting you and they end up blessing you instead of you blessing them, it's the weirdest thing.

BILL MOYERS: Describe the garbage pickers and the world they live in every day. You do it beautifully in many passages. In fact, it's confusing to me as to why you started writing about them because American writers don't make money writing about--

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Oh no. It was a mistake.

BILL MOYERS: --marginalized people like that. John Steinbeck might have, but--

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: It took him a while though.

BILL MOYERS: It took him a long time. But these are the lost and depraved of the world and you deliberately chose to write about them. And you describe them, you know, sleeping in boxes, picking trash, eating the dead dogs, selling their bodies. What are they like? Who are they?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: You know, I love them, they're my friends. They're people I-- truly there for the grace of God, right? I mean, who's to say we won't fall into bad times?

BILL MOYERS: The grace of a border?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: The grace of a border. Yeah, I always tell people, you know, if I had my choice I would have been born in Hollywood. I would have been Jimmy Stewart's grandson. But that's not, that wasn't the choice. You know, here's the scenario as the dump, for example, exists today. The one I write about in the first books was in a different location. It moved to this place which is actually in a weird way beautiful. It has a view of the ocean and there are islands off the shore. And it used to be a canyon, kind of an Edward Abbey desert canyon with a little seasonal waterfall, deer, quail down in there, coyotes that fed out to the ocean. There's a hill here, okay, to the west. And then there's this canyon. And then there's an arc of graves. And at this far end there's a crematorium that burns human bodies. On this hill is the potter's field for babies. Anyone can bury a child who's died. You just dig a hole and stick your child in there. The haunting thing is the headstones are often their cribs, and the cribs have the names painted on them. The canyon fills with garbage and becomes a plain and then becomes a mountain of garbage. And on the other side of the arc of graves is the community where the people have built homes to live. That's the modern dump as it is now. Now, the garbage technicians who drive the tractors and so forth as a humanitarian act bring out the backhoe once a month and they scoop out seven or fourteen holes so that anybody can bury anybody. That's the world they're in. They are mining for glass, they're mining for copper. They're taking out cans and so forth.

BILL MOYERS: Didn't an editor say to you when you proposed writing about these people, "Nobody cares about starving Mexicans"?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Yeah, direct quote, yeah. And that book-- and I have to tell you--

BILL MOYERS: It's true, isn't it?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: It is true. I was kind of stupid. I was naïve. You know, I thought, honestly, I thought if I write a book about people nobody cares about, it's going to be a hit, 'cause everyone will read it. What was I thinking? But here's what happened. I wanted to be Steven King or Led Zeppelin. I didn't care who-- what I wanted to-- you know, I was a poor boy. I wanted to be famous because if I was famous, I'd be rich. I would never worry about money again. I would never eat a ketchup sandwich on white bread again. You know, I would never watch my mother and my father tear themselves apart. A lifetime of no dentistry because there was no money. I wouldn't-- none of that would happen. And I went into that world with Von, and Von is the first one who proposed it to me. He said, "You know--"

BILL MOYERS: The pastor?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: The pastor. He said, "Nobody who has access to this world writes books. You do. And you should write about the-- you should give witness to these people." And I thought, "Wow, that's a really--" 'cause it hadn't occurred to me. And it certainly had not occurred to me to write nonfiction. So I started keeping notes, right? And I was keeping notes. And the moment, you talk about my-- this is my Damascus Road moment, I'll confess to you. You, me, and, you know--

BILL MOYERS: And for the, and for the benefit of the rising generation of atheists in a secular world.


BILL MOYERS: That Damascus moment is when the--


BILL MOYERS: --Paul is converted in a blinding flash--

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Blinding flash--

BILL MOYERS: --on the road to Damascus.


BILL MOYERS: And becomes the apostle who changes the world by preaching the gospel.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: For better or worse.



BILL MOYERS: What was your Damascus. Yeah, for better or worse--

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: This was my Damascus Road, but it was--

BILL MOYERS: You said it, I didn't.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: It was a blinding flash of smoke, pretty much, not light. But I was at this place called Ladrillera, the brickyard. And Ladrillera is outside of Tecate, where our Tecate beer comes from. A wonderful, bucolic border town that I just adore. And, these folks live on an adobe plain where they can dig up their ground and make bricks. That's their industry. But anyway, I'm there, and I'm keeping my notes. I was writing in my journal, and a man was walking by and he was looking at me, he was a worker, completely black, covered in oil, diesel fuel. And he had a handkerchief on his head, four corners tied in knots, like a skullcap. And he had a big stick.

And he walked over to me and he was looking, he said, "Qué estás haciendo?" "What are you doing?" I said, "Oh nothing, I'm just writing in my journal." "Ah. What's a journal?" I said, "You know, it's a diary, right." "Oh good, yeah. What's a diary?" I said, "Well, it's a book, and I write in it." He said, "What are you writing about?" I said, "Writing about what I do, what I see." And he said, "Wait a minute. You're writing about this place?" And I said, "Yup." And he said, "Are you writing about the people here?" I said, "Yeah, I guess." And he said, "Are you writing about me?" And I said, "I probably am now." And he said, "Is anybody going to read this?" And I said, "I hope so." And the man said to me, he said, "You know, that's good, that's good. Write about me. Write about me." He said, "I was born in the garbage dump. I've spent my entire life picking trash. And when I die, they're going to bury me in the garbage." He said, "So you tell them I was here." I don't know if that was a blessing or a curse, right?

BILL MOYERS: Well, you did learn from it because you went on, I mean, “Into the Beautiful North,” which is one of your memorable stories. You make heroes out of undocumented people. And reading it, one has to wonder why, if a people who are so God forsaken in one sense, is God so important to them? How does-- why does that hold on down there?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I think people who are God forsaken seem to cling to God very strongly. I mean, you know, look at the roots of scripture, right? Those guys weren't high rollers. I don't know what it is. It's an unbreakable bond of faith. Fascinating to me, I think partially-- a shift in my own perception from working on things like The Hummingbird's Daughter and being deeply embroiled in the indigenous world in Mexico as well and realizing that there's a kind of an absolute faith that is based on experience rather than church. They feel that they see God everywhere in every way and that God loves them perhaps because they have to.

But you think of someone who is despised at home and they come here and are despised here as well, sometimes to their great shock. So a lot of those folks come here thinking, "I'm going there to serve them. I'm going there to help. I'm going there to work hard." And they're shocked that they're hated. Where else do you turn? You can't just absorb and swallow the belief that you're nothing. That you don't have right to your place on this earth and that you know, you are completely abandoned in the universe. And so they cling to God. You know, you need someone to hold on to. And I think our culture, our literature lends itself to magical realism, for example, because I think so many times magical or inexplicable or sort of almost supernatural things seem to happen by rote in our world that is evidence to people who have no other hope that someone cares.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you refer often, or frequently to miracles, to grace. Well, I’m wondering where you are in this journey. I mean, I know that you had a tough ten years. You started writing, you were broke, right?


BILL MOYERS: You were down and out. And for a whole decade you got one rejection note after another.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: My sunny disposition hides I think a black desert with a howling wind inside because I've come through a, you know, a long, tough journey. But everybody does. And I realize that's part of the message. I think that everybody, you and I, deal with somewhere in their lives has had the Tijuana garbage dump experience. Even if it was--

BILL MOYERS: Oh I think that's exaggerated.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: No, I think everyone has had--

BILL MOYERS: I haven't had a Tijuana garbage--


BILL MOYERS: I'm a very lucky--

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: But everyone has lost someone dear to them or has faced some heartbreak, or is sitting on cancer. Or everyone has had what I call the Tijuana dump experience. Not that extreme certainly. But everybody--

BILL MOYERS: Because tomorrow can bring something different. But for the garbage pickers, tomorrow brings more garbage.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Unless Pastor Von comes. There's always a tomorrow. The whole point of this I think is hope. When the hope ends, your life ends I believe. And there's a lot of death, there's a lot of suicide. There's a lot of giving into sniffing glue, you know, taking drugs.

So the hopelessness is the struggle. It's not hunger, it's not poverty, it's the hopelessness. And as long as they have some semblance of hope, and it might be a terrible delusion. Right, you have a hope that it's going to get better and you eke out another couple of years. But--

BILL MOYERS: It can be a drug, can it not?



LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Oh absolutely. I think so.

BILL MOYERS: In your most recent book, Teresita who was at one time queen of the Yaqui Indians, right?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: That's what they said.

BILL MOYERS: And then she was-- had dreams of being queen of the world. When she comes to this country she says, "You have to have a different dream in America, a different hope." What is that American dream for people like Teresita?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: The things about the United States that intoxicate people. I mean, if people understood I think that the people I write about are enacting a love letter to America, not an evil assault. This is, this is hope. You know, for example, this sounds like I'm not answering your question. But I'm trying to answer it the way my mind works. There's a scene in “Into the Beautiful North” where the people come to San Diego and they see lawns for the first time. That was me. I didn't see lush green lawns until fifth grade.

And when we went up to Clairemont-- San Diego, Clairemont little, blue collar community, I saw these green lawns. And I thought, "Oh my god. Americans are rich." Americans are-- I'd never seen anything that beautiful in my life as these stupid little lawns. They were so green and because we could throw water away.

So, you know, that you could come to a place where your children can be healthy, where you can have access twenty four hours a day to stuff that you can't have elsewhere, where you can, you know, lead the good life. Yeah, that is expressed in physical stuff, better underpants, better hygiene products, whatever, TV, all that stuff-- yes.

But also a clean street, you know, a pretty garden, a culture where there's not a potential death squad coming after you. If people had called this propaganda war about illegal aliens something different, what if the people had been called refugees? What if the people had been called pilgrims? That might have been a completely different mindset.

BILL MOYERS: Conquistadores.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Well, I always tell people, you know, "My family, the original illegal aliens. They were conquistadores." They came here uninvited. They hit Peru first, the Urrea brothers and burned their way up to Mexico. We were undocumented for sure. So, you know, I--

BILL MOYERS: That's quite a lineage from Visigoths to--


BILL MOYERS: --conquistadores.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: The Visigoth hit Northern Spain. The Urrea family came out of the Visigoth invasion. They say that the genetic packet came from, let's say, involuntarily received Visigoth genes. That's politically correct. And then they came to the new world and they set this journey north. And, you know, I took about this in several books.

But one has to understand that our manifest destiny pointed west. We have a long, broad continent and we wanted to go west to get stuff. Their manifest destiny went north and south 'cause they have a long, narrow continent and it made sense that they kept going north. We didn't like their manifest destiny. We liked our manifest destiny. I write columns for “Orion Magazine” now. The next one coming up is called “Manifest Density”. And it's about a moment that is germane to our conversation that really changed some of my feelings about a lot of this story. And that was driving west, went to South Dakota which I love.

I have a lot of brothers Pine Ridge reservation. Whatever reason, really close to a bunch of Oglala guys. And we were heading to see some of those guys and we were going to the badlands. And they had sodbuster huts. Original sodbuster huts preserved. And my wife and I both love history. She's a journalist. So I, you know, let's go see the sodbuster huts. This is great. And we went in and I'm walking in American history, American pioneer history.

We entered into the sodbuster hut. And it was as though you'd hit me in the face because it was in every detail including the residual smell, this far later, the shack of a Tijuana garbage picker. The same color, the same beat up wood, the same homemade improvised furniture, the same newspapers put up on the walls, the same dirt floor, even the same bugs. They just had a sod roof. But otherwise it was the exact same dwelling. The same size, the same darkness, the same odor. Everything was the same. And it was like somebody put the world on a spinning pivot 'cause I thought, "Holy cow. This sad little shack is heroic to us because it's our myth. But that shack is depraved and filthy because it's not our myth." You see what I mean?

