The Only Road

Jaime threw a fistful of dirt over his cousin’s coffin. The Alphas watched from the hillside above the cemetery. Anger and fear washed over him. Jaime couldn’t suppress his thoughts as he watched the murderers staring down at him. It should have been my funeral.

Within hours, the Guatemalan gang delivered a message: Jaime and his cousin Angela were their next recruits. The Alphas would force them to kill the next victims. Failure to join the gang meant certain death.

The two families gathered to consider their options. There was only one road for them. Jaime’s brother worked on a ranch in New Mexico. Tiny hope flickered within Jaime, nearly overwhelmed by fear. The trip was four thousand kilometers—an overwhelming distance for a boy of twelve. In the dark of the night their journey began.

Immigration officers—la migra—stopped their bus and forcibly removed a Salvadoran woman, twisting the screaming woman’s arm behind her back. Jaime knew he and Angela would be thrown in white deportation vans and probably beaten if they were caught too. Each day held new dangers—getting stabbed by brutal gangs, robbed by other immigrants, or abandoned by traitorous “coyotes” who’d been highly paid to get them to the United States.

In the desert, out of food and fainting from blistering heat, death seemed certain. Jaime knew the price of trying to jump onto a moving train. More than one refugee they’d met had lost their limbs. They were completely alone, and Angela was terrified. Was it time to give up?

The Only Road casts blazing light on how desperate the road to freedom is for children trapped in the horrors of gang violence in Central America. I recommend it highly for anyone who wants to understand the crisis at the U.S. border.

Alexandra Diaz is an Americas Award Winner, and her book won the Pura Belpre Honor. Visit her at:

–Kate Calina


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