Will Hobbs

Crossing the Wire

  • 40-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 28 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing
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Crossing the Wire Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 40-page guide for “Crossing the Wire” by Will Hobbs includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 28 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The American Dream and Hard Work and Globalization and the Changing World Economy.

Plot Summary

Crossing the Wire tells the story of Victor Flores, a Mexican teenager who leaves his village of Los Árboles to illegally cross the border into the United States. Victor’s father died while working in the U.S. four years earlier, leaving Victor “the man of the family” (14). His family has been living off of the money Victor makes farming corn, but free trade agreements with the U.S. have made Mexican corn worthless. The only option Victor sees to support his family is to “cross the wire” into the United States.

Victor’s childhood best friend, Rico Gonzales, has recently crossed the border himself. One of Rico’s brothers who lives in the U.S. sent Rico $1,500 to pay a guide, called a coyote, to help Rico cross the border. Rico was going to attend technical school and work in a factory to support his parents in their old age, but he has always loved U.S. culture and is excited for the adventure of crossing.

Unlike Rico, Victor has no money to pay a coyote, so he has to make the difficult and dangerous crossing on his own. He knows he will need to find another, more experienced loner to follow, and he spots an older man, Miguel, on his bus ride to the border. Mexican police stop the bus, and Victor gets kicked off because he doesn’t have documentation proving his Mexican citizenship. He fears he will get deported to Guatemala, where his family is originally from, so he runs away from the police and hops a train to the border.

On his first train-riding attempt, the police come and Victor has to jump off while the train is still moving. He hits his head and has to get stitches at a hospital. He sneaks out of the hospital before the police can question him, and jumps another train, where he meets Julio, a teenager from Honduras who is also traveling to the border. Julio has crossed once before, and he helps Victor stay safe on the train and navigate the border city of Nogales when they arrive.

Julio plans to cross the wire using the tunnels under the border in Nogales, but the gates are only open during storms. When a storm comes, Julio floats across in an inner tube, but Victor is too nervous to try, so he is once again on his own. Unsure how he will proceed, he sees an older man who has been beaten limping by and realizes it is Miguel, the man he met on the bus. He follows Miguel onto another bus, and when Miguel pays the driver for an unscheduled stop, Victor gets off, too.

Miguel doesn’t want company, but Victor convinces the older man that he won’t be any trouble. They walk across the border following a route through the high mountains that Miguel has carefully mapped. Their destination is La Perra Flaca, a spot where Miguel knows they will be able to get fieldwork. They are near their destination when Border Patrol spots them. The injured Miguel cannot run fast enough to escape, so he sends Victor with his map to continue the route. Victor continues on the route, but he loses time in a snowstorm and is forced to look for a shortcut. He is caught just a few miles from La Perra Flaca, when he attempts to hide in a fisherman’s truck-bed toolbox and is subsequently taken to Tucson for processing at the Juvenile Detention Center.

The Juvenile Detention Center sends Victor back to Nogales. He is at a soup kitchen in Nogales when he spots the yellow baseball cap of his childhood friend, Rico. The two boys share their stories. Rico has also been caught across the border and deported. They plan a new route, and decide to attempt a second crossing on the border with an Indian reservation, near the town of Sasabe, Arizona.

In Sasabe, Victor and Rico meet Jarra, a tattooed and clearly wealthy former gang member and drug runner who now leads people across the border. Rico arranges for he and Victor to join Jarra on a drug run, carrying the food for the mules, but lies to Victor about the plan. By the time Victor realizes that his friend has lied, it’s too late, and the boys are forced to join the drug run.

On the drug run, Rico learns that Jarra plans to kill the boys when they are done, because they could identify the drug runners. They boys run away, but Jarra, who is armed, follows. The boys throw rocks at him and scramble up a steep escarpment, where they wait Jarra out for the night. While on watch, Victor sees a jaguar climbing across a narrow ledge leading down the mountain, and he knows that this is how the boys will escape. They sneak across the ledge and are down the mountain before Jarra even knows they are gone.

In the valley, the boys flag down a truck and ask for help. The driver agrees to take them to Rico’s brother in Tucson, but when they arrive, they learn that Rico’s brother recently left because of trouble with the police. The driver takes them to La Perra Flaca, where they hope they will find Miguel, but when they arrive, the older man is not there. The boys are able to join a crew headed to Washington to pick asparagus. Victor is happy working in the fields, where he earns $250 in his first pay period to send home, but Rico misses his family. Rico decides to return to Mexico, where he will attend school and take care of his parents.

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Chapters 1-4