“The Haunting of the Mexican Border” is a book in which the author, an American filmmaker, crosses geographic, political, and personal lines that intersect a the US/Mexico border – a personal story that mirrors the larger picture of US politics and immigration policies. Beginning in the 1980’s, for 15 years Ferguson made documentary films in Mexico’s wild Sierra Madre. While she traveled south, she noticed that people traveled north. As their paths converged, she learned that the line on which these journeys pivot is deadly. She also learned that US immigration policies slowly erode the life of an ordinary US citizen, from coffee in the kitchen to a day in federal court. The book gives insight into the lives of the Raramuri tribe and mestizos in Mexico, as well as the dangers faced by border crossers in the Arizona desert. – www.thehauntingofhemexicanborder.com The Haunting of the Mexican Border is a woman’s view of the violence and generosity of the border. For fifteen years beginning in the 1980s, Kathryn Ferguson made documentary films in Mexico’s Sierra Madre. As she traveled south, she encountered people who were traveling north, and she learned that the border at which they converged was deadly. Drawing on her own experiences, this book explores how US immigration policies erode the lives of ordinary citizens on both sides of the border.
About the Author: Kathryn Ferguson
Kathryn Ferguson is author of the award-winning books, "The Haunting of the Mexican Border" and "Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail." As a documentary filmmaker, she made "The Unholy Tarahumara" and "Rita of the Sky." Filmed in the Sierra Madre in Chihuahua, Mexico, there were screened in US and in over fifteen international film festivals. For 12 years, she volunteered with humanitarian groups in Tucson, Arizona, to carry life-saving food, water, and medical supplies to border crossers traveling the trails of southern Arizona. She has also had a long career as a dancer and choreographer performing and teaching in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, and the US. www.thehauntingofthemexicanborder.com
1. "This is an important book at the right time. We need to read this story and understand its vision." - Luis Alberto Urea. 2. "Accented with a rare woman's perspective, Ferguson masterfully guides us through treacherous, hardscrabble geography and psychology where two different worlds both clash and meld. This is a must-read for anyone intending to live in and understand 21st Century America." - Marc Cooper, journalist for Los Angeles Times, Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone and more. Author of Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir. 3. "Ferguson's writing is exquisite, descriptive, action-packed, and deeply meditative. The book reads like a novel; the plot thickens at every turn. I couldn't put it down." - Demetria Martinez, author of "Mother Tongue", poet, activist. || REVIEWS: 1. Kirk's Review: A memoir that grapples with life, death, and documentary filmmaking on the United States–Mexico border. Ferguson (co-author: Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail, 2010) grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and lived much of her life in the gorgeous yet dangerous terrain of the border country. A dance instructor who developed a passion for documentary filmmaking, she devoted seven years to creating a film about the indigenous Rarámuri people of Mexico. In the subtle first half of her memoir, the author recounts the tumultuous process that led to The Unholy Tarahumara (another name for the Rarámuri), which premiered in 1998. Ferguson is a sensitive writer, wary of excessively exoticizing the land and the people she meets, but she beautifully conveys the sense of wonder she feels with every trip across the border. That wonder turns to barely controlled rage, however, in the book’s second half, as Ferguson looks in the other direction, at migration from Mexico to the U.S. She describes how migrant deaths surged in the mid-1990s, from an annual average of 14 to several hundred—the equivalent, she writes, of a large passenger plane crashing into the desert every year. Outraged by the unfolding humanitarian crisis and the increasing militarization of the border, she joined groups that provide aid to migrants and began work on her next documentary, about a Rarámuri migrant woman who spent years held unjustly in an American psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, she suspected that, due to her activism, the government was watching her. She was detained and arrested by mysterious federal agents in the desert, and she began a relationship with a Mexican man who, despite his visa, lives in constant fear of deportation. A wise and humane account that draws on a lifetime of exploring the border country and pondering its meaning. Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-8263-4058-0 Page count: 240pp Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico Review Posted Online: June 1st, 2015 Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2015 2. Foreward Reviews, 5 Stars: Reviewed by Jeff Fleischer August 27, 2015 Since the early 1980s, documentary filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson has crossed the border between the United States and Mexico to tell stories, and she recounts those experiences in The Haunting of the Mexican Border. She writes about the logistics of making her films, from scouting locations to finding interview subjects. But the bulk of her book focuses on the people she meets while making those films, including the Raramuri tribe in northwest Mexico, laborers crossing the desert and the border to find work, and migrants caught up in detention centers. Ferguson shares her own experiences dealing with border security, and the book subtly shows the progression of how the border has become more militarized and more dangerous in the years since her first filming trips to the area. As a documentarian, Ferguson brings a journalistic approach to the material, providing context for the in-the-moment situations she describes, and the book itself provides useful context for the border as a whole. 3. EFE News Agency: Reporter Lydia Gil reviews "Memorias relatan transformación de frontera entre México y Estados Unidos": La cineasta estadounidense Kathryn Ferguson relata en sus memorias, "The Haunting of the Mexican Border", la transformación de la frontera mexicoestadounidense desde la década de 1980 hasta el presente. El libro, publicado por la editorial de la Universidad de Nuevo México y que también relata cómo la política fronteriza ha afectado las vidas de ciudadanos a ambos lados de la misma, está dividido en un antes y un después de la militarización de la frontera. Sin embargo, no se trata de un análisis político o histórico de la política fronteriza, sino del recuento íntimo de una mujer cuya vida transcurre entre estas dos tierras. El título alude a la obsesión en la que se convierte la frontera para la autora, así como la presencia fantasmagórica de un desierto convertido en cementerio. De joven, Ferguson cayó presa de los encantos al sur de la frontera, los cuales describe poéticamente en su libro. "Humo. Es la alfombra de bienvenida de México. El humo de la carne asada o del pino que arde en la estufa de leña o de las llantas que se queman. Todo me gusta", escribe la autora. Oriunda de Tucson, Arizona, Ferguson recuerda el cruce de la frontera como algo habitual, una especie de rito familiar que despertaba los sentidos. "Eran tiempos lentos aquellos", escribe, "los viajes familiares a Nogales, Sonora, una hora al sur de Tucson, para comprar café en grano... o cuando un cinco de mayo el desfile cruzaba la frontera de Nogales, Sonora a Nogales, Arizona y nadie tenía que mostrar documentos". Años más tarde, Ferguson volvió su mirada nuevamente hacia el sur y fue precisamente en la Sierra Madre, hogar del pueblo tarahumara, donde encontró la inspiración para su primer documental. El libro relata cómo el lente de la joven cineasta se va enfocando en la vida diaria de los rarámuris, evitando estereotipos y destacando la generosidad de este humilde pueblo. Esta primera parte está llena de aventuras, observaciones y descubrimientos. Es un relato de juventud, despreocupado e inocente, que el tiempo y la política se encargarán de cambiar. Ferguson comparte detalles de su libreta de apuntes, donde esbozaba ángulos para la cámara, así como los retos de navegar las costumbres sociales de este pueblo nativo de México, asentado en territorio del estado de Chihuahua, haciéndonos partícipe de su proceso de aprendizaje. También comparte aventuras, como sus vuelos con Sandy, una aviadora estadounidense que le muestra nuevas vistas del terreno mexicano y una noche en compañía de la marina mexicana. No obstante, el tono del libro cambia radicalmente en la segunda parte, donde el título cambia de "persecución" de ideas e ideales a "perseguidos" tras la militarización de la frontera. Si bien los noventa le trajeron a Ferguson la producción exitosa de sus documentales, el final de la década marcó el final de una era, del poder transitar libremente entre sus dos tierras. De niña, recuerda, cruzar la frontera era saludar a un viejito desde el auto, sin tener que parar para presentar documentos. "No había una cerca ni mucho menos un muro de un millón de dólares la milla", escribe. "Mi desierto era un lugar abierto, libre. Yo viajaba sin miedo hasta que comencé a oír del creciente número de cuerpos hallados en el desierto de Arizona. Los restos de gente que viene a los Estados Unidos en busca de trabajo o familia", agrega detallando. Así conocemos a personajes que cruzan en busca de trabajo porque en un día de trabajo en un rancho del norte se gana más de lo que se gana en toda una semana en México. Estos obreros no aspiraban a radicarse al otro lado, pero sí a regresar a sus familias, a su modo de vida. Ferguson pasa de tener una visión inocente y artística del cruce fronterizo a prestarle cuidadosa atención a la política que amenaza el cruce libre de personas. La autora describe cómo fueron cerrándose los puntos de cruce urbanos, forzando a los migrantes hacia el peligroso desierto de Sonora como parte de la política de disuasión. El sistema de cruce legal no funciona, ya que es costoso y lento, explica la autora desde una perspectiva más madura y solidaria. Y la política de disuasión no funciona, añade, ya que en lugar de disuadir el cruce, dificultan el regreso. "Hombres, mujeres y niños cruzan o nadan al otro lado de la frontera a los hombros del hambre", escribe. En esta segunda parte, Ferguson narra su labor con los Samaritanos de Tucson, un grupo de ayuda a los que cruzan el desierto, proveyéndoles agua y medicamentos. Durante sus caminatas en el desierto, ve que el paisaje que le llenaba la imaginación de niña se ha convertido en una pesadilla de cadáveres y persecuciones. Narra también su romance con un hombre mexicano con quien terminaría casándose y la sombra de la "migra" sobre su relación. En resumidas cuentas, el libro de Ferguson es un elocuente testimonio del costo humano de la emigración y la militarización de la frontera. 