Two buzzards circle gracefully above dozens of crosses adorned with Mexican, Salvadorian, and Guatemalan flags. Bottles of water, framed photographs, religious ornaments, toys, and teddy bears sanctify this makeshift graveyard. On June 27th, a tractor trailer was found abandoned on this dusty stretch of service road. Inside were piles of bodies of migrants being smuggled to the United States, left to suffocate and die of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Many of the dead were children and young adults fleeing poverty and gang violence, en route with the promise of a better life.
Quintana Road runs parallel to the Interstate 35, a major trade route that begins in Laredo, Texas on the Mexico border and travels north through the centre of the country to Duluth, Minnesota on the Canadian border. It is a dead end. “La boca del lobo” (“the mouth of the wolf”) is how some locals describe this dark, isolated stretch of road, readymade for human traffickers to exploit. Aside from the buzzards, there are few signs of life here, save for those like us, who have come to pay respects and absorb the gravity of 53 stolen lives, and the countless families left devastated with no recourse.
In the middle of the DIY memorial, a small cross with a message: “R.I.P. 53. How many more deaths Gregg Abbott?” – a reference to the current and much reviled governor of Texas, whose border patrol policies (also for his stance on abortion and gun control) have made the migrant passage north even more treacherous. Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz as expected, blamed the Biden administration’s lax immigration policies, skirting the responsibility for the malicious practices of Border Patrol agents whose well-documented litany of abuses has made a brutal and inhumane situation exponentially more disgusting and unimaginable.
Abbott and Cruz stand tall in the milieu of right-wing conservative lunatics (the left isn’t much better these days) who have taken a stranglehold over the nation—deranged and cruel “representatives” who spend their time dismantling the legal protections and human rights of “minority” communities. They are pushing forward, in no uncertain terms, an ugly, violent agenda of white supremacy, conjuring eugenics and utilizing a cabal of race traders to facilitate the expedited degradation of the country’s moral fabric towards a militarized, fascist state. The one they always dreamed of; the one they feel entitled to as a birthright.
I have witnessed the darkness of society in places all over the world: in slums, refugee camps, and war zones. Yet standing across from this ad-hoc monument to the loss of innocent life – the doppelgänger to the Alamo, a monument celebrating human depravity in “the greatest country in the world,” – I felt in that moment truly defeated, immobilized by a poisonous cocktail of sadness and rage. All the politics and policies, all the lip-service to social change, all the thoughts and prayers, cannot offer a solution to the black hole of human greed. Power and money are the only governing principles in this so-called democracy, and seemingly everywhere else in the world. The US’ greatest export: selfish individualism and violent ambivalence, now the essential fabric of globalisation. I honestly do not see a way forward or a way out, but I am reminded that the liberation is in the struggle.
We stand in silence watching the buzzards, wiping away the tears that evaporate more quickly than the sweat that pours down our backs in the scorching desert heat. “They aren’t so pretty up close,” my friend says. “But they fly beautifully, doing their work cleaning up after the world.”