Letter from North Carolina — From the December 2013 issue

Jump Juan Crow

A Southern family struggles to avoid deportation

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Chatham County, North Carolina, population 63,505, is in the geographic center of the state. We are 710 square miles, eighty-nine people per square mile. An improvised web of old roads has settled across the county, most of them named for a long-gone church that once sat at the road’s end, or for the family that once owned the land they now transect, or the store that once stood at the crossroads. Even the names of those places still standing can confuse an outsider. For example, on Saturdays you can drive down Reno Sharpe Store Road to go play your guitar at what’s known as Reno Sharpe’s Store, though it’s no longer a store, and Reno died a few years ago. You would only know this if you’d lived here awhile.

Out on Lorax Lane they manufacture and sell biodiesel, which explains the incongruous number of old Mercedes sedans clanking around. Many of the fields formerly planted with cotton now grow organic vegetables for the local market, or they’re filled with chicken barns and cell towers. Day by day the rest go back to pine forest. In the towns, the detritus of the storefronts’ many transformations — the drywall, the nails, the broken bits of concrete, the old newspapers — is everywhere crunching underfoot. The patron saint of our Catholic parish is St. Julia, a martyred Carthaginian slave.

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is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine and the writer-in-residence at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

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  • Razon77

    Hearkening back to “This Land is not Your Land” from the February 2013 issue, this presents an emotional portrait of the quandary faced by so many of the illegal/undocumented. The “Almanzas” seem like such a good family. However, one truly troubling sticking point (like several such points in the previous article): what about the $8,000 in retribution? Who was the victim? By way of background, there is a Social security-type system in Mexico- an identifier number tied to federal benefits would not be unknown to Maria. The American citizen victims of identity theft- the majority of whom are probably Hispanic- may deserve a future look by Harper’s.

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