Finding home

  • Book cover of "Tunnel Kids"

    We were all outside watching the sunset from the casita, which had a high view of the city. From there, the "big picture" was not abstract. It was real, tangible, visible - we could just make out the Burger King sign towering beyond the border fence. The sun was blood red, and then the whole sky was washed with soft, liquid color ... "It is beautiful," I said to myself in astonishment, for it was the first time I had thought that all day. All the kids were standing near me, watching too. Boston said, "You can see everything from here. Everything."
       - Lawrence J. Taylor, Tunnel Kids

When you're in trouble, almost anywhere can start to look like home. For a group of Mexican teenagers in the border town of Nogales, Sonora, home includes a safe house called Mi Nueva Casa, a series of temporary crash pads, and a network of horrifically dirty and dangerous drainage tunnels. The teenagers make a living by guiding - and sometimes robbing - the illegal immigrants that pass through the tunnels on their way to the United States.

Writer Lawrence Taylor and photographer Maeve Hickey traveled from Ireland to spend two summers in Nogales, where they formed close and complicated relationships with several of the teenagers that frequent the tunnels. In Taylor's brief story, the "tunnel kids" - Flor and Fanta, Jesœs, Guanatos, Romel and many others - get a chance to tell their own tales.

Taylor is always sympathetic to the teenagers, and aware of the larger forces that limit their options. Yet he doesn't disguise his frequent frustrations with their drug use and gang clannishness, and he willingly confronts his own ambivalence about his temporary role in their lives. Hickey's black-and-white portraits tell a story of their own, capturing a huge range of emotions in a few poses.

Tunnel Kids, by Lawrence J. Taylor and Maeve Hickey, University of Arizona Press, 2001. Paperback: $17.95. 148 pages, 26 black-and-white photographs.