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Cutting for Sign


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About the Author

William Langewiesche is the author of seven previous books: Cutting for Sign, Sahara Unveiled, Inside the Sky, American Ground, The Outlaw Sea, The Atomic Bazaar, and, most recently, Fly By Wire. He is the international editor for Vanity Fair.


Langewiesche has lived and worked near the U.S.-Mexico border and wrote an extensive piece on the topic for the Atlantic in 1992. This book expands on his experiences in cities such as San Diego, Tijuana, Nogales, Mexicali, and El Paso, as well as in rural areas. He meets ranchers, farmers, Border Patrol agents, civil rights activists, artists, and many others from both countries. He also provides some historical background on relations between the United States and Mexico, from the Mexican Revolution to the drug trade. Although a less intimate account than Luis Urrea's Across the Wire ( LJ 1/93), this well-written volume is a thoughful introduction to the complex people and issues of the borderlands. Recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Gwen Gregory, U.S. Courts Lib., Phoenix

Combining trenchant observations with an understated style, Langewiesche, a correspondent for the Atlantic , limns people and places on the troubled U.S.-Mexico border. Traveling from affluent San Diego, Calif., to poverty-ridden Brownsville, Tex., the author zig-zags across the frontier, describing border guards and human rights monitors, maquila managers (business technicians) and labor organizers and the frustration and foreboding among them all. In the ranching town of Marfa, Tex., he describes the long-running power struggle between Anglos and Mexicans and the position of an outsider, famed sculptor Donald Judd, who has established a nonprofit foundation and provides medical benefits for Mexican laborers: the ranchers consider him a subversive; the Mexicans call him a fool. In Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Langewiesche finds ``one tough border town,'' corrupted by drugs. The book's title comes from customs agents who ``cut for sign,'' looking for evidence (a tire track, a footprint) of illegal entry. They may be skilled, but, as the author observes: ``There are 400 million crossings of the border every year, and the future belongs to free trade.'' The border, he concludes, is a ``word game'' and ``more intricate than a simple boundary line.'' Mexico's problems, he notes, have become ours. (Jan.)

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