BILL MOYERS: So why is this subversive literature. Somehow I wasn't surprised being familiar with your work that two of your books were among those banned earlier this year by the Tucson school district that declared an end to Mexican-American studies. And then went, actually went into the classroom if I heard this story right, went into the classrooms and in front of the children took away the books that were about the Mexican-American experience. And two of yours, “By the Lake of Sleeping Children” and “Nobody's Son” were included in those.


BILL MOYERS: “Devil's Highway”?



LUIS ALBERTO URREA: They told me last year, last year at the Tucson Festival of Books, I was stopped by a TV camera crew. It's one of those gotcha moments, you know, "What do you feel about superintendent blah, blah, blah, going to ban 'The Devil’s Highway?'" I said “What? What’s… Why?” And the guy said, “Well, it’s been called anti-American, and it has devil in the title.” And I thought, "You know, this is a comedy, right? It's ridiculous." And I said, "Anti-American," I said, "You know, it's being taught to border patrol agents at the academy.

So if it's good enough for the border patrol they're hardly Marxist, you know, invaders." And I said, "As far as devil in the title, it's on the map. Are you really going to try to change history and remove things that you don't like off the maps? You can't do that. That's--" and I didn't take it seriously. So later on this thing happened. Now the Tucson Unified School District's take on this is that you weren't banned, you were boxed.

BILL MOYERS: What do they mean by that?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: They didn't really ban it. They just took it out of brown hands. They banned Mexicans basically. They got rid of Mexican-American studies. They put all of the books that they took away from the students, they boxed them and put them away. The catch-22 seems to be that anybody who's not from that ethnic studies world could teach it but that there would be disciplinary action as I understand it if anyone complains about those being taught. So in essence they've been, what I call a soft-banning. They're out of the picture. And--

BILL MOYERS: But just look at the books. I brought a list of the titles.


BILL MOYERS: Chicano, the History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, boxed. Critical Race Theory by Delgado and Stefancic, boxed. Five Hundred Years of Chicano History in Pictures, boxed. Message to Aztlan, boxed. Occupied America, boxed. Rethinking Columbus, the Next 500 Years, boxed. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, boxed. And then Howard Zinn’s, A People's History of the United States?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: He’s a lefty. He's a lefty.

BILL MOYERS: Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek. Junot Diaz, Drown. Martin Espada's Zapata's Disciple. Bell Hooks, Feminism is for Everybody. Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities. Luis Rodriguez', Always Running. Urrea's By the Lake of Sleeping Children and Nobody's Son. I mean, you have to help me understand this.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: They got rid of Sherman Alexie, they got rid of Shakespeare.

BILL MOYERS: Oh, The Tempest.


BILL MOYERS: Because it deals with race--

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: It's anti-colonial. They got rid of Thoreau. But, you know, let's celebrate that because Thoreau's been banned non-stop. They took away Ofelia Zepeda who's a Tohono O'odham poet, the Papago tribe, who's a MacArthur Genius Grant winner. You know, how should that not be taught? You know, here's the situation, it's not about books. It's about ethnicity. It's about the power in Phoenix-- what I call the Arpaiocracy.

BILL MOYERS: Joe Arpaio.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Joe Arpaio. And Governor Brewer and that whole crowd I think. If the Tucson school district does not comply with what the big boys, the big bullies tell them, you know, they're going to lose $15 million in funding. Then what happens? So everybody's between a rock and a hard place.

BILL MOYERS: What effect has had this had on the kids, on the students?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: It's heartbreaking. They cry, you know, they’re-- when you come into something like ethnic studies and Mexican-American studies, there's a good chance that you're slightly disenfranchised to begin with. You know, you're in a population that's frowned on by the power structure. You're an ethnic student, Mexican-American or indigenous-American or black-American. You're probably not wealthy. You're often from that other side of town like I was. And you come into a world where you will be expected to read “The Great Gatsby” or something like that. And it's sometimes a very large gap to jump. And so you go to ethnic studies which give you literacy through themes that you understand and are comfortable with.

And it is a gateway. If I had anything I could tell the TUSD people or Governor Brewer, though she'd never listen to me, it's a gateway into Americanness, not out of Americanness because literacy opens your world. And sure, it's not going to be 100 percent perfect, you know, college attendance. But if you look at the numbers of that school district, you know, those kids were doing well in tests. They were doing well in placement. The teachers were award winning teachers that-- it's all gone because of this craziness. And it's about Mexicans. That's what it's about. Let's face it. It's about that other.

BILL MOYERS: So what's happening now Luis -- I mean, you've got Alabama passing a severe anti-immigration law. You've got the turmoil in Arizona. You've got the-- whatever they call-- it's book banning. You know, saying, "Kids can't read these books." Tell me what you see is happening.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I have to say my usual, you know, sunny façade is cracking because I'm starting to feel just, it's hopeless. You know, I know it isn't. But in my darkest hours I just think, "What, you know, if these--" and maybe this is what they want. But if these people could go out and see the effects on these beautiful, beautiful kids, the heartbreak and the, you know, you live your life like this at a flinch. You know, you see kids who think the color brown is bad. You see kids who feel like there's no place for them. That is heartbreaking. That is, like, I feel like the world is being taken over by villains from Dickens. And you know, all I can do-- I've tried everything. You know, and I think we all have tried everything. All I've got is art. And I keep flinging art at it and flinging art at it. And people are listening. Things happen in small ways and perhaps that ultimately is, you know, is the answer.

BILL MOYERS: Do you have sympathy for the anglos in Arizona who say, “We don't want to change our community. We like—"

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Their community?

BILL MOYERS: Well, this is what they say. "We don't-- we want our neighborhood as it was.” What do you say to those people when you just-- if you could-- you must talk one-on-one with some of them.


BILL MOYERS: So what-- tell me about that exchange. Do you see their plight?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Oh yeah, absolutely do. I'll put it in a microcosm, I was in Missouri. I was speaking at Truman State. And—

BILL MOYERS: College there, right?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Yeah, great college. And there was a poetry reading and my host said-- because it was one-- typical student poetry with a lot of outrageous stuff. And my host said, "Wow, the Limbaughs aren't gonna like this." And I thought, "The Limbaughs? Oh, that's funny. Yeah, Rush Limbaugh's from here." And he said, "No, the Limbaughs, they're over there." And I looked over there and there with this family listening to this stuff. And I thought, "Holy cow, really?" And he said, "Yeah, that's Rush Limbaugh's cousin." So I thought, "Wow." You know, and they were kind of like, "You probably don't want to talk to him, you should leave him alone."

The next day there was a barbecue at a faculty house and the Limbaughs came. Colonel John Limbaugh, fine Army colonel, and I said, "How do you do, sir?" And he said, "You can call me John." And I said, "Well, I'm, you know, I was a military son." So I said, "No, sir, you're a colonel and I'll call you sir." And he looked at me, you know, and he said, "You know, I've been reading “The Devils Highway” and I've been trying to figure out your agenda. And I haven't found a liberal agenda." And I said, "Well, I am a liberal, sir, but my agenda was to tell the truth even if I didn't like it." And he warmed to-- you know, and then we sat and spent the afternoon (to the great shock, I think, of some of my pals), having barbecue.

And I think if we can-- the Limbaughs and me, unlikely pals, having barbecue in Missouri, how can that not be a fantastic bridge? And we-- they came to the reading and, you know, we had a really good time. I think in America we forget that we love each other. We forget we need to love each other. And part of the task, I think, is being able to speak. And that is fully aware of the horrors of civil rights.

BILL MOYERS: But if what you say, Luis, is true, why is their rhetoric so feverish? Why is the anger so poisoned? If we really love each other I can't, you can't say that about the people who passed the law in Alabama.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: No, no, no, no, but—

BILL MOYERS: The people who passed the banned the books in Tucson.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I think people forget. People forget. My ultimate message is always there is no them, there is only us. And we function so well having a them. We always have to have a boogie man. There's always somebody that's a bad guy lurking. And you know, part of the issues with the Latino, of course it stabs me, it hurts me, and it outrages me, I'm angry about it. But I understand that part of what's happened is a relentless propaganda war. Illegal, illegal, illegal, alien, alien, alien. Often, you know, the angriest people I confront are people who are good Christian church-goers.

And I always ask them, "Let's open the bible together and let's find out how many scriptures tell you to kick around the widow. How many scriptures are there that tell you do not care for lost travelers or wanderers or the hungry or the poor or the oppressed or the downtrodden? How many tell you do not care for the orphan? Let's see how many bible scriptures tell you to go out there and kick the butt of a poor person wandering in the desert? Let's see that."

BILL MOYERS: So what's behind it? What's behind the-- propaganda is propaganda because it works.


BILL MOYERS: Words change reality, right? They can change the reality within us even if they don't change the reality around us. So you've got this incredible vitriolic conflict going on. What is it in human nature?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I don't know. It's a poisonous thing. I grew up with it. I was born in Tijuana, and then when we moved north just a few miles to this little suburb called Clairemont, which I wrote about sometimes, I suddenly was “other.” I didn't know I was an “other” until I got there. I did not know I talked with a Tijuana accent, you know? I thought people were called “vato.”


LUIS ALBERTO URREA: And then I found out vato—

BILL MOYERS: Vato meaning?



LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Comes from the Spanish conquests where the Spaniards apparently in those days called each other “chivato,” which means, you know, goat. “Ay chivato, que estas hacienda chivato?” And it became vato and it went, passed down through the ages as dude, guy. But you know I had that talk and I had that accent and though I looked Irish. And we got to this neighborhood and suddenly I went to fifth grade and I was in the restroom my first week of fifth grade and this spectacularly white boy, you know, freckles, bright red hair the epitome of who I'd be with from now on said to me, "You're a greaser wetback." And I thought, "What is that?" And I said, "I'm a what?" And he said, "You're a greaser wetback." And all the boys laughed at me, walked out of the bathroom. And I remember sitting there thinking well, you know, you're a kid and you internalize these things and you take them concretely. And I was convinced somewhere on my back there was a patch of grease I couldn't find, right, and I was looking for the grease, I couldn't find it. And that was the most spectacular moment for me when I realized I was other, I hadn't known it before.

BILL MOYERS: Well, now, that's a common experience for immigrants in America, wop, spic-- all of that. How do you process it?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I came home that day and my father processed it for me. And this may be partially why I'm a writer. But I got home, my father worked in bowling alleys night crew, he was a very smart, literate man who had achieved quite a bit in Mexico, couldn't get there in the United States. He couldn't find his way in a lot of ways. He, you know, he knew English was paramount, so he memorized the dictionary, five pages a week. I had to give my father English tests. But I got home and my father was getting ready to go to the night shift. And he always smoked Pall Malls, and he would tip his head when he had a point to-- he'd do this. And he was looking at me when I came in and he said, "What's the matter with you?" And I said, "Nothing." And he said, "Mi hijo, que traes?" And I said, "Nothing." "I can see you're upset. What are you upset about?" I said, "Oh, they called me a name." He said, "Really? What name did they call you?" I said, "They told me I was a greaser." And he looked at me just for a second, and I knew because he went like this and I thought, "Oh, here it comes." And what I thought was going to happen didn't happen, because I thought he was going to go on a diatribe about these people. And he says to me, "Mi hijo, in the western expansion across the United States the Americanos came in covered wagons. The wagons were made of wood, entirely of wood. The axles, los ejes was made of wood, mi hijo. So they would get to about Texas and the friction heat up the wood." He said, “y se quemaba todo.” The wagons would burn down." He said, "You know who the only people in the world with the technology to grease the axles was Mexicans." And I was looking at him, and he said, "So when they call you a greaser hold your head up because it's a term of pride." And I knew my dad was lying. You know, I knew he-- but it was so brilliant. Even as a fifth grader, I saw my father take a moment of shame and through a story, right, turn it into something to try to lift his kid up. And then he went off to the bowling alley to clean toilets all night.

