My experience while reading Border Crossing was great, I was engaged immediately just after Cecy said “I was going on a trip by myself. Not that my parents knew.” While reading the entire book I felt amused, I thought the book was always entertaining because of it’s chapter pattern of flashback and then present, it was always kept it interesting.
The protagonist in Border Crossing is Cecilia Maryann Álvarez but everyone calls her Cecy. Cecy is a thirteen year old girl that has an American and Mexican heritage, this leads her to running away to Mexico to find answers about her cultural identity since her father refuses to give her enough information about her Mexican descent. Cecy believes that by running away to Mexico and learning more about her father’s past and linking it to her she will find herself and finally know were she belongs. I believe Cecy was really courageous by doing this but also pretty dumb. Yes, she was brave enough to run away to Mexico by herself, and I have never met someone with that courage, but even though I believe her actions were courageous everything after she crossed the border was uncertain, the answers she wanted to find, how she would communicate, where she would stay in Mexico, and how she was going to come back to The United States, many things could’ve gone wrong and this journey could have been life threatening.
As I noticed in the book Cecy is more connected to her American family, she understands them and prefers being with them at the beginning of the book. She has a stronger bond with her mother and grandmother Maryann, she feels more comfortable talking to them since she is always at home with her mom, and grandma Maryann speaks English and is American styled. In the other hand, Cecy doesn’t have a strong relationship with her grandmother Nana and her father, she feels sort of uncomfortable talking to them and doesn’t feel confident asking them questions specially to her father which always eludes talking about his Mexican past, in addition, her grandmother Nana doesn’t speak English which makes it hard for them to communicate. The relationship between Cecy and her brother isn’t really described but it appears that it is pretty good and he is someone Cecy can talk to.
Throughout the book Cecy’s personality and idea of who she was changed drastically, she learned that she has the courage to do many things such as searching for her cultural identity, and being proud of who she is and where she comes from. She also learned that her role in the world is to be proud of who she is, a Chicana, because if she doesn’t who else will? As Tony said, “We’ve got to be proud of who we are. Stand up for ourselves, not hate ourselves.”
The plot of the story is engaging and is fast-paced, the author doesn’t spend too much time focusing on one topic but talks about it and then goes on into another one the next chapter. Something that surprised me was that Tony resulted being Cecy’s cousin, at first I thought they would fall in love, but at the end they discovered they were family. I found the plot of the story at first very predictable but at the end the story took an unexpected twist, even though Cecy learned more about her cultural identity she still didn’t find the answers to all of the questions she wanted to know which I found very interesting since I actually thought she was going to find them all and stay in Mexico for a longer time.
The book is written by interlocking short stories it never goes chronologically, the book always follows a pattern that goes from past to present, present to past. I think the author chose to tell the story this way to leave in suspense and keep the reader interested in the book, as well, by writing it this way you understand more about how Cecy’s past relates to what is happening in the present and why she thinks and acts the way she does
Throughout the novel the author explores the main ideas of cultural identity, courage, heritage, pride, curiosity, self-perception, and stereotypes. Some themes the author communicates throughout the novel:
- Lack of understanding on our cultural heritage can lead us to take drastic decisions because of our desperate need to know who we are and where we belong.
- Self-perception can variate because of how people perceive themselves in relation to who is the in-group and who is the out-group.
- Stereotypes prevent people from creating a positive relationship because of how people perceive themselves differently.
The passage that I found more profound in the novel was:
… I knew better than to just leave my stuff around some fountain in Mexico. “I can’t believe I was that stupid, that I trusted these people. I should have known better.” I put my head in my hands.
Tony stood up. He looked angry. “What do you mean with ‘these’ people?”
I closed my eyes. “You know what I mean, Tony. Don’t be stupid.” I couldn’t believe he was arguing with me at a time like this.
He yelled at me, “Who’s stupid? You are the one who just forgot you are one of ‘these’ people. So am I. So is your dad. Whoever stole your money was a jerk, but there are jerks everywhere. That doesn’t mean all Mexicans are jerks.”
“… but, Tony…” I started, He didn’t understand what I was saying. He was different. My dad was different. But the people who stole the money from me, well, they were the Mexicans I had always been warned about in television.
“No. I can’t believe you would judge somebody based on what they look like, or what language they speak, or where they live. You, after I’ve helped you out as much as I have. I am proud to be one of ‘these’ people.”
I look up at him again, He didn’t look angry anymore. He looked hurt. I felt a knot in my stomach when I realized what he said was true. “I’m sorry, Tony. I didn’t mean that.”
He sat down next to me again. “I know. But Cecy, jeez. I mean, there are enough white people who think we’re bad and lazy and dirty without us thinking it about ourselves. We’ve got to be proud of who we are. Stand up for ourselves, not hate ourselves.”
I looked at him. I was getting it. I wasn’t sure what I was getting yet. I had this feeling, like the feeling I got when I started to learn something…
I chose this passage because I thought it was very intense and true, and because after it Cecy started recognizing that she was Mexican too and how stereotyping wasn’t always a good idea.
In my perspective the ending of the book was really satisfying, Cecy changed drastically since the beginning of the book, from being embarrassed of having latin heritage she turned into someone wanting to learn Spanish and feeling proud of who she is and where she comes from, I liked how she felt at the end of the book it made me change my perception of her hugely.
If I could ask one question to the author about this book I would ask her if she ever had to suffer from bad treatment because of being Mexican when she was a kid, if so was that her inspiration to write about Cecy’s father’s mistreatment (in school) during his childhood?
I had never read a book from Maria Colleen Cruz but after reading Border Crossing I would definitely do so, the book was always interesting and engaging.
After reading this novel I definitely think it changed me a bit, I now understand that when we stereotype we are not just judging a group of people, we are judging individuals and taking them away opportunities even though they might be innocent, as well, when we stereotype we might also be preventing ourselves to create a good and long lasting relationship. I also learned and got a visual of how Mexicans might be treated or were treated in The United States, this makes me feel angry because of how people believe they are superior than others but actually we are all the same and are capable of reaching the same goals.