• Lincoln, Nebraska
March 15, 2019 - June 27, 2019
The “Tucson Sector” encompasses most of the state of Arizona, including 262 miles of its border with Mexico. This territory, designated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is part of the Sonoran desert—an ecologically diverse, spectacular landscape of rough terrain and extreme conditions. Water sources are scarce. Temperatures frequently rise above 100 degrees and fall below freezing at night. Violence on both sides of the border—at the hands of “coyotes” (human smugglers), sex traffickers, and Border Patrol agents—is also a threat.
Despite these dangers, entrenched violence and poverty at home motivate many Mexicans and Central Americans to try to cross the border into the United States. Many perish on the journey, often from heatstroke. In The Devil’s Highway, author Luis Alberto Urrea describes this kind of death: “Your temperature redlines—you hit 106, 107, 108 degrees. Your body panics and dilates all blood capillaries near the surface, hoping to flood your skin with blood to cool it off. You blush. Your eyes turn red: blood vessels burst, and later, the tissue of the whites literally cooks.”
Between 1997 and 2017, U.S. Border Protection reported more than 2,700 deaths in the Tucson Sector. Human remains that cannot be identified are labeled “unknown” or desconocido/a in Spanish. The Migrant Quilt Project calls attention to the humanity of those who die trying to cross the Mexico-U.S. border—the would-be immigrants whose names and personhood are often missing from abstract conversations about illegal immigration.
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
1523 N. 33rd St.
Lincoln, NE 68583