BILL MOYERS: Now, he was born in Mexico? Your mother was born on Staten Island, in New York?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: My mom was from originally, yeah, she was born on Staten Island, but the family are Virginians.

BILL MOYERS: But here's this paradox-- there's many paradoxes in your story, in your life. Your parents battled over your ethnicity, over who you were. Your mother used to scream at you. What would she say?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Well, I can't repeat it on the air, but she would get so flustered. You know, she was a lady, you know, she was a Junior League lady with those roots in Virginia. But she was under siege by poverty and Mexicans and Spanish, and she could not make me understand that I was something other than a border rat. And so she would basically say, "I'm so sick of your Mexican--" we shall say shenanigans, you know. And she called me Luis. Luis or Dear Boy. She'd always move her hand like this and say, "Dear boy." And she'd make me use a demitasse cup, you know, and all the fineries. And my Mexican relatives thought, "What is this? Americans drink coffee out of doll cups?" They didn't get it, you know.

BILL MOYERS: And your father, what'd he think about this?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Didn't like it. "Luis, Luis, eres Mexicano, eres Mexicano." And as their marriage got worse and worse, I mean, you know, people wonder why I write about the border. It's not just that I came from the border, it's that the border-- I always tell people this, the border ran right down the middle of our depressed little apartment. Kitchen was the United States, living room was Mexico. Walter Cronkite was the ambassador to both countries. That's the only time we came together is we would sit down to watch Walter Cronkite. And my father had a chair that never moved and my mother had a chair that never moved, so much so that the little holes from the legs were sunk in the carpet. They never moved, they never got close to each other.

There was a little table in between with a bowl of Fritos and cashews and a glass of Thunderbird or sherry, and everybody sat there watching the television, very tense. They had separate bedrooms, it got more and more separated. So I felt like this weird border ran down the middle-- not only of the-- of the apartment, but of our lives. So part of the time I was an American boy, part of the time I was a Mexican boy and they didn't cross.

BILL MOYERS: The twain didn't meet?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: That twain did not meet.

BILL MOYERS: Have you decided on which side of that border you really belong?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I'm an American, aren't I? I mean, this is where I live, you know, and I consider myself American. I was educated here, I love it here. I choose English as my chosen art you know, to craft. Now, when I go to Mexico if I'm there a couple of days I start dreaming in Spanish. Isn't that interesting? So I am very proud of my roots and my cultures that I share. But see, I have this illusion from the way I was raised that I believe everybody is at least bicultural.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: But my task, I think, all my life as a writer has been to find that common ground, that communication zone where we can talk and we can get our souls together, you know.

BILL MOYERS: Keep trying to take that fence down metaphorically.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Bridges are better than fences.

BILL MOYERS: Is that deliberate?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Yes, sir, it is. It's not necessarily that fence. Like I said, you know, the fence went through my house. The fence-- the Mexican border is a physical metaphor for everything that separates human beings. And all you have to do is turn on any debate, turn on Fox News, you know, turn on Rush and you'll know that there are fences everywhere, on the right and left, white and black, gay and straight, male and female still, Christian, Muslim, Jew. The fence is everywhere. And any audience I speak to has border fences everywhere.

BILL MOYERS: I brought just a page from Devil's Highway. Would you read it?


BILL MOYERS: Tell me about it.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: I think that human details are hunting and tell stories all by themselves. And when I realize that these men who died were people, like I said earlier, they were disparaged at home and certainly disrespected here. And were disrespected after their death on the American side, mocked, you know, used for political gain. On the Mexican side I thought, you know, hypocritically used as suddenly folk heroes. "Oh our heroic suffering brothers," you know, and they were given this big state return of the corpses with big grandiose promises to help the families. And then as soon as the bodies were out of camera range, that was it.

The families were abandoned and left to their own devices. And these guys, you know, they were victimized over and over even in death. And when I started the investigation the angry Mexican console allowed me into his death archives which were the endless piles of paperwork of all the dead. And in these files there are manila folder, file folders, there are Ziploc baggies with whatever they took out of the pockets. And as soon as you opened the baggy the stench of a rotting corpse comes out. And one of the first things I got was a guy's comb and it had hair and looked like brill cream. And he's gone. That's all he left in the world. And they don't know his name. And I'm smelling him.

And the women are lighting candles. And I think in my naiveté they're doing a beautiful religious-- and it's because it stinks. And each-- like a jasmine, vanilla. They're all, you know, supermarket scented candles because they don't want to smell that. That crushed me. And I realized that if I could somehow make people understand this is what is in the man's pocket, maybe it would make him alive to you even though he's gone.

So that's what this passage is about.

"Somebody had to follow the tracks. They told the story. They went down into Mexico, back in time, and ahead into pauper's graves. Before the Yuma 14, there were the smugglers. Before the smugglers, there was the Border Patrol. Before the Border Patrol there was the border conflict. Before them all was Desolation [and desert] itself.

"These are the things they carried.

"John Doe # 36: red underpants, mesquite beans stuck to his skin.

"John Doe # 37: no effects.

"John Doe # 38: green socks.

"John Doe # 39: a belt buckle with a fighting cock inlaid, one wallet in the right front pocket of his jeans.

"John Doe # 40: no effects.

"John Doe # 41: fake silver watch, six Mexican coins, one comb, a belt buckle with a spur inlaid, four pills in a foil strip -- possibly Advil, or allergy gel caps.

"John Doe # 42: Furor Jeans." Quote, "'had a colored piece of paper in pocket.'

"John Doe # 43: green handkerchief, pocket mirror in right front pocket.

"John Doe # 44: Mexican bills in back pocket, a letter in right front pocket, a brown wallet in left front pocket.

"John Doe # 45: no record.

"John Doe # 46: no record.

"John Doe # 47: no effects; one tattoo: Maria.

"John Doe # 48: Converse knockoff basketball shoes.

"John Doe # 49: a photo ID of some sort, apparently illegible.

"They came to the broken place of the world, and taken all together, they did not have enough items to fill a carry-on bag."

BILL MOYERS: Luis Urrea, thank you very much for joining us.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Thank you sir. Thank you. It's an honor.

BILL MOYERS: You'll want to hear more from Luis Alberto Urrea, and this week you’ll have a chance when he joins us for a special live chat on our website, Go there for more information and to start asking him your questions. I’ll be reading what you, and Luis, have to say.

That’s all for now. See you next time.

Between Two Worlds — Life on the Border

May 4, 2012

No writer understands the border culture between Mexico and the United States more intimately than Luis Alberto Urrea, whose life is the stuff of great novels. Son of a Mexican father and Anglo mother, Urrea grew up first in Tijuana and then just across the border in San Diego. Over the years he has produced a series of acclaimed novels, including The Hummingbird’s Daughter, The Devil’s Highway, and his latest, Queen of Americaeach a rich and revealing account of the people of the borderlands that join and separate our two nations.

Earlier this year, a number of books were removed from Tucson, Arizona classrooms when the Tucson school district eliminated a Mexican-American studies program on the accusation it was “divisive.” The program included references to Urrea’s work. Urrea talks with Bill Moyers about that episode as he unfolds the modern reality of life on the border.


Explore More
From The Progressive, see the reactions of Luis Alberto Urrea and other authors to the Tucson decision.

  • submit to reddit
  • Julian Touceda, Artist

    I just got through seeing the interview and was very impress with “Life on the Border”. Mr. LLuis Alberto Urrea is one of my favorite writer and I consider him Hispanic. His Heart and Soul is Hispanic and one of the great writer of our time. The story of his Father and Mother hit home for me because it reminded me how far  apart our Family had become since arriving to North America(1960) from Central America. Mr. Urrea open that wound that have been forgotten or place in that hidden part of my Life. Now I see a bit clearer and understand my Father and Mother Life. Thank you, Mr. Moyers for a great episode….Julian Touceda

  • Paul

    In watching your show, I was reminded of a saying “A Latino can only see as far as the end of his nose.” What does this mean? They cannot admit that they are only about 8% of the world’s population and Mexicans amount to about 2%.

    If you took 2% of the population of the United States and had them hold hands at the border, they would make a human fence , 2,000 miles long that would keep out the third world.

    Does this sound cruel? In World War 2, more Russians died than the amount of people living in Mexico at that time. Imagine an entire country’s population wiped out.

    What did Mexico do during World War 2? It declared war against Germany then didn’t send a single soldier to fight them. Why? It didn’t want to get involved with something outside of its hemisphere but still made a gesture to the United States so the US would supply Mexico with arms. The US did so until a wise Congress put a halt to arming Mexico figuring that it was ridiculous to arm countries that would never fight in the war. Unlike Brazil that sent 25,000 troops to the Italian campaign, Mexicans picked crops in the US, safe from harm.

    Mexico continues to point to the United States as the source of racism and other trouble, but Mexicans have yet to prove their value to anyone outside their race.

    They refuse to admit there are 125 countries that are poorer then they are around the world.

    United Nations statistics show that they live almost as long as Americans yet won’t admit that this is because their neighbors in the US had provided decades of medicines and supplies.

    Since 1950, Mexicans have quadrupled their population while the United States has barely doubled theirs. Is this America’s fault or the fault of Mexico’s backward culture. Grow children then force your neighbors to take care of them. Make Americans feel guilty for Mexico’s failures.

    Mexicans are professional victims. They wear that sad face so they can get the tourists to throw them money. They go on PBS with ridiculous sagas of how they suffer trying to sneak into the US. The average US soldier could make it through Mexican terrain with a simple compass. They make it sound like Moses and 40 years of wandering.

    You really should be ashamed of yourself. I am more ashamed of my Catholic Church that supports the actions of sinners.

    Every priest I have ever asked has admitted that sneaking into the United States is a sin and everything that follows is a sin too. Even the Pope cannot remove that sin because the person must pay back everything they have taken falsely in the US and return to Mexico in order to be forgiven. Has the Catholic Church in Latin America taught that to these people who claim to be such good Catholics? Maybe the 10 Commandments don’t apply to Mexicans?

    I once looked at a Annual Report for the Catholic Campaign for the Churches of Latin America. It listed Mexico as having over 122,000,000 Catholics! Since the total population of Mexico for that year was around 105,000,000, I took that as a miracle that only Mexicans could dream up!

    Propaganda by LA RAZA

  • AliMaun

    From “overtly” Danish & Welsh heritage, I am still trying to find out why many babies in our family are born with black hair (including me) & then it sometimes fades to a lighter color as we get older.  Mr. Urrea said everyone is bicultural in some way — this expresses what I’ve always felt — I believe my grandmother died 4 years ago keeping secrets about the part of my identity that is still hidden, for some reason.  From pictures I know that my grandmother’s brothers & mother kept their dark hair & eyes.  I have visited Wales and did not meet anyone who looked as native American as some of my family.

  • davidp

    This story is moving because it reminded me of my grandparents and other foreigners  who moved to America over 100-125 years ago and faced similar  attitudes from the locals.

