Francisco Cantu recounts his experiences of policing the US-Mexican border and tells the personal stories of those who risk all for a better life in the US. Joseph Balderrama reads.
Former US Border Patrol Agent Francisco Cantú worked on a remote spot on the US/ Mexican border from 2008-2012. In The Line Becomes a River he recounts how he tracks down an unending stream of men, women and children who risk all for a better life in the US away from the violent crime that underpins their lives in Mexico. He tells the personal stories of the weary and the spent who he turns backs, and of the many who don't survive the gruelling journey through the vast desert during summer's searingly hot days and freezing nights.
Born to the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, the border is in his blood and his decision to become a law enforcer came after four years of learning about it through policy and history while studying international relations, and the realisation that theory isn't enough. He needs to be on the ground to understand the border in all its beauty, ugliness and danger. After four years the personal toll is more than he can bear and he leaves the Patrol but when an immigrant friend does not return from a trip to Mexico to visit his dying mother he is returned to a world that he discovers is impossible to leave behind.
His account is interwoven with reflections on the history, culture, nature and psychology of the border, and is more broadly about life on either side of an arbitrary line, wherever it is.
Francisco Cantú's is a Fulbright fellow, and in 2017 he was a Whiting Award winner. Previous recipients of this prize for writers who show great promise include Colson Whitehead, August Wilson and Jeffrey Eugenides
The reader is Joseph Balderrama who is known for his roles in the James Bond film, Spectre and The Game of Thrones.
Abridged by Richard Hamilton
Produced by Elizabeth Allard.
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