Spirit Run | CAI

Spirit Run

Nov 19, 2020

On The Point, an interview with Noé Álvarez. His new book is "Spirit Run: a 6,000 Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land."

Growing up in Yakima, Washington, Noé Álvarez worked at an apple-packing plant alongside his mother, who “slouched over a conveyor belt of fruit, shoulder to shoulder with mothers conditioned to believe this was all they could do with their lives.” Escape came in the form of a university scholarship, but as a first-generation Latino college-goer, Álvarez struggled to fit in.  At nineteen, he learned about a Native American/First Nations movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys: they organized epic marathons meant to renew cultural connections across a North America older than its present political borders. He dropped out of school and joined a group of Dené, Secwépemc, Gitxsan, Dakelh, Apache, Tohono O’odham, Seri, Purépecha, and Maya runners, all fleeing difficult beginnings. 

Telling their stories alongside his own, Álvarez writes about a four-month-long journey that pushed him to his limits. He writes not only of overcoming hunger, thirst, and fear—dangers included stone-throwing motorists and a mountain lion—but also of asserting Indigenous and working-class humanity in a capitalist society where oil extraction, deforestation, and substance abuse wreck communities. Running through mountains, deserts, and cities, and through the Mexican territory his parents left behind, Álvarez forges a new relationship with the land, and with the act of running, carrying with him the knowledge of his parents’ migration, and—against all odds in a society that exploits his body and rejects his spirit—the dream of a liberated future.