  • Anonymous

    I loved the discussion, and the fact that Colonel Limbaugh had an open mind regarding Urrea’s work is a glimmer of light during this dark time.  I was also moved by Urrea’s description of the children who find despair in their skin tones.  Self-hate is a heavy burden that wears the heart down until it stops beating.

  • Anonymous

    Just heard the last bit where Urrea reads from his book – quite moving and powerful.  

  • Anonymous

    Every time I hear about Arpaio and Brewer, I feel anger and hurt as I imagine Latino children in Arizona living in constant fear and wonder, puzzled by the hate and fear directed at them. Brewer is also a vote suppressor who has a history of disenfranchising Latinos. Her methods aren’t novel. They’re part of the new Jim Crow.

  • Barriosilva

    Mr. Urrea, the “greaser” denomination was kind. I mean, I got called “tacos” during high school. But I sense that, like me, you let it roll off. That toughen you up. You fought back by doing greater things than the tacos-calling crowd. You excelled way above them. I can relate to your riveting story telling because I felt we had a lot in common. “My God, this man also went through the same,” I said to myself. And, here we are. Living the American dream and trying to reconcile with our adversaries. How our stories will end will be the future of America.

  • Barriosilva

    Hold it. I am “brown?”,  but I do not hate myself. 

  • Bonalibro

    Why the vitriolic propaganda, Bill? You really don’t know? The plutocracy can’t honestly tell us to vote for them so they can make themselves richer while they make the rest of us poorer. So they tell us all scare stories about the “others,” and try to make us feel like part of the tribe.

    But to them, we are and always will be, the others. Never a part of the tribe.

  • Intrepid

    Do Mexicans care about the holocaust?

  • patty

    I loved your interview w/Mr Urrea.  Both of you showed your humanity via your questions, his responses , and the looks on both your faces.  I will now read some of his books.  Thank you for a wonderful show—Again.

  • Andy

    Wow.  What a truth-teller.  What a hero.  Thank you, Mr. Urrea.  And thank you Bill Moyers for once again providing time and space and just the right line of questioning to allow another illustrious, courageous and articulate guest to express him/her-self.

  • Merrill

    Yes Luis Urrea is both a great writer and a good man but what strikes me most about him is his generosity of spirit. When asked by Moyers how to combat the “Arpaiocracy,” Urrea said he just keeps throwing art at it. Actually, he just keeps throwing his heart. The Arpaio’s of Arizona and elsewhere are doomed…

  • Anonymous

    Immigration is an important subject.  We live in a world of nations.  Each person is born in one nation and becomes a citizen of that nation by birth, in most cases.  Most nations allow some people to immigrate and change their citizenship.  Most nations control and restrict the number of people who are allowed to immigrate.  That is done to conserve local social services and resources (schools, police, fire, transportation, housing, emergency rooms) as well as to avoid the pressures on any community when a large number of people from a different country arrive all at once.  Our own immigration system is extremely generous, as we allow more people to legall immigrate every year than does any other nation.  This is a problem during an economic downturn.

    Corporations want to flood the labor market with imported labor, often foreign labor, to drive down prices, increase unemployment, and allow them to offer fewer benefits and worse working conditions.  We have high unemployment, social services are exhausted, wages are frozen, and we should stop all immigration until we have full employment.  It is not liberal to give away your neighbor’s job.

    As far as the guest, I am opposed to framing the immigration issue as an emotional one, cloaked in sentimental tales about these nice people, all they want are jobs.  That’s the point.  They want our jobs.  We need to control and restrict immigration to protect American working people.  That’s not racism, it’s just common sense.

    The author repeated several sentimental and misleading claims on this subject, designed to prevent people from looking at it in a rational manner.  The “we’re all immigrants” argument is particularly annoying.  So what?  Every nation restricts immigration to protect their own people, and every night has the right to do so.  Our own politicians, in the pockets of Wall Street, have refused to enforce our laws because corporations love high unemployment and desperate labor.

    Another misstatement was the suggestion that all unauthorized migrants come here to pick the crops, and if not for them, our food would rot in the ground.  The fact is that a very small percentage of unauthorized migrants work in agriculture — some estimate only 3% do — and the rest of them are in other fields.  Certainly construction and manufacturing have both been taken over by unauthorized migrants.  Of course the Americans who used to do those jobs are now unemployed.

    It is a serious issue.  It deserves a rational discussion, not sentiment.  I’m sure the majority of people coming from Mexico are good people.  But that doesn’t mean I want them to come here and take my neighbor’s job, or take anyone’s job.

    What is the alternative?  If the U.S. would simply seal the border until we get control of it, maybe the people of Mexico would go to their own ruling classes, their own politicians, and demand jobs, demand health and housing and education.  That is what should happen.

  • Anonymous

    I have lived in Arizona for forty years, and am concerned about the fairly recent change of  attitude  toward Hispanics here.  I have always felt a divide between whites and others, which include Native Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanics, but there has also been acceptance and tolerance.  Within the last few years, the buried racism has expressed itself with a vengeance in such acts as SB 1070 and the decision to eliminate  Mexican-American studies in Tucson.  After watching Luis Urrea last night on the show, I wonder why I have not read his books.   I also wonder why I am not angrier.  I am a Liberal and proud of it.  I have fought in the past for women’s issues, against crazy gun laws, etc.  I feel tired, and sometimes believe that the fanatical right-wing hits us constantly with crazy decision-making in order to exhaust every bit of sanity, awareness, and humanity out of the rest of us.

  • Cgiannin

    i don’t renenber being as moved form amything more than i am moved by this.
    this man is a saint.
    i can’t stop crying

  • Q Wells

     I always wonder what those immigrant great-grandparents would think of their descendants when the latter display their disdain for the poor from other countries struggling daily in this country to put food on their tables. Most of those great-grandparents, I dare to say, would feel really sad.

  • Virginia Baker

    I’ve been to Mexico many times.  I’m an Anglo that loves and speaks Spanish.  Whenever I’ve traveled to Mexico I’ve found people of amazing hospitality, good humor and fellow feeling.  They are feeling types as am I, heart centered for the most part. I despair of my fellow country folk in America who call themselves ‘Christian’ but do not follow Christ’s teaching to ‘love one another’.  Thank you Bill and Luis for airing the issues in this program.  I look forward to reading Senor Urrea’s books of art and heart.

  • Jamenta

    Excellent show.  Thank you.

  • connieinak

    your intuition is right on cpalas! 
    yes, the “fanatical right-wing hits us constantly with crazy decision-making in order to exhaust every bit of sanity, awareness, and humanity out of the rest of us,” The right ring with money and power provided byALEC has launched a concerted campaign to divide and conquer.  Ghostwritten by their elite, secretive task force of lawmakers and corporate representatives, ALEC lobbyists bombard our state legislatures with laws while the right wing’s frenzy fans the flames, sabotaging the democratic process, to impose “a business friendly” agenda with no regard for We the People.

    Downsizing government by privatizing prisons, permits prisons for profit to capitalize on the “new emerging market of immigrants” by collecting tax dollars to detain people: meanwhile the war on drugs and criminalizing most everything associated with it, plus more laws like “three strikes you’re out for life,” and longer sentences adds money to the bottom line. Then by busting Unions and ending collective bargaining, prisons can now provide labor to Wal-Mart and other industries, through the Prison Industries Act for only $2.00 an hour, for  products “Made in USA.”

    Repeat this scenario for ALEC’s shock and awe attack to privatize education, sabotage healthcare,  and rig elections, and the environment and taxes, etc…..

    In response to citizen’s action over Travon Martin’s killing and voter suppression allegations, ALEC has “dismantled” it’s “Public Safety & Elections Task Force” giving it over instead to the NCPPR, whose chair Amy Ridenour says, ‘We’re putting the left on notice: you take out a conservative program operating in one area, we’ll kick it up a notch somewhere else. You will not win. We outnumber you and we outthink you, and when you kick up a fuss you inspire us to victory.’”

    start with John Nichols’s article at

    read Center for Media and Democracy’s work at, find your representatives on the membership list
    then take action by logging and tracking your state laws in their wiki at

    and then there is Paul Krugman’s article: Lobbyists, Guns, and Money at

    send articles you find to:

    sign up for a screening in your home of Greenwald’s documentary on the Koch Brothers at

    the bumper sticker says, if you’re not enraged you’re not paying attention!

    Bill, thank you for being here and for all of your dedicated work, and thanks too, for the work of all the good folks mentioned above.

  • Martin Zehr

    The road forward is accepting a distinct future from the one envisioned years ago.  
    Nuestra casa es su casa. Trátelo bien porque convivimos con usted.

  • Tony Acarasiddhi Press

    Powerful and beautiful.  This is a conversation to be preserved, to be shared, and to be treasured.  Luis Alberto Urrea’s words, on and off the page, inspire me.

  • Jack

    Bill, you’ve done it again.  Thank you for this very important dialogue.

  • Anonymous

    Bill, that was the most riveting interviews I’ve ever seen.
    Normally, I play spider or regular solitaire while listening; but not this time; Louis Alberto Urrea is amazing in his ability to transcend the “differences” between listening and cultural understanding. 
    I left the states 9 years ago to a culture and language far different than English and western norms.
    A real eye opener it is.
    Bill, thank you so much for your intelligence, curiosity, and courage. 
    V. Arnold  

  • gloria van brocklin

    Wonder ful to have you back, Bill.  I missed you greatly when you were off the ‘air’. 
    Your interview with Mr. Urrea was excellent and most touching, he is obviously a gifted artist.  One can only have compassion for the desparate plight of immigrants from Latin
    American, Mexican and otherwise. 
    One point is never touched on: that of the countries from which the immigrants flee.  It is obscene, to me, that these countries

  • Darahk1

    Would you please post the list of books that were boxed up and sent to the repository.  I’m a high school teacher and would like to present the list of “banned books” to my students.  Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t stop thinking about this conversation.  Powerful.  Profound.  I kept thinking I wish I could know this person…

  • Emmie Seaman

    Your shows are always outstanding but this has been the best. Mr. Urrea is an outstanding person.

  • EricJ

    My wife and I were greatly moved by the stories and the humanity of Luis Urrea.  There is no one who makes television as important as Bill Moyers.  Please keep it coming.

  • STM

    So friggin’ sweet with that touch of sour. Thank you for sharing.

  • Stardustborn

    Maybe Luis Alberto could re-introduce a loved American book into Arizona that speaks of ‘common ground’.  “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine speaks to the idea that we are all created equal.

  • Geb

    Good interview. Urrea should remember, as he cites the things the bible doesn’t tell us to do, that which it tells us to do also. Like stoning, killing, and atrocities too numerous to mention.

  • Cherokeemiles

    Highly recommend this segment! Wonderful interview! I grew up in Texas among illegals, and I find them to be the kindest, hardest working, and loyal people. Brewer is pure evil, who is taking AZ and this country back into the dark ages. Banning books is akin to what the Nazis did in Europe, it is very dangerous! I plan to read Urrea and am so happy I tuned in to discover this great author/person. Thank you Bill, as always, you are priceless! 

  • patriochat

    It is unfortunate you do not have a better grasp on the Bible than to quote from the system that was set up for a certain group of people for a certain time and extend it to us in the day.  The New Testament or the New Covenant is what we go by today.  PS  Atheism has  it’s own atroscities to deal with, like the death of millions of people in recent history and the repression of millions more.  Perhaps you do not have a book, but maybe you need one to tell you to not do these things.  Like the Bible.

