Signs Preceding the End of the World

by

Yuri Herrera

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Makina’s Brother Character Analysis

Makina’s journey is motivated by her enigmatic brother, who initially leaves the Little Town on a quest to prove that his family rightfully owns a contested plot of land nearby, but gets swept up in his own travels and ends up staying north of the U.S.-Mexico border for years. During his long stay up north, he sends just two or three short messages home. Cora sends Makina to find him and deliver a message of her own—which is actually just her handwritten plea for him to return home. When she finally tracks him down, Makina is astonished to discover that her brother is an active-duty soldier in the United States Army, living on a military base under someone else’s identity. After he crossed the border, Makina’s brother explains, an anglo family recruited him to take their son’s place in the military, offering him a sum of money they never expected having to deliver, because they assumed Makina’s brother would die in the war. Instead, he returned alive, accepted the little renumeration the family could muster, and continued living as their son. He has no plans to return home to Mexico, but has by no means embraced his new identity—when Makina leaves him to set out on what is supposed to be her own return journey, he has “money and a new name, but no clue what to do.” Like his sister, he has a way with words—he is even helping fellow “homegrown” Mexicans perfect their English. Makina and her brother’s anticlimactic meeting underlines the way transborder migration transforms people’s sense of identity and relationships with their family. Literally inhabiting a new identity, Makina’s brother loses track of what he was initially doing in the United States, but also sheds his old attachment to his family and sense of duty to them.

Makina’s Brother Quotes in Signs Preceding the End of the World

The Signs Preceding the End of the World quotes below are all either spoken by Makina’s Brother or refer to Makina’s Brother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the And Other Stories edition of Signs Preceding the End of the World published in 2015.
Chapter 7 Quotes

Neither one at first recognized the specter of the other. In fact, Makina stood up, greeted him and began to express her gratitude and ask a question before picking up on the soldier’s uncanny resemblance to her brother and the unmistakable way in which they differed; he had the same sloping forehead and stiff hair, but looked hardier, and more washed-out. In that fraction of a second she realized her mistake, and that this was her brother, but also that that didn’t undo the mistake.

Page Number: 87-8
Explanation and Analysis:

It’s not like in the movies, he said. I know that here everything seems like in the movies, but it’s not like that there. You spend days and days shut in and it’s like nothing’s going on at all and then one day you go out but you don’t know who you’re fighting or where you’re going to find them. And suddenly you hear your homie died that morning and no one saw where the bullet came from, or you come across a bomb nobody saw get thrown, but there it was, waiting for you. So you gotta go look for them. But when you find them they’re not doing jack and you just gotta believe it was them, they were the ones, otherwise you go nuts.

Related Characters: Makina’s Brother (speaker), Makina
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

He’s homegrown, he said. Joined up just like me, but still doesn’t speak the lingo. Whereas me, I learned it, so every time we see each other he wants to practice. He speaks all one day in past tense, all one day in present, all one day in future, so he can learn his verbs. Today was the future.

Related Characters: Makina’s Brother (speaker), Makina
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

1 guess that’s what happens to everybody who comes, he continued. We forget what we came for, but there’s this reflex to act like we still have some secret plan.

Why not leave, then?

Not now. Too late. I already fought for these people. There must be something they fight so hard for. So I’m staying in the army while I figure out what it is.

Related Characters: Makina’s Brother (speaker), Makina
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Makina’s Brother Character Timeline in Signs Preceding the End of the World

The timeline below shows where the character Makina’s Brother appears in Signs Preceding the End of the World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Earth
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
...before going on with the task her mother Cora had given her: to deliver her brother a paper. As usual, Cora embraced Makina and comforted her before sending her off. (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Makina asks Aitch where to find her brother and confirms that she is “gonna cross.” Aitch orders Makina pulque in a language she... (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...in his politics. Makina has planned the crossing and knows how to get to her brother, so she is visiting Mr. Q to make sure she can get back. One of... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Water Crossing
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
Three years before Makina’s journey, “one of Mr. Aitch’s thugs” convinced her brother “that they owned a little piece of land” across the river. Makina’s brother set out... (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...for a lil land”—she laughs and explains that she is going because of her “stupid” brother’s quest “for a little land.” The man introduces himself as Chucho and offers her a... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Obsidian Mound
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
The old man begins to tell Makina about her brother, who is “alive and kicking,” but “changed.” Makina’s brother also helped Mr. Aitch transport a... (full context)
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...then propositions that Makina “come work for” him. She says she is “here for my brother,” and he looks around before exiting the stadium with all his men, leaving Makina all... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Place Where the Wind Cuts like a Knife
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
Makina’s brother had sent “two or three messages” back home. In the first he reported that “everything’s... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Place Where Flags Wave
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...a woman who reminds Makina of Cora. The woman explains that she cared for Makina’s brother when he first arrived a year before. Makina’s brother left to work for “an anglo... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Place Where People’s Hearts Are Eaten
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
Waiting to enter the military base, Makina realizes she has no good options if her brother turns out to be dead or untraceable. After a few minutes, the uniformed soldier she... (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Makina’s brother tells Makina “an incredible story.” A woman employed him to “save” her family by “help[ing]”... (full context)
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Makina’s brother “felt an unspeakable fear” when he shipped out for the war, which he reluctantly tells... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
As Makina’s brother walks with her, they meet another soldier who briefly describes his previous night at the... (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Makina’s brother now has “money and a new name, but no clue what to do.” Like everyone... (full context)