‘Nobody’s Pilgrims’: A gritty frontera twist
In his latest novel, Mexican-American Sergio Troncoso deals with immigration and the possibility of escape
MORE IN THIS SECTION
Three teenagers are traveling northeast in a navy blue Ford pickup. Turi has fled his abusive family to see the beautiful New England landscape he's always dreamed of. Arnulfo is undocumented and wants only to find someplace to work and live. Molly seeks a new life far away from her nowhere Missouri town. Turi and Arnulfo are best friends. Molly and Turi are falling in love.
But for all their innocence, violence follows the trio at every turn. The mean viejito who owns the truck wants it back. The narco who hid a deadly shipment in the truck really, really wants it back. There's the unmoving hitman the narco sends after the trio who will kill anyone standing in his way. Turi, Arnulfo, and Molly might outrun the carnage that's stalking them, but they can't elude the chaos they're carrying, no matter how far they go.
A literary novel with the pacing of a thriller, Nobody's Pilgrims (Cinco Puntos Press, 2022) is the latest novel from Sergio Troncoso, a Mexican-American author from El Paso, TX, whose books and other work deal with immigrants, Hispanic culture and growing up in a binational region.
“It’s not just writing books about immigrants or Mexican-Americans, but it’s also about those who are not immigrants or Mexican Americans to give these books a chance, to pick them up, and to read them. I come back to this: you will learn something about survival and grit by reading about my abuelita, for example,” the author recently said to El Paso Matters.
For Troncoso, outgoing president of the Texas Institute of Letters, a nonprofit honor society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and recognize distinctive literary achievement, writers “should do their best to show why their writing should matter to everyone, why writing about immigrants should matter to non-immigrants and why not coming together as a community or country will weaken everyone?”
"As a Mexican-American writer, I teach people about Ysleta, I engage with their questions and even their mistaken assumptions about the border, I have arguments and debates, and I have created friendships in many different communities. All of this work, I hope, will help spread empathy toward Mexican Americans and immigrants. But it’s a never ending task,” he said.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Sergio Troncoso was born and grew up on the east side of El Paso, Texas in rural Ysleta. During their first years in Texas, his family lived with kerosene lamps and stoves and an outhouse in the backyard. He attended Ysleta High School and became editor of the school newspaper.
Troncoso graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received two graduate degrees in international relations and philosophy from Yale University. He won a Fulbright scholarship to Mexico, where he studied economics, politics, and literature.
He was inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Alumni Hall of Fame and the Texas Institute of Letters. He also received the Literary Legacy Award from the El Paso Community College. Troncoso is a member of PEN America, a writers’ organization protecting free expression and celebrating literature, and the Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization of writers.
Troncoso is the author of eight books: A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son, The Last Tortilla and Other Stories, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, the novels The Nature of Truth and From This Wicked Patch of Dust. As editor, he's helped with Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature on Families in between Worlds and Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-Violence.
Nobody’s Pilgrims is his latest novel.