  • patriochat

    I’m so sorry Mr. Urrea & Mr. Moyer misunderstand the motivations of some of us who are against illegal immigration. We are not against Mexicans or others, but we are in favor of not allowing too much influx which could eventually create another Mexico. That is too many people for too few jobs.

  • Resee

    It’s not just poverty in Mexico that has the created the illegal immigration problem. Just recently learned it takes about $10,000 in fees and a bunch of forms for various government agencies to come to America legally. A quick side note for the liberals who love big government (bureaucracies). Forms and fees and more forms and fees are what government is about. But I digress-This is why all that are south of our border cannot come here legally. I am against illegal immigration but I am for legal immigration. But we need to tear down the form and fee structure for something cheaper and easier if we want legal immigration to let a lot of these people escape their misery and I’m sure we are all for that. Because, in the same position, I’m sure we would all do the same-run across the border to a better economical future if there was no other way.

  • Mari McAvenia

    Mr. Urrea speaks to the hearts of everyone who has been thrown away in the “dump” after having the life, work, love, family & all hope pillaged, plundered & exploited by greedy others. I know this because I am one of those people.

    To be born, unwanted, in the USA to teenaged parents with little education but plenty of white entitlement is no different from the immigrant experience of unwanted peoples everywhere. The biggest obstacle to solitary survival – for us- is the inability to emigrate to a better place somewhere else in the world. We are stuck here to serve as scapegoats until we die in misery, alone & much too young. 

    Americans don’t care about their “own” anymore than they care about Mexicans crossing the border. We are disposable service units who are kicked to the curb when the users have had their fill of us. Alienation always starts at home and then progresses into the culture at large, eventually becoming the dominant paradigm of Americanism.

    The “villians from Dickens” that Mr. Urrea speaks of are here in legions. They are too ignorant and selfish to see themselves that way, however, and thus remain uncorrected, deliberately running rampant over the bodies of their elders and children.

    “We NEED to love each other.”, says Urrea. Try telling that to a pathological narcissist. You will be seen as “vulnerable” & “needy” if you need to love & be loved in return and that just gets you shunned to a further corner of Hell, USA.

  • Terry & Patricia Lampel

    This was an intriguing episode–Thanks Bill & Mr. Urrea. He made such an excellent point when he invoked us to look in the Bible to find anywhere it says, “Do not…” in speaking about how poorly we treat one another. And yet, when you asked the ultimate question, “So, why is it we do these things?” I felt so badly because the obvious answer–not some poison–cames from the same book: “Sin” Too bad it could not be stated & answered this plainly on PBS.

  • Mafalda903

    Thank you very much for your Program Between Two Worlds –
    Life on the Border. I wish to congratulate you and Mr. Luis Urrea for your courage
    to discuss about this people that some don’t wants to talk about or let them live in this
    beautiful country of the United States of America.  I just want to add up that such border is not only
    reached by Mexicans but also by others that cross the intire Mexico to get here, who has not been kidnaped either by the members of the
    Drug Cartels or by some of the member of Mexican Police.  When it comes to worst, some have been pushed
    down from the train in the way here, and has lost their lives or limbs only for the “Pursued of Happiness” that the USA Constitution
    recites.  The Old Testament states “Bless are those who let
    the foreigners live among you and love them. Just remember that the New Born Chirstianity movement was introduced to Latinamerican by Americans Missioneries.  They used to come that teach us that all humans are equar and loved as Jesus comanded we have to love one another. Where are they now? do they have children that now are against the same Latinamericans that they evengalized and show how merciful and beautiful this country is.  

  • Sjmillangue

    Interesting…brought up some good points…

  • Danamount

    Just saw part of the show.  I don’t agree at all with your views.  Yes, illegal is illegal [period]  People should just not be able to come and go through our borders at all.

  • Elizabeth

    The wisdom, the compassion, the humanity that is Luis Urrea gives me a measure of hope…. as your speaker pointed out, without hope, we are lost. Thank-you for this interview.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve shared this interview, it moved me, Luis you made me cry.  What a beautiful wordsmith you are, even in the interview you don’t make anyone a bad guy, not even the Limbaughs!  We need more writers/artists like you, compassionate, empathetic and continue to remind us all, we are human beings, “There is no them, only us”. 

    I’m originally from Alabama and I’m completely in shock where things have led. I blame post 911 FEAR. I recently had an argument with a relative, he believes there are more illegal immigrants in Alabama than in nyc. The emotions are extreme and it’s hard to reason with many of  them. I believe the NRA is responsible for much of the propaganda (my relative is a member) it feels almost hopeless. I grew up with these people and most have a good heart, they are mislead.  And so many seem to be misinformed, especially  self proclaimed “Christians” who seem to emote with hate in most of my encounters. 

    Mr. Moyer thank you for you excellent programs, keep up the good work. 

  • Mark Stegeman (TUSD Board)

    This is a wonderful interview but includes statements which are misleading and damaging.  None of Mr. Urrea’s books were removed from any classrooms in the Tucson Unified School District; none were put into boxes.  That is true also for most of the titles mentioned.  A few titles were put into boxes, on their way to school libraries a few days later.  There are real issues here, but exaggeration does not advance the argument.  

  • Aloha12u

     In the early 60s & 70s I wanted to be a writer and studied literature.  As I shifted towards undergraduate school work I found a parallel interest in the humanity and  wisdom I found in cultural anthropology which I had first found in great Literature.  I gradually shifted to the  study of cultural anthropology and eventually did substantial graduate work at the New School in NYC.  I found Luis Alberto Urrea’s authenticity the missing link to what I had discovered and to some degree lost from both of these disciplines. 

    This is an American Genius in our misty confusion of overly-commercialized arts.  He is timeless and I was mesmerized by his every breath of insight and communication skills.

    I recently heard that the Swede’s could not find a literary work that qualified for the Nobel Prize this year?  Apparently they did not do their homework.  Perhaps someone should send them a copy of this show!

    You are the real thing Luis, God Bless You and may the cultural market grant you endless resources…

    …and may the Nobel Peace Prize come knocking at your door very soon.

    Bruce E. Woych

  • Aloha12u

     I recently heard that the Swede’s could not find a literary work that
    qualified for the Nobel Prize this year?  Apparently they did not do
    their homework.  Perhaps someone should send them a copy of this show!

    You are the real thing Luis, God Bless You and may the cultural market grant you endless resources…

    …and may the Nobel Peace Prize come knocking at your door very soon.

  • Aloha12u

    is a “must see” show; Urrea excels in literature and reaches not only
    into an authentic literary Heart of Darkness…but exceeds the standards
    of great ethnographic anthropology as well

  • Sara Giannoni

    I’d love to see a complete list of books that have been banned.  Sounds like the perfect thing to post on facebook.

  • Charlotte Burns

    I can’t imagine being a garbage picker. There but for fortune goes I. I don’t know what’s wrong with people in this country that we’re so heartless. 

  • Kitchkat50

    I was incredibly moved by this program – and so angry that this could happen – the  banning of books – Sherman Alexie??? Sandra Cisneros??? And so many others  – ones that have been around a long time also – oh my gosh, I am still shaking my head about it – Mr Urrea – you words were amazing to me and I will long remember this program – I would love to see a complete list also – in case I have missed any of them.  I still cannot believe – Thoreau?  Oh.My.Gosh!

  • chlburns

    It is sad to see some of the comments about immigration. So many of our ancestors were illegals. If they were legal it was only because they were needed in the mills to be exploited. I found an old book at the Southeastern Mass. University library years ago, written in the 19th century titled, “The Immigrants of America.” The descriptions of the Irish were the same as we describe Mexicans. “They live in squalor. Their neighborhoods are full of crime.” We forget where we came from. Some of my ancestors came over in Puritan times. Why did we think we belonged here? This was Native American land. 
       Many, most (?) of the Mexicans who come here have Native American blood. Who says they don’t have more of a right to be here than we do? This is their land. We took New Mexico and Arizona, Texas and California, Colorado and Nevada from them. The architecture is Mexican, the place names are Mexican, the food is Mexican. Where do we get off thinking these places are ours? What makes them ours? Because we were so good at stealing land from them?    We can try to keep them out, but sooner or later they will outnumber us. Little by little this country is becoming bilingual. Perhaps the Native American prophesies, that they well take back the land, will be proven true.

  • Valerie

    Excellent program! What canI do to help poor Mexicans?

  • Calilley51

    Amazing program!  I am a 60 year old white woman.  I of course grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, and listened to my mother, not my father, tell me how I better never associate with a Black, Mexican, Japs, etc.  I always resented her for this, and always wondered why she was so awful towards anyone who was of another color.  What did they ever do to her, nothing.  She actually made me afraid of trying to learn or talk to anyone of another color or nationality.  So I am so proud of you for teaching the world in this currant society to love each of us as a human being and look past our colors.  Very excited to read your books.  Thank you so much.  Wanted to metion my youngest daughter is married to a young man from Mexico, and she has given me 2 grandsons.  The horror stories they tell me from his families still in Mexico are so horrible.  I love your words, refugees and pilgrams. 

  • White Eagle

    Well, this will serve to further enlighten one. Bravo. Bill, great interview. Luis, just be yourself, man. Your Buddha Nature is showing.  Eag

  • Survival2

    “Tell them I was here” (reference
    to Urrea meeting a man from the trash dump) – How profound is that?
    Knowing his life was worth as much as the trash he picks through.
    Urrea had incredible anecdotes. His Mother and Father are a prime
    example why both sides are right. Every human being has a God given
    right to the simple dignity of a decent life and will do what is
    necessary to achieve it (cross a border illegally). Every human being
    has a God given right to retain their identity or culture (to stop
    others who overwhelm their system and begin to change their culture).
    It’s all a part of survival. It’s when destructive methods are used
    to attain their objective that causes the pain (ie Tibet’s influx of
    Chinese settlers, France grappling with Muslims, Israeli continued
    settlements, and Native Americans decimated by Europeans). Until we
    evolve to see each other as part of the same race and to prevent
    chaos, then order and borders must exist. I just hope we don’t
    annihilate each other along the way to enlightenment.

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t the high school students defy the school district by bringing the so called ban books to school and read them in front of the administration and teachers. If asked to stop reading these books or to give them up they should take suspension instead of do those things. In this way the ACLU can get involved by sueing the district and state for freedom of speech violations.

  • GenineMarie

    Urrea reminds me of a trip I made with another woman from my church to Los Ninos in 1983, as I recall.  The Los Ninos group took volunteers to the dump, an orphanage, and the Tijuanna jail to take food and clothing for the Mexican citizens.  On the return trip to Phonex, I was consumed with how to share what I experienced with others in my community.  However, the nice church people at home didn’t understand my frustration about not sharing their exhuberance about their pie throwing contest after seeing what was so close to our home.  Wish I could express it better but all I can tell you is that besides opening my eyes to Tijuanna it also taught me to rethink my spiritual path.

  • JG

    What an outstanding show and a WONDERFUL guest! 

  • Abm334

    Great interview, great, sincere thoughts. Felicidades a Moyers y también a Urrea,

  • Christina

    This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. Not because of the topic, exactly, as we’ve heard similar tragic stories of people from all over the world, but because of how Mr. Urrea speaks with such compelling concern, conviction, and drive. Thank you for sharing and for speaking out.

  • Valerie


    Your words very eloquently reflect your pain. I can only encourage you to join a movement like Occupy where you will find others who care about their fellow human beings and justice for all Americans.  I have found that working for good – for something bigger than myself that has benefits that are inclusive, has been very healing and has been very fulfilling.

