Athletic Shoes Found in Sonoran Desert

Athletic Shoes Found in Sonoran Desert

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A pair of woman’s size 3, synthetic-leather athletic shoes in white. On the side are ink pen inscriptions: "Te adoro" I love you, "Te extraño" I miss you, "extraño los besos" I miss your kisses. These shoes were collected in a remote part of the Sonoran Desert near the Mexican border. The past 20 years has seen a rise in unauthorized border crossing, border enforcement procedures, and debates about who and how migrants should be let into the country.
As the US federal immigration enforcement strategy known as Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD) increased the security presence around urban ports of entry in the mid-1990s, there was a shift in undocumented migration towards more remote regions of the American Southwest. Those making the perilous journey through this inhospitable desert landscape faced extreme temperatures (summer temperatures as high as 100° F/38° C and winter temperatures approaching freezing), rugged terrain, abuse from coyotes (human smugglers), and the risk of getting caught by the Border Patrol.
The site where this was found likely served as a way station used by human smugglers or a site of Border Patrol apprehension. Typical items found at