The Devil’s Highway

Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos/“Mendez” Character Analysis

The “pollero,” or smuggler, of the Wellton 26, Jesús was just nineteen at the time of the ordeal, and had been swept up in the “gangster” lifestyle of border smuggling by his close friend, Rodrigo Maradona. Jesús was identifiable by the “rooster-like” swoop of red-dyed hair which hung in front of his face. Though Jesús—who adopted the alias “Mendez” once he began working out of San Luis—saw himself as a badass, a revolutionary, and a Coyote, he was actually more on the level of the “pollos” he was charged with transporting through the desert. Though Mendez’s exact thoughts and motives will never be known because of his refusal to testify, it appears that he attempted to steal his pollos’ money and abandon them to die after becoming hopelessly lost in the wilds of the Cabeza Prieta.

Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos/“Mendez” Quotes in The Devil’s Highway

The The Devil’s Highway quotes below are all either spoken by Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos/“Mendez” or refer to Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos/“Mendez”. 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:
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown and Company edition of The Devil’s Highway published in 2004.
Chapter 12 Quotes

They agreed to stick together and walk north. All of them. It had to be north. Mendez had gone north, the bastard, and he was saving himself. They’d follow Mendez. Once more, the men stood, and they walked. Now the illegals were cutting for sign.

Related Symbols: La Cabeza Prieta
Page Number: 158-159
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos/“Mendez” Character Timeline in The Devil’s Highway

The timeline below shows where the character Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos/“Mendez” appears in The Devil’s Highway. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: El Guía
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
...hanging over his eye.” He earned the nickname “Rooster Boy,” and though he went by Mendez, his real name was Jesús Antonio Lopez Ramos, and he was born on December 25th.... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
...innumerable “heinous” stories of walkers being abandoned, abused, or otherwise compromised by their polleros. In Mendez’s letter to the court, he insists that, when setting out on the Wellton 26’s journey,... (full context)
Chapter 5: Jesús Walks Among Us
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
...questions anyway, but they are unable to offer very much helpful information—other than to identify Mendez as their pollero. (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Jesús—aka Mendez—had come illegally from Guadalajara to work in a San Antonio brickyard. He hated the... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
Maradona told Jesús that he was making a thousand dollars a week moonlighting as a Coyote, and offered... (full context)
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
Jesús liked “bold” music which lamented how land had been “stolen at gunpoint” from Natives. Urrea... (full context)
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
In San Luis, on an early run, Maradona and Jesús loaded illegals onto a long-haul bus to Sonoita. From there they walked the thirty miles... (full context)
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
The Border Patrol was on the Cercas gang’s tail, and Jesús was caught a couple of times. His name began cropping up in border reports, and... (full context)
Chapter 6: In Sonoita
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
In Sonoita, Jesús and Maradona took rooms in a stinking hovel of a border hotel. El Negro hooked... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
...arrived in Sonoita by bus, they would stay in one of the fleabag hotels until Mendez, Maradona, Santos, or Lauro met them the night before the run to bring them over... (full context)
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
The Saturday before the Wellton 26 ordeal, Mendez was arrested after an otherwise successful walk at a “nameless outpost” near the town of... (full context)
Chapter 7: A Pepsi for the Apocalypse
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
Urrea imagines Mendez waking up on the morning of May 19th—the day of the Wellton 26’s walk through... (full context)
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
...the safehouse, the walkers are beginning to wake up. They eat a meager breakfast, then Mendez, Santos, and Lauro arrive. The polleros advise the walkers to go over to the store... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
At the bus station, Mendez urges the men to “look normal” while he bribes a bus driver. The walkers must... (full context)
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
After five minutes, Mendez stops the men and tells them they are going to take another ride. Mendez walks... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
...“big rock” which signals entry to the path they will walk, they disembark once again. Mendez briefs them on what their trip will hold: he promises that they will walk only... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
What Mendez does not tell the walkers is that they have arrived at the big rock a... (full context)
Chapter 8: Bad Step at Bluebird
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
...to catch their breaths—Reymundo Sr. attempts to help his son, Reymundo Jr., with the ascent. Mendez knows that the “surest way to beat La Migra [is] to keep to the high... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
At around 11:30 p.m., Mendez would later claim, the men were caught off-guard by bright lights. Mendez told the men... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
...them took the rest stop to enjoy the snacks they had brought for the journey. Mendez reassures the men that the highway is right over the hill, and that they should... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
The signcutters who traced Mendez’s route in the days following the rescue of the survivors referred to him as an... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
Though Mendez thought he was headed north, he was actually headed slightly off-track: north-northwest. Mendez continually cut... (full context)
Chapter 9: Killed by the Light
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...starts to heat up. Animals awaken, and the men worry aloud that they are lost. Mendez reassures them that they are on track. The night temperatures had hovered in the eighties,... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Long Walk
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
...chaos descends upon the Wellton 26. The men are deep in the Cabeza Prieta. If Mendez had known where to look, Urrea writes, he could have found “several watering spots.” The... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
...hot as the desert all around them. At noon, the group stops to rest, and Mendez recommends they rest until nightfall—again, he assures everyone that there are “just a few more... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
After nightfall, the desert remains as hot as it was during the day. Mendez orders the men to their feet, and “inexplicably” makes a forty-five degree turn to the... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
By 8 p.m., Mendez’s “suicidal hike” veers south. All of the men’s water bottles, at this point, are empty.... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
...fall behind, and one walker announces that two companions have become lost from the group. Mendez tells the group that the lost men can “suck [his] cock,” and carries on. The... (full context)
Chapter 12: Broken Promise
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Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
By the morning of Monday, May 21st, even Mendez is “convinced that they were all going to die.” The men have begun to consume... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
The men wait for Mendez’s return, tormented by heat, thirst, and pain. Before 9 a.m., the temperature is in the... (full context)
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Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Mendez and Lauro, meanwhile, are making good time on their own journey north. Urrea speculates that... (full context)
Chapter 14: Helicopters
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Meanwhile, Mendez and Lauro struggle through the desert on their own. Although they have traversed a great... (full context)
Desolation and Desperation Theme Icon
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
While “cutters, Marines, cops, EMTs, [and] rangers” hunt all night for other survivors, Mendez remains asleep under a bush. When he and Lauro are finally found, Lauro is dead.... (full context)
Chapter 15: Aftermath
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
...of what they should say—and some are still acting insane from the walk. Nahum identifies Mendez, “the guy with the rooster hair,” as the pollero who abandoned them, despite refusing to... (full context)
Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
Bearing Witness Theme Icon
Justice catches up with Mendez when the U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona vows to take him down. Mendez... (full context)
Chapter 16: Home
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...tells them that they are “heroes of the republic.” Meanwhile, American guards keep watch over Mendez like “valuable prey.” Mendez knows his life is over, though he is only nineteen years... (full context)
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Myth, Religion, and The Spirit World Theme Icon
Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
The survivors “ping-pong” through the system. Mendez goes to jail in Phoenix, and continues to stonewall interviewers—even agents from the Mexican government.... (full context)
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Humanity and “Illegality” Theme Icon
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In November, Mendez pleads guilty to 25 counts of smuggling. Each count carries a heavy fine, and a... (full context)