    I wish you well.

  • B9000

    What Mr. Urrea so wonderfully expresses in the particular area of the Mexican and Mexican-American experience can broadly be applied to other immigrant experiences, like my own background with parents from Croatia and Serbia.  His personal story of his childhood and the demarcation between the kitchen and living room brought bittersweet memories of my own that in certain ways parallel his. I thank him for jogging them loose.

     To think that three of his books have been “boxed” in Tucson’s school system, along with the other examples, is very disturbing. What is there to fear?

  • Kewata

     You are paranoid! Try staying out in the blazing sun one full day picking fruits for the people of this ungrateful nation and you will be crying for more illegal immigrants.Grow up!

  • Lawrence Rupp

    Shocking to see a book on AZTALAN displayed, and not a word on what it means.
    Mexican claims to the “lost Territories” of the Southwestern United States — a Chicano country called Aztlan.
    A University of New Mexico Chicano Studies professor predicts a new, sovereign Hispanic nation within the century, taking in the Southwest and several northern states of Mexico.

  • BG

    It is so strange that those who profess so loudly their Biblical Christian values have somehow missed the  passages such as “I was hungry, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Who do they think Jesus was referring to when the words “the least of these” were spoken? How could these righteous Christians miss the fact that Jesus was speaking of himself?

  • Calilley51

    I don’t think anyone could have said it better. Amazing!!!

  • David F., N.A.

    Here’s the list.

  • Anonymous

    excellent interview. I spent many years in Arizona and in Mexico. I have always been absorbed by the struggles and triumphs of immigrants. I am the son of one of those dreamers. The censorship and hate in Arizona today marks a turning point in consciousness among some of the leadership. Politics and the right thing have historically not gone hand in hand. I listen to this and think of the innocence still embedded in my parents that never hit it big–it was rough life–but they still admire nature, fireworks, and hold on to so much hope. I sort of “made it”–but cannot live a day without appreciating the “travelers” (i am for some reason using this term as I  think of the gypsies in England-who are also under persecution) i see at bus stops and their children. As a father, i now pass down these stories and in my own middle class life–i share my ethnic studies/Chican@ studies  library and hope that they too can “speak/dream/and self-define” even amidst an intolerant climate that is bonded by faith to the politics of fear and paternalistic notions of what it means to be human and “learned” –i hold on to my faith in other more humanizing worlds

  • Anita Clemens

    Another great show.  I have been saying to people that all this anti immigrant talk is really anti Native American talk, glad he pointed that out.  Too bad though, the white race still hating the native race, still abusing them, still keeping them down, still kicking them around ’cause they can get a way with it.  But I can also see the point of the people on the border who do not want crime, drugs, distruction and trash on their property/nieghborhoods. We need some kind of guest worker program. We have them for other professions like engineers here in the Northeast. But I am mainly concerned with the countries which make it so unbearable to make a living. Why can’t we negotiate with the Mexican government to improve human rights in their country.  To provide eduction, healthare, subsidized housing for their native poor. There appears to be a handful of elites in Mexico who run the country for their own and their friends benefit. Policy changes in that country would help. Gosh, don’t they have oil money?

  • Theresa Riley

    “On Thursday, Jan. 12, MAS teachers were sent a memo from the district saying that the following books, because they are specifically mentioned in the court order, are to be removed from the classroom and then boxed up and stored in the district’s textbook depository:

    Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth MartinezMessage to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky GonzalesChicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo RosalesPedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo FiereRethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob PetersonOccupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña”
    But the story has been updated here:

    Theresa @

  • Cheryl Smith

    Your last sentence describes a world problem which is not unique to Arizona.  The solution is to provide healthcare and education of women which results in fewer births.  In one generation, children are educated, families assimilate, and we have wonderful productive cooperative members of society…unlike some of my “American” acquaintances who game the system for public aid.  We are all God’s children.

  • The Gig

     Why not offer second class citizenship?  Isn’t that the main thrust, after all, of your argument?  I mean, we only want their labor, not their lives or families, we only want to take from, but not give to, them what we think is bare minimum for the rest of us.

    Whom do you feel ought to consider the lines and distinction of our second-class, perhaps even, third-class, citizens?  Would you feel qualified Ms Clemens?

  • The Gig

    Like the rest of us, amenable, children of a Latin migrant, I can’t help but wonder how you monitor your ‘assimilation’ to the white culture?  How often  do you get angry at yourself for letting some ‘spic’ joke pass.  Maybe for business reasons, or just for privacy, we all have stories on this.

  • GenineMarie

    Is it really helpful to be hateful only to the white race? 

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Calilley51.  You have stated this beautifully.  I live in SE Arizona, about 10 – 12 miles north of the border.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    And Shakespeare’s The Tempest

  • Anonymous

    “Create another Mexico?  This part of the country used to be part of Mexico.  The Tohono O’odham have a saying: “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.”  Families have been separated by an imaginary line.

  • Suzanne bruner

    I like everything you do and ever did, Mr. Moyers… You (and by the way your son William) have contributed so much to my life and other responsive folks. You’re American Treasures! Yesterday, I particularly enjoyed the exchange between you and Luis Alberto Urrea.I Never knew about the hardships of the border crossers. I was so riveted by this program which I was watching on my stationary bike that I extended my exercise time (normally 30 minutes) to one hour and 45 minutes!

    Also, I think your set is beautiful and also the colorful graphics on your new show.

  • lgfromillinois

    A thoughtful, wonderful interview with Mr. Urrea.  I had never heard of him or his work before this interview.  I will pick up his books.

  • Mary Montoya

    Yes, there is hope!  While Urrea’s sunny facade cracks because of the hopelessness triggered by Alabama and Arizona, immigrants in Illinois successfully fight off the MIGRA in local jails, CA youth get scholarships for undocumented students, Vermont farmworkers pass driver’s license law, and NM familias successfully fight off their Governor’s repeated and well funded attempts to take away their drivers’ licenses. Our mettle AND activism are an important part of the story that doesn’t always get told.

  • Angelle Lemarche

    A wonderful show.  Thank you.

  • Reader

    Thank you very much for this interview. I’ve read a number of Luis Urrea’s books and found them all worthwhile. I live on the border and cross it almost every day. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Mr. Moyers; thank you Mr. Ureea.  I learned so much from you today.  I too love history.  You show us  that history is simply the stories of the people.  The challenge is for us to open our hearts and minds to listen and connect; to see with insight and compassion–not an easy task in this age.

      I taught ESOL for 7 years to children 6-12 in one classroom. Their families were seeking refuge from war in their own countries much as immigrant families do today.  The families taught me so much about my own humanity–how much they had sacrificed to come here for a better future.  I will always remember Luis’s mother who, with an infant, a toddler, and Luis, took 3 buses to attend “Back-to-School Night at our elementary school.  My students told me some of their experiences back in their countries, and these stories shook me to my core.  I wish I had written them down.  Thank you for your writing Mr. Urrea.   You are helping to build that bridge! Again, thank you for participating in the interview and discussion.

    If you ever come to Reston, VA, please come speak to our church, United Christian Parish in Reston.

  • Richard Darvas

    I just finished watching the show….my gosh, Bill….I like your show because I can depend on finding something profound and ‘spot on’ somewhere in each show…..but this Luis Urrea show was 100% profound and right on target…..what a great communicator crossing cultures he is….I have saved the program and will watch it again.

  • Anonymous

    Great show. Opened my eyes to many things I was unaware of.. I want to read more of his books. He is a wonderful story teller. One think I don’t understand is why Mexico has not been able to provide jobs. I was under the impression they had good resources. Besides Washington many of the Southern states allowed crops to rot in the fields and could not get white folk to pick crops and the farmers went broke. What are we thinking? As an Educator I am really angry about the Ariz. book deal and profiling. How can we call ourselves a Democracy?I grew up poor and books have saved my life. The photos made my heart cry. 

  • Anonymous

    Naomi Shihab Nye has written some beautiful poems about living in two cultures .

  • Colin M. Grant

    Many thanks Bill – as usual you and your guest were a great pleasure to listen to. A few years ago, I visited Canadian friend (who spends the winters) in Yuma, AZ. During the time there, I was given a grand tour of the city and district.

    I was horrified to be told there was an unspoken rule from the local border agency officers and the law enforcement folks that IF YOU EVER FIND A DEAD MEXICAN, DON’T REPORT IT AND FORGET YOU SAW IT!!!  They don’t want to know about it. Is this common knowledge?

  • Anonymous

    This was also my youth. The blacks came in the back door and cleaned and cooked. Whites from church came in the front door sat on their ass waiting for coffee. My parents call the blacks the “N” word. 

  • Dana

    So happy to have seen some conservative comments here rather than the remarks I’ve seen from people who don’t take into account that we are a nation of laws and just because of your nationality it doesn’t always automatically count as racist.  I feel everyone – EVERYONE should go through the legal immigration process as most all other immigrants do.

  • Todd Downing

    Sure – we’re a nation of laws unless you’re a bankster, an oil company, a private security force, an insurance company, a hedge fund, a weapons contractor, a lobbyist, a politician….. 

  • Todd Downing

    Great interview… I have to get his books. Thanks Bill & Company!

  • Benjanow

    It is unusual to see an educated writer who has experienced abject poverty on his own back.  The story here is of heartbreaking clinging to life.  But we have seen the same experience in the favelas of Brazil, the streets of Mumbai, and the heart of darkest Africa.  The story that Mr. Urrea relates is universal in nature.  We are stunned into the realization that huge numbers of our fellow beings are immersed in this horror, only made worse by the exploding world population.  Do we despair of finding answers, as Mr. Urrea suggests?

  • Fran G

    Mr. Urrea, your depiction of the people hit me on a very visceral level. People who suffer the hardship of coming here deserve our compassion. Steely comments like Dana’s also hit me in the gut. They make me very angry and sad that people could be so cold. I look forward to reading your books.

  • Kdavis987

    I came to Mexico to live in 2005 and my border experience was vastly different from the “greeting” the US gives to Mexicans heading north. The warmth and respect I received in this rapidly growing country makes me wonder why any Mexican would choose to head north, risking his life and leaving behind all the qualities of happiness, even if poorer by comparison. I feel richer here than I ever did north of the border, and I am grateful to you both for telling this mind-opening story of who Mexicans really are – dreamers, hard workers, family people. I love them dearly. They remind me of the US I grew up in, gone a long time ago.

  • rsp3

    Excellent interview.  I read Luis’s chapter on Hyperthermia, The Six Known Stages of Heat Death right before heading out into the dessert on a BorderLinks Delegation.  His writing penetrated my deep inside me and it will stick with me until we change our immigration policies.

  • Lori Sawyer

    Beautiful, beautiful interview, what a talented writer. I so relate to being a product of ‘cultural collision’… what a unique perspective it can offer, what a blessing… Love breaks down the borders.  It is not a ‘political position’ when I say I cannot dismiss the poor or the darker skin. This what gave birth to me, rocked me to sleep at night, and made me very rich indeed. 

  • Rlawrenc
  • Cherokeemiles

    Having grown up in Texas, I find it amazing that there are people who lack compassion and empathy for the fellow human beings. Abiding by laws in this frame of mind, reminds me of those who arrest children for singing in school. It reminds me of the Nazis who killed people because “the law” that they wrote and imposed, forbid others to live. Yes, we have laws, but there is also the human experience, and if you had listened closely to these stories with empathy, maybe it would make you more human. I grew up around immigrants my entire life, and “for the grace of God”… by the way, unless you are full blood Native American, your ancestors were immigrants also, and this country accepted them with open arms. If they had not been blessed with such a blessing, you would not be here to voice your opinions freely. Laws are made by man, and this country is divided on what’s humane and what’s set into place by “fear based” thought.

