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Spirit Run

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. 

Mindy Todd is the host and producer of The Point on WCAI which examines critical issues for Cape Cod and the Islands. She brings more than 30 years of experience in radio and television to WCAI.