The Transformative Border: The Changing Identities of the Border-Crossing Protagonists in Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

The novel Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, published in 2009, deals with the US-Mexico border not only as a physical space but one that transforms. It transforms the identity of every person who crosses it—sometimes literally, as they receive new identities to live and work in the United States—in that the process transforms them and changes their perceptions of themselves and their world. Each chapter deals with a different space, set in a different place, but perhaps the most curious space is that of the border, since it seems that the journey to cross changes every person who attempts it.

For example, the protagonist, Makina, feels uncomfortable with her identity as Mexican, especially that she speaks three different languages. Her brother, on the other hand, travels to the United States in a quest to reclaim the land that supposedly belongs to the family. When Makina meets him, she barely recognizes him, and he says that it is impossible for him to return.

In this essay I will examine the situation of the US-Mexico border according to the academic world. Afterwards I will contrast the portrayal of the identities of the two protagonists of the novel—Makina and her brother—before and after they each separately cross. Finally, I will analyze the border as a conceptual space that transforms the identities of those who cross it according to Border Studies, to arrive at the conclusion of just how the border has transformed the identities of the protagonists.


  • Spanish American Studies