Page 376. " He turned over his card. Printed on it was the calavera "
Calavera de azúcar
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCalavera de azúcar - Credit: El Comandante

Spanish for skull, the calavera is usually associated with Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, such as the calaveras de azúcar ('sugar skulls'). The term calavera is also used to refer to any artistic rendering of skulls, such as the lithographs of José Guadalupe Posada or the one printed on the Lotería card given to Billy. 

The origins of the skull in Mexican tradition are somewhat obscure, although generally viewed as a result of the intermingling of Spanish and Mesoamerican cultures. This is perhaps most obvious in the calavera de azúcar tradition, which can trace its lineage back to the Aztec practice of decorating human skulls with jewels and mosaics.


'Gran calavera eléctrica' ('Grand electric skull'), by José Guadalupe Posada
Public Domain'Gran calavera eléctrica' ('Grand electric skull'), by José Guadalupe Posada - Credit: Library of Congress
Mesoamerican decorated skull (c. 15th-16th century)
Creative Commons AttributionMesoamerican decorated skull (c. 15th-16th century) - Credit: Beesnest McClain


Page 384. " There is the latifundio of Babícora, he said. With all the wealth and power of Mr Hearst to call upon. And there are the campesinos in their rags. Which do you believe will prevail? "
William Randolph Hearst
Public DomainWilliam Randolph Hearst - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After the Revolution finally put an end to Hearst’s aspirations to rule Mexico for himself and the lands he had acquired in Chihuahua came under threat from President Lázaro Cárdenas's land reforms, his enmity for the Mexican people deepened.

Hearst had used his newspapers to call for U.S. military intervention in Mexico throughout the years of the Revolution, and had even been investigated by the U.S. Bureau of Investigation (a forerunner of the F.B.I.) in 1916 for secretly financing revolts near his ranch in Mexico and for funding a military expedition directed against Mexico. It was even rumoured that Hearst's involvement in the campaign to criminalise marijuana in the 1930s was motivated by his dislike of Mexicans, believed by many white American citizens to be the principal distributors and consumers of the drug.

After Álvaro Obregón came to power Hearst seemed to accept the right of the Mexican people to govern their own country, but this did not prevent him from continuing to rule his estate in Mexico like a medieval fiefdom; using his teams of lawyers to hold up Cárdenas's land reforms, believing as a U.S. citizen the abolition of the hacienda system did not apply to him.

As it happens Qujiada’s claim that Hearst’s days were numbered would prove prescient. Following Hearst’s death in 1951, La Babícora was sold to the Mexican government where it was broken up and divided into smaller estates.

Click here for a 1953 Time article written on the sale of La Babícora, appropriately entitled Mexico: End of An Empire.

Page 385. " Socorro Rivera tried to organize the workers against the latifundio. He was killed at the paraje of Las Varitas by the Guardia Blancas five years ago "

Not much is known about Socorro Rivera before his arrival in the Babícora area in 1938. A native of San Luis Potosí, it was rumoured that he was a former soldier who had come with the full support of President Lázaro Cárdenas in organising the peasants in the expropriation of lands from the Babícora estate.

Rivera was murdered by Hearst’s Guardia Blanca mercenaries on the 14th April 1939.

Page 385. " the Mexicans are eager to reclaim their indian blood "
18th century painting containing complete set of 16 casta combinations (racial classifications in Spanish colonies in the Americas)
Public Domain18th century painting containing complete set of 16 casta combinations (racial classifications in Spanish colonies in the Americas) - Credit: Museo Nacional del Virreinato

The major ethnic division in Mexico is between mestizos and indígenas (Indians).

Mestizos are people of mixed ancestry – usually Spanish and Indian, although African slaves and other Europeans were also significant elements. Indians are descendants of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic inhabitants who have retained their distinct identity.

Mestizos are the overwhelming majority, and together with the few people of supposed pure Spanish descent they hold most positions of power in Mexican society.


A representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. The painting's caption states 'Spanish and Indian produce Mestizo'
Public DomainA representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. The painting's caption states 'Spanish and Indian produce Mestizo' - Credit: Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla
Page 388. " The red sandstone dolmens that stood upright "
Poulnabrone dolmen (Co Clare, Ireland)
Creative Commons AttributionPoulnabrone dolmen (Co Clare, Ireland) - Credit: Steve Ford Elliott

Dolmens are prehistoric monuments usually formed by three or more uprights stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone.

Most date from the early Neolithic period, and were usually covered with earth or smaller rocks to create a burial mound.

Page 389. " the red stone steles "
Honduran stele depicting King K'ac Yipyaj Chan K'awiil
Public DomainHonduran stele depicting King K'ac Yipyaj Chan K'awiil - Credit: Frederick Catherwood

A stele is an upright stone or wooden slab with an inscribed or sculptured surface.

They were usually erected for funerals or to commemorate a particular event or person, and sometimes used to delineate land ownership.



Steles on the Tophet of Carthage, Tunisia.
Public DomainStelae on the Tophet of Carthage, Tunisia. - Credit: BishkekRocks
Page 390. " He knew her well enough, this old woman of Mexico, her sons long dead in that blood and violence which her prayers and her prostrations seemed powerless to appease "
Pietà, by Luis de Morales (16th century)
Public DomainPietà, by Luis de Morales (16th century) - Credit: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid

The metaphor of the mother who loses her sons to the greater cause seems too obvious to need stating in a Catholic country which venerates the Virgin Mary.

It is easy to see why McCarthy would be drawn to Roman Catholic imagery in The Crossing - a form of Christianity characterised by ritual, themes of martyrdom and the power of blood.