  • Cherokeemiles

    I am boycotting AZ until they grow a heart. Their governor is a horrible example of a woman, or a person, in my opinion! Attitudes often come from the top, and she is the one setting the example for her police and others.  I implore those I know who live there to move out of that place, and many of my FB friends are doing as I am, and are boycotting the state until they change their position on immigrants and other humanistic topics. It took a long time for the Nazis to take over, but it started somewhere and over the years they grew and grew and covertly changed the attitudes of many. We must never allow a group of people to treat others with inhumane and heartless ways, in the name of power.

  • Cherokeemiles

    I like you, grew up poor, and it is also true for me that books saved my life, and opened up my world. It is a very dangerous practice for “a few” to ban books for “the many”. I will never forget visiting East Berlin and seeing the plaza where the Nazis burned thousands of books, many were original works by researchers, doctors, artists, philosophers, etc., thus great works lost forever.  Many were college texts. Arizona’s blatant “fear” of others and of “the truth” is akin to the beginnings of Nazism. History is a great teacher, and those who do not know, allow others to repeat horrible practices. Unfortunately, those who lived through Nazi Europe are dying away, so it is important for them to write down their experiences and leave for others, a trail of knowledge and history. This includes the Germans (and other Europeans) who lived through it, and the Jews (and other victims) who experienced it. Fear is rampant in this country, and it all boils down to ignorance. Books taught you and me that there are great things out in the world, but there are many who never read (or anything outside their local newspaper), and only listen to fear based rhetoric, and thus they ban books and treat others inhumanely.  Every thinking person should “fight back” against these books in AZ (or anywhere) from being banned. When knowledge is banned, we are treading into dangerous territory.

  • Cherokeemiles

    Fear based on ignorant brainwashing and of the “unknown”. People seriously need to get out of their own back yards, travel and meet other people in this world, with an open heart and mind. They need to leave the confines of their own minds, and realize that fear controls them and their “live experiences”. 

  • Cherokeemiles

    You should suggest this to them on their FB school pages!!!  Just sayin…. Some will take the idea and run with it, but maybe they fear those in control, and thus don’t understand they have the right to protest… so far.

  • Cherokeemiles

    Very well said!!!  Yes!  We are all a part of the “human race”!  

  • Cherokeemiles

    Exactly! Those places like you mentioned, AZ, CA, TX, NM, etc… used to be Mexico!!! Before the Europeans took that land away from them! Hello! They were here before we were! What gives others the right to inhumanely treat the original inhabitants with such disdain? Some Americans can be an arrogant and ignorant lot! Great comment! What goes around comes around! 

  • Cherokeemiles

    I am sharing this show with everyone I know through my email distribution lists, and Facebook! This needs to be seen by all, and shared with all! Bill always does an amazing job sharing with us, but I must say, this show was absolutely valuable!

  • Cherokeemiles

    I believe you have invaluable experiences and information that you should try to write down and publish. Start with what you remember, and as time passes, you will remember more and more. It doesn’t have to be “perfect”. Whatever you know would be invaluable to others, and to future generations! <3 Just do it! 😉

  • Dr. Jacob Jaffe

    Luis Urrea sensitively describes the immigrant experience and his personal life. He is a talented speaker and writer. His interview so resonated with me.  I also lived in two worlds with my Jewish-Russian immigrant parents. When I crossed the street, going from my family “box” to the one of the “American” elementary school, I was in another world.  I lived a marginal existence (a term I learned while getting my psychology degree). Only when my parents were in their late 70’s did they tell me about my father’s life as a 15-year-old soldier fighting the anti-Semites in the Russian revolution and my mother’s narrowly surviving a pogrom. While America provided so much for them, they also gave to America. My brother joined the Army Air Force after Pearl Harbor and was killed before his 20th birthday.
    While I’m not as talented and prolific a writer as Luis Urrea, (I’m a psychologist counseling today’s immigrant families),
    I did write a novel about my family’s life (“Land of Dreams”)  available from the N.Y. City public libraries. I also have a website which I invite you to visit ( and contact me if you like.
    Again, I was moved by hearing the interview and look forward to reading more of Luis Urrea’s writing.
    Dr. Jacob Jaffe

  • Cherokeemiles

    VERY well said!!! 

  • Tomas R

    Bu the fact of the matter is that TUSD is not taking a stand to protect the student’s right to read these books if they so desire Mr. Stegeman. Urrea may be exaggerating but your actions and of those of the board are causing a great deal of damage and division in the Tucson community

  • Realamericanman13

    this site removed my comment and blocked me twice…although he tugs your heartstrings,and although i feel for mexicans trying to escape,i don’t want undocumented gangster drug cartels in this country.make it easier for the families to come,and impossible to jump the border. VIVA AMERICA! screw bps and their liberal agenda!

  • Tmoreno

    Inspiring… the second grade in Az,I remember my father taking me to my new school and telling my teacher I was able to speak two languages and a A student. At my previous school the teachers used me as an interperter for those who needed help.He was so proud to show how his son could communicate in two languages and able to help others..I remember my reward from those teachers,a glazed donut and a warm thank you..To my surprise,my new school/teacher as soon as my father left took me by my two arms,leaned over,looked at me directly and with the most stern voice said,”I dont care what you did before.In this school you will never speak another word of spanish or you will be punished,do you understand me”.(in those days,1966, teachers had paddles and spanked kids) I was so scared and so ashamed I never told my father.Those words changed my life as I did stop speaking spanish and to this day regret it..Mrs McGuire,wife of a superior court judge taught us to read yet ignored my abilities as a child to communicate in two languages…a gift I lost.

  • Anonymous

    Insightful and inspiring. Thank you for bringing Mr. Urrea to my attention.

  • Dana
  • Jonah

    This was a fantastic show!  I lived in Central America and I love the people.  This brought back so many memories.  Thank you so much.  The idea that Mexican American books have been banned is absolutely ridiculous.  Glad to see interviews like this.  Bill Moyers is a beautiful soul.  I’ve decided this is my favorite television show!

  • jskdn

    “BILL MOYERS: So what’s behind it? What’s behind the– propaganda is propaganda because it works.”

    Let’s hope not, because the kind of propaganda that Moyers and other open-border elites push is quite ubiquitous in the news media. Most citizens of this country want limited immigration and oppose illegal immigration, yet their viewpoint is usually denied representation in the major media, including “public” television. And the result of that is government that ignores their wishes because the deliberate suppression of their voices in the dominant media makes it possible to politicians to do so.

    I understand that the books you called banned aren’t. They are available in the school libraries. They just aren’t taught in the classroom by ethnic activist teachers anymore. It’s not at all unusual for government to decide what’s appropriate curriculum to be taught in its school funded by its coercive power of taxation. The only difference here is the left isn’t in charge of making that determination.

    By the way, people die crossing the border not just to get across it but to garner the expected benefits that become available from their illegal presence. Reduce and remove the rewards, employment being the chief one, and the risks and other costs become a real deterrent and less people would die. 

  • Cherokeemiles

    I find your statements to be based purely on “your opinion” rather than any truth based facts. Bill Moyers is one of the most intelligent, fair and balanced reporters this country has, unlike the uninformed sensationalized reporters one finds on most main stream news. Your biased opinion about “public” television is very telling of who you are.  In addition, not once did Mr. Moyers state he was “for”open borders, this is your analogy alone and is not based on this program. Your hateful comments is evident that you did not pay attention to what was said by both Mr. Moyers and Mr. Urrea, and is evident of your inability to have any empathy for your fellow man kind. 

  • Cherokeemiles

    In case you missed it, this was about the “human experience”, not statistics.

  • Cherokeemiles

    We expect nothing less from you Dana… you totally ignore the “human experience” and the facts of this program, instead you are using this for your personal political agenda. Typical. Are you related to Gov Brewer, or are you her personal “pal”? 

  • Dana

    Nicely said jskdn!

  • Gromrus

    One thing I never hear discussed in this is the responsibility of the Mexican nation to its citizens and the responsibility of the Mexican citizens themselves to force their governement to esteem and live by the rule of law.   Why is this injustice driving their citizens north not even up for discussion.

  • Gromrus

    The law of the land has been disregarded for 20 or more years in that there is a legal way to come to this country and there are illegitemite ways to get here which will have consequences lasting into the future…predominantly a life in the shadows, not able to particpate fully in the American dream and experience.  The frustration with the government’s steadfast refusal to exercise their authority over the border has resulted in Arizona citizens boiling over and taking the reins.

    Secondly, book banning may be too far, though high schools are not required to carry every legally printed thing. As such a school not having a book is not illegal and not a civil rights violation. The government has not banned the book the school may be unwisely increasing controversy but it is not violating civil rights.

  • Gromrus

    The current border is a real. legally governed limit to one sovreign nation’s authority/responsibility and the beginning of another nation. Failure to acknowledge this will only exacerbate this conflict.

    Moreover, living many states away from the border, I expect that in AZ, CA, TX, NM, etc the US culture would be affected, Spanish common, and Mexican food widely available and a lot of exchange across the border. However, living many states from the border, I did not expect the last 20 years to lead to the development of Mexican ghettos in my city, widespread requirement for Spanish translators  at hospitals, etc.  In your view is there any place in the US  where their lawless vanguard should be greeted with anything less than enthusuasm?

  • Stephanie Fallone

    A bittersweet reminiscence for me.  This was my part of the country — the southern edge of Arizona and the northwestern part of Mexico.  As I get older, I feel the pull to return to “la tierra de mi alma,” but it no longer fits me.  Arizona has become too aggressively red.  You don’t have to be Hispanic to feel unwelcome there; there’s just a heavy atmosphere of narrow-mindedness all around there these days.  

  • Jerry McKenzie

    Umm, they were lands of Native Tribes first. Mexico drew a line and claimed what Spain had, but could not force that line on the natives except in the Rio Grande Valley. The US was able to use the force to make their line stick.

  • Irma

    I really liked the interview.  It was sad but I have experienced
    some of the treatment that was discussed even though I was born in the US. But I have lived in Mexico and travelled in Mexico for over 7 years. What people do not realize is that we are native americans. Several of the states in the west were Mexican.  We are not alien, we belong here.  One of the big problems is that the immigration laws that are good and balanced for both countries  have not been put in effect. The Mexican government does have fault in their actions but the treatment of Mexico by the US also has some fault of the conditions of Mexico.  Mexicans are equal citizens of the world. The drug addicts of the US have hurt Mexico and Mexicans so much.  So has the poverty. Thank you Bill Moyers
    and Luis Alberto Urrea for your episode. Hopefully you have awakened some compassion and understanding of the
    suffering that so many Mexicans have gone through.

  • Bill Moyers

    For my son, too, I thank you. If I may say, his book BROKEN — about his addiction and recovery — is  one of the most powerful I’ve ever read. Bill Moyers

  • Mike D

    There were many profound insights in Mr. Urrea’s wisdom chest but one is central to our times.

    The garbage collector putting her arm round him and saying, “I love you because you are not afraid.”

    Mr. Urrea’s life story can, in turn,  be summarized as  “I am not afraid because I love.”

