Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World follows a young, “smart and schooled” woman, Makina, throughout her journey North to an unnamed destination, where she is to deliver a message to her older brother on her mother’s behalf. Though Herrera chooses to keep the geography of the North vague, the scenery and experiences both parallel migrations across the US/Mexico border– a journey that Herrera and members of his family have made themselves. The opening scene, a massive sinkhole that nearly consumes Makina in her “slippery bitch of a city,” (a silver-mining town in Mexico that is “riddled with bullet holes and tunnels bored from five centuries of voracious silver lust”) serves to foreshadow the instability and unpredictability of her journey, as well as her perseverance: Despite being a woman and immigrant, she maintains the upper-hand throughout each navigation of persons, places, and spaces. When she manages to track down her brother, who had ventured to the North three years prior on the false pretenses of inherited land from their absent father, she realizes that he is no longer the man she knew, and that if he came home, he would no longer survive in their culture– a commonality among immigrants returned– so she opts to withhold the message from her mother, which implores him to come home. When she is in the North herself, Makina is careful to not enjoy herself; she doesn’t want to become too engrossed in the wonder of the “dreamland,” past the point of no return. Her journey ends when she is led into an underground room by a trusted guide and given a new American identity, despite her intentions to return to her city, suggesting that her life in America will have trials that liken it to the underworld.
Zoe James-Collins ’19