Friction, Conversion, and Contention

Prophetic Politics in the Tohono O’odham Borderlands

Article appearing in Latin American Research Review

  • Author:
  • Tony Lucero
  • Publisher: Latin American Research Review
  • Date: 2014

Abstract: As a consequence of US border policies that funnel migrants through the harsh Sonoran Desert, migrants since the 1990s have been crossing and dying in large num- bers on Tohono O’odham lands. This article examines the spiritual and political journey of Mike Wilson, a tribal member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who puts water out for migrants against the wishes of his tribal council. Wilson’s road to human rights activism was a winding one. In the 1980s, he was a member of the US Army Special Forces stationed in El Salvador; politically, he was, in his words, “to the right of Attila the Hun.” How did a Green Beret become an outspoken human rights activist? This article argues that religion provided the material and cultural conditions of possibility for Wilson’s conversions and was an important source of “friction” that both enabled and constrained his prophetic style of activism.