Speedy Gonzalez and Sylvester: The Resilience ​of Migrants and the Marginal Effect of Physical Barriers

Angel A. Escamilla García
January 8, 2019

The Tijuana-San Diego border wall, taken from Tijuana (2015).

I am a graduate student who researches the movement of migrants through Mexico. During my time along the migration route in Mexico, I have had the opportunity to meet many Central Americans moving northward toward the U.S. Among those migrants are some who have already crossed the U.S.’ southern border multiple times. Their knowledge of the border crossing was impressive, as were their stories about being lost in the desert, being towed under by currents in the Rio Grande River, and being kidnapped by drug cartels.

But, what most caught my attention about this sub-group of migrants was their resilience to make the trip to the United States yet again, despite the obstacles lying between them and the U.S. One question I liked to ask them was how they found the strength to try again, especially after seeing and experiencing extreme hunger during their migrations, violence, and possible deportation. In 2015, I asked this question to “Luis,” a Male from El Salvador on his way back to the United States :

“I have three little girls and a wife waiting for me in South Carolina. I had a good life there, but I was stopped for speeding and was deported back to El Salvador. That was a year and a half ago, and since then I have been deported four times, three times from Mexico [back to El Salvador], and once while crossing the border wall in California.”

When I asked Luis if he was afraid of the increasing levels of policing on the American border, he told me:

“I am not afraid of crossing. My life is there. I am like Speedy Gonzales, have you watched it?”

“Yes,” I said, “but, what do you mean?”

He explained: “Speedy Gonzalez was little but fast, and Sylvester the Cat always wanted to catch him. Despite all his effort, the mouse always got away. I am the Speedy Gonzalez, and no matter how much they try to catch me, I will get away with it. My family is there.”

Speedy and Sylvester. Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055298/mediaviewer/rm1424766208

Like Luis, many of the migrants I have met have similar reasons to keep trying to cross into the U.S.; for them, there is no other option but keep trying.

My research suggests that migrants’ motivations for coming to the U.S. are too complex for us to believe that a physical wall will deter them. Love, hope, families, promises, lives––all are inspirations for migrants to keep trying to overcome a physical barrier. Especially when they have already endured a long and difficult 2000-mile journey across Mexico. One more twelve-foot barrier is little more than a nuisance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s