Goizueta Review of Groody Border of Death Valley of Life

Groody, Daniel G. Border of Death, Valley of Life: An Immigrant Journey of Heart and Spirit. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. Pages, xv + 188. Paper, $24.95. ISBN: 0742522415 Reviewed by: Roberto Goizueta While the literature on Mexican immigrants is extensive, covering a broad range of disciplines, little has been written on the spiritual lives of Mexican immigrants. If only as a remedy for this lacuna, then, the publication of Daniel Groody’s book Border of Death. Valley of Life represents an important achievement. Yet the book's value is not limited to its significance as a resource for research on immigration, for this is a volume that one will return to over and over again, in search not only of intellectual insight but spiritual sustenance as well. At its most basic level, this is the moving story of the author's experience accompanying a migrant community in Coachella, California in its life of struggle, work, and prayer. More specifically, Groody recounts his participation in the Valley Missionary Program in Coachella, an evangelization and spiritual renewal program begun by a member of the author’s religious community, Father William Lewers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. The book’s unifying theme is corazón (heart), a term which, as Groody notes, “in Mexican Spanish has a totally different meaning than heart in the English language, where it is often separated from knowledge and reduced to sentimentality” (8). Here, el corazón symbolizes the holistic worldview that, integrating affect and intellect, is incarnated in the lives of the Coachella community, and reflected in the author's own methodology, where a rigorous analysis is rooted in and returns to the researcher’s own active participation in the ongoing life of the community. Whether viewed as “participatory action research” or, in Antonio Gramsci’s sense, the work of an “organic intellectual,” the result is a powerful testament to a God whose intimate presence in the daily struggles of an immigrant community is palpable and transformative. The book is neatly divided into four chapters: Corazón Destrozado (The Crushed Heart: The Dynamics of Mexican Emigration and Immigration), Corazón Rehabilitado (The Rehabilitated Heart: The Dynamics of Healing and Empowerment), Corazón Animado (The Animated Heart: The Dynamics of Conversion and Transformation), Corazón Florido (The Flowering of the Heart: The Dynamics of Inculturation and Mission). The four sections trace the journey of the community's corazón from brokenness, through rehabilitation and transformation, to an empowering and revivifying union with God. Indeed, this diary of a people's spiritual journey appears almost as the communal, historical embodiment of another corazón, that of St. John of the Cross traversing the “Dark Night of the Soul.” The crushing pain of leaving behind home and family and the daily confrontation with death during the border-crossing are depicted with often harrowing directness. Integrated into these accounts is a devastating analysis of the brutality the immigrants face in the new land. “‘The most difficult thing,’ said Jaime, ‘is feeling the impotence of not being able to do anything’” (17). The middle chapters examine the healing and transformation of these crushed corazónes as they share their sufferings and minister to each other through their participation in the Valley Missionary Program. The subsequent chapters detail and examine the newfound dignity and the new life celebrated in the midst of this common struggle, a new life that, in the book's poignant final chapter, is identified with Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Guadalupe narrative. Particularly helpful for the theological scholar will be the insightful way in which Groody uses the work of Bernard Lonergan and Donald Gelpi as a framework for analyzing the community's pilgrimage as a conversion process. Here, Groody does an admirable job of explaining methodological concepts clearly while perceptively exploring their practical implications in the life of a marginalized community. This is a beautiful book in every sense of the term, and it deserves a broad readership; it can be read fruitfully on many levels, from that of the novice undergraduate to that of the professional research scholar. The text is supplemented by numerous black-and-white photographs of scenes from the life of the Coachella community, photographs which are noteworthy in themselves, conveying powerfully the community's spiritual pilgrimage. Other added benefits to the student will be the narrative of Our Lady of Guadalupe appended to the text, and the fine index included in the book.