  • mh

    Mr. Moyers, I have always enjoyed and respected your work, but I have to take exception to your statement about those who in Mexico you live off of garbage dumps as being “god forsaken”.  They are not god forsaken, but rather “human forsaken”

  • Gmfioriti

    Thank you very much for this interview. Mr Urrea is a very wise and compassionate man that can poetically express the human experience. But I need help with something. I understand very well the suffering that causes people to cross borders illegally and then set themselves up to be abused and taken advantage of precisely because they are illegal; desperate people do desperate things. But, while the Bible calls us to be compassionate; to have charity for those less fortunate, doesn’t the Mexican government and all the governments of Central and South American have the same responsibility to their own citizens? The fact that there are families living on garbage dumps is despicable and the government of Mexico should be ashamed.  The only reason we have the quality of life that we have in this country, is because we as a community of citizens insisted that our government be responsive to our needs. People in this country went on strike and died to have a social contract that provided for a society with some degree of dignity and humanity and upward mobility for labor;  a social contract that illegal immigrants do not contribute to. Illegals are here precisely so that they can be used as a wedge to break the wages, health benefits, and workplace safety laws that the American citizen fought to have. The illegals need to start fighting for these benefits in their own countries and have those governments stop being the corrupt political despots that they are.

  • JJ from Maine

    I watched this show twice and have recommended it to friends.  It is quite inspiring even though it deals with our penchant for tribalism and rejection of “the other” who is different.  Mr. Urrea was quite insightful and clearly urges us to stay engaged with those who may disagree with us and recognize our common humanity.  We may disagree with each other, but we should avoid demonizing those who do (something some of the writers here should take more care to avoid).  Thanks for bringing another outstanding thinker and storyteller to our attention.

  • Bruce

    This was a very moving program and I would echo the sentiments of many others here.  And I hate to distract from the core message.  But one comment in the interview  distracted me when Mr Moyer’s  said that atheists might not understand the ”
    Road to Damascus moment ” reference.  I can assure you that I did.  Many of us abandoned theism precisely because of our knowledge of religious texts.

  • Cherokeemiles

    This is true, MOST atheists did abandon theism, however, I had no idea what the statement meant, as I was not raised on the bible, know zero about it, nor any other religion or their texts. I am free of such dogma, which makes me very thankful, as I have had numerous conversations with others who seem to live under a cloud of dogma and fear. 

  • Cherokeemiles

    Exactly, if more people would open their hearts and minds and realize there is nothing to fear from others (world wide) but fear itself, we would all have a better existence. 

  • Stevenrtrujillo

    Yeah right!…”we are a nation of laws,”….who are you kidding!….”yourself”….tell that to wall street and the corporate bankers and president’s…and rich immigrants who have no trouble comming to the U.S. and are able to pay for their legal immigration status.  The only commodity in the world that has to “pay” for crossing a border are the poor!..Everything else travels freely across borders. Urrea is elequent and speaks the truth from a different perspective.

  • Frank Luke

    Can we equate the book banning in Arizona to Nazi book burning? In any case, to shut down the cultural studies and ban their book list is appalling. What may happen will be a surge of interest in those books.

    Would it be possible to organize online continuation of the studies, would their books be available that way I wonder?

  • Anonymous

    Our human tendency to be attracted to similarity and fearful of difference (“them” and “us”)starts when we are very young and first are taught that family is inside the circle of trust and strangers are not. Urrea’s reaction to the “maria” by his aunt is a great example of “them”and “us”, which is simply a product of her belief in the harm that can come from different. That paradaigm breeds the seed of what we call racism. The fear of that which is different, which establishes a child’s defense constructons, is often reinforced by well meaning authority, experiences and fear.
    As maturing grownups, we hopefully find ways to broaden our acceptance of difference. Travel, cultural and educational study and spirtual exploration can do much to illuminate the lack of threat that difference portends even while uncomfortble feelings persist.
    To castigate an opposing opinion thru activist attack or name calling usually serves to entrench each side and create polar  enmity such as our entire country is experiencing now.  I regret that when a person feels ill-disposed to a different culture or idea that they are not encouraged to truthfully disclose their feelings and their outlook rather than simply being labeled as non socially correct. Burying the feeling will not change it. Self-illumination of the underlying value that creates the feeling may.
    Using the racist label is all too often simply a way to cow and browbeat one’s opposition. To encourage integral and truthful disclosure of  internal prejudices without derision and punishment seems a far more able pathway in order to ultimately widen our acceptance of others.  I applaud Juan Williams from NPR and Shirley from the USDA for having the courage to aire their true feelings in this light. Stating their truths in the face of almost certain derision is a courageous act that gets our fears out in the open where we can discuss, debate, and ultimately solve them.  
    Meanwhile, our perceived injustices of the world deserve our best attentions and awareness because each of us, even in our own small world, can truly make a longterm difference. Thanks to Bill and his guest for a great show.

  • Unsanitorial

    To balance the ambiguous attitudes of  Luis Alberto Urrea about the structural cruelties of the US/Mexican border read the more realistic and incisive works of Charles Bowden (The War Next Door, Blues for Cannibals and many others).
    We’re not talking about a kitchen and a living room. We’re talking about a bully who keeps the neighbors down so Big Daddy can stay rich, even as he neglects and abuses his own children.

  • Dnadanyi

    Are you going to pick the fruit and vegies ?

  • Joe

    I am a Tucsonan – the father of a 2011 graduate of Tucson High. Over and over again as I attended the events at the school – concerts, plays, and finally the graduation – and spoke with the teachers and the students, I learned how the school had created interlocking communities and celebrated both their unique and their common experiences. I longed for the school board, the governor, the legislature, and the state superintendent of public instruction to be in attendance at these events. The wisdom and grace that seems to have left them were part of the day to day life of Tucson High. It was my joy to witness the intensity, the determination, their comradership, and the kindness of these young people.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the reason that you find your view point under represented is that the people you so need to hate and demonize represent approximately 3% of our total population. And that percentage is shrinking. Yawn

  • Guest

    No books have been banned at TUSD. Mr. Urrea’s comments are false. The district was required by the State of Arizona to remove the books from classrooms as proof that the curriculum was discontinued. But, the district put the books in school libraries and did not restrict access to students.

  • Cherokeemiles

    This is semantics, “he district was required by the State of Arizona to remove the books from classrooms as proof that the curriculum was discontinued.” If books have been removed from the students and if the curriculum has been “discontinued” how does that not equate to a ban of knowledge to the students? Ignoring the truth will not make it go away. 

  • Faymcqueen

    I live in San Diego county, and I want to know how to get in touch with Pastor Vaughn. I was very touched by hearing about the people who live in the Tijuana dump. faymcqueen@

  • aminfidel

    ignorance of a book that is so influential, so pervasive, so ingrained in the literature and art and culture…you think that’s a good thing?

  • aminfidel

    if you could send me some info about where to go to look at how to move to Mexico, preferably near the border but away from drug gang danger, i would be very appreciative.

  • Gringo in NM & NH

    I’m very intrigued and  looking forward to watching this. Having lived
    in AZ and NM and bicycled TX to Guadalajara I’ve an affection for the
    topic of MX-US border dynamics.

    In the immortal words of Orson Welles’ character Ramon Miguel Vargas
    “This isn’t the real Mexico. You know that. All border towns
    bring out the worst in a country.”

  • Gringo in NM & NH

    Fear not. Rlawrenc is not about statistics either.  S/he credits as source a xenophobic political action group dedicated to fear mongering. Witness the claim of “500 million going on one billion.”
    Mired within our collective “total vacuum of knowledge”, I prefer the US Census Bureau measures of  less than 314 million going on … errm … more than 314 million.

    And anyway it’s a sideshow with little bearing on MX-US border dynamics. Commodity resources are evermore globally distributed/cost-fixed and include, for better or worse, humans & jobs. Global Population is the challenge and a red herring to this discussion. Even if one doesn’t lie about the numbers.

  • mbd

    It’s Pastor Von and you can find him thru Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church. He’s in his 80’s now and still goes down to Mexico on a regular basis. He’s one incredible guy.

  • Dart22

    guess who

  • India

    Thank you Bill Moyers for coming back to PBS.   I can’t say how much your program means to a disenfranchised, frustrated and heart-broken American.  What has happened to our country?  Your program  educates, enlightens and  seeks out the lies and the truths.   I can think of no other program in television that comes close.   Long may you reign.  Stay the course.  We need you.    Kudos on your Urrea interview.   As an  Arizona resident, I know all too well how the prevailing climate of hate continues to polarize our communities  

  • MCB

    Miigwetch, Mr. Moyers for your incredible intuitive choice to interview Author Urrea. Luis is an impressive, eloquont, expressive author and an articulate talent! M. Moyers thank you for once again, following your strong sense of democracy and allowing me, an uneducated native american living in the extemes of poverty to be utterly inspired by this author ( the Precious Knowledge program :) and you! Thank you.

  • JoAnn Smith

    I was so energized and inspired by your interview with Tom Morello last night. I so agree with him: you have to fight injustice wherever you find it. And the Citizen’s United decision will not stand the test of time. There is much activity around overturning that disastrous ruling. People like Tom Morello, and me, are the way. Power to the People! The Revolution has just begun!!!

  • Larry Darnell

    Just listening to this show…. a little creepy to have known Jimmy Stewart’s grandson.

  • Hopeternal

    You can contact him through these websites:  and

  • Sabyrosse

     I, too, grew up in Phoenix. My family has been in AZ since 1905. These current politicians and the Sheriff are harmful to our state, and even cause me, a white, middle aged person, great pain. We have been manipulated by racists, most of whom are from out of state, to fear those hard working families that only want to do best for their kids, hoping, like all our immigrant ancestors, for a better life for our children.

  • Sabyrosse

     Look into Russell Pearce’s inspiration. Tom Horne’s tricks, Huppenthal, Brewer, Arpaio…. These people are shameful racists, and an embarrassment to the state my family helped to build.  They have ruined it for all the races in this state.

  • Oilda

    This is a fabulous interview of Luis Alberto Urrea. As a black Cuban-American I can so much relate to some of his experiences and to his bi-cultural perspective. Yes, it is better to build a bridge, than a fence.

  • Toni Hernandez

    I was so moved.  To remain silent is absurd and without humanity.  Thank you for this interview.  Toni Hernandez Phoenix AZ

  • Corina

    I so enjoyed your talk with Luis Urrea!

  • kgr

    oh but for the haters in America – you are afraid and it causes you to hate, that’s a shame, this is a country of immigrants, but you know, somehow I am sad it’s not you in a ghetto

  • kgr

    Thank you Sabyrosse for your honest comment. I am gratified to know not all whites in AZ are racists.

  • kgr

    I would think if the ACLU was going to get involved it would have been involved in the fact that 350,000 non criminal aliens now “reside” in For Profit Detention, I doubt it matters to them

  • kgr

    take it back now, go to school, learn it over, it will come back.

  • kgr

    the US demands the drugs, and Wachovia execs launder drug money and profit from it, and innocents die in Mexico, equal blame lies here for our part in helping to destroy our neighbor to the south

  • MileMarker

    Why is it racist to want immigrants to follow the laws that We the People put in place for our nation?

    I liken it to the difference between inviting someone in to my home as compared to someone who breaks into my home illegally. The invitee is welcomed in and is provided hospitality willingly. The person who breaks into my home is not only not welcome, but why in the world would I provide hospitality to him or her?

    The laws are there for a reason. If We the People decide that the laws are wrong for some reason, then We the People need to change them.

    But for now, those who enter our country illegally should not be receiving the hospitality that so many want to give them. Wait until they enter legally.

  • moose stew

    Your podcasts are important to me. Even though I can only listen, I feel part of the conversation.