4. Story Circle Network: Reviewed by Dawn Wink, author: "I am not a migratory bird. I've always had a place. It is located west of the tall saguaro, south of the dry river, beyond certainty." The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey begins with this exquisite first sentence that conveys geographical landscape and way of being in the world. Author Kathryn Ferguson brings the reader intimately home for a personal journey that reflects the broader changes of time and place of Mexico, the US, and its intertwined relationship of politics and people. This journey takes us from Ferguson's Tucson home to the stunning lands of the Barranca del Cobre, Copper Canyon, and the lands of the Rarámuri people of northern Mexico, to create a documentary film, "The Unholy Tarahumara." Ferguson paints the raw beauty of this land and its people with an experience from her childhood: The teacher told us to tear paper so it looked like a random silhouette of mountains. So I chose blue, green, orange, purple, and red paper. I ripped the tops of each page into sharp angles, then into jagged curves. I glued wads of crushed paper on top of paper, all mismatched, all colors. This is how the Copper Canyon looks. Ferguson spends the 1980's and 90's with journeys back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. Despite the thousands of miles traveling as a woman alone, she is not afraid for her personal safety. Yet, as time passes, this sense of safety shifts. As I listen to the sunset sounds, I think about early years that I traveled back and forth to make films in Mexico. My desert was an open free place. But I began to hear about increasing numbers of bodies found in the Arizona desert. The remains of people who come to the United States to work or find family. The consequences of NAFTA and increased border security after 9/11 has been a deadly combination, forcing Mexicans to look for work in the U.S. for survival, and for the first time, sending women and children north, since their husbands can no longer come and go as they once did. Dark spots stain the desert where people have died. Ferguson's personal journey mirrors greater events. The increase of violence encompasses people from both sides of the border and now mars Ferguson.s own once-safe trips to the desert, as she becomes the target of harassment for Minutemen and other governmental agencies. As the political climate intensifies and more migrants try to cross and die in the desert, the increased militarization of the border grows. I learned a new vocabulary of my childhood homelands of Tucson and Mexico with this increased militarization, including "dusting," when those patrolling the border lower their helicopters close enough to migrants to kick stones, sand, and cactus into their faces and bodies. The Haunting of the Mexican Border is a breathtaking work of art. Ferguson's artistry shines in her prose, polished and raw in a perfect combination, and her ability to convey the beauty and power of humanity. Her love of this place and its people fills every page. This book is especially close to my heart, with its story about lands and peoples deeply familiar and beloved. I read this book slowly, absorbed the language, often re-reading sentences for their detailed precision and the power of what they convey. Along the borderlands we create shrines, descansos, to mark where a loved one has died. In The Haunting of the Mexican Border, Ferguson has done the magical: created a written shrine to honor a time and people lost, as well as serve as a beacon of hope for the possible. This story of a time and place lifts your heart with beauty, breaks it with reality, and then lifts and inspires again. “Ferguson’s book is more than a memoir. It is an adventure story toughened by sore feet from walking and walking and walking steep, narrow paths.”—Albuquerque Journal “Ferguson’s prose is transcendent, effortless, lifting off the page with the eye of a smart filmmaker who finds just enough detail to tell the imagination where to go but leaves off before laying on so much as to drown out that self-steering vision.”—Santa Fe Reporter “[Ferguson’s] prose is marked by a deep kinetic awareness of how her physical presence as an American, a woman, and a traveler affects the migrants and indigenous tribal members she encounters during her filming expeditions.”—Pasatiempo “A wise and humane account that draws on a lifetime of exploring the border country and pondering its meaning.”—Kirkus Reviews “As a documentarian, Ferguson brings a journalistic approach to the material, providing context for the in-the-moment situations she describes, and the book itself provides useful context for the border as a whole.”—Foreword Reviews “The Haunting of the Mexican Border is a breathtaking work of art. Ferguson’s artistry shines in her prose, polished and raw in a perfect combination, and her ability to convey the beauty and power of humanity.”—Story Circle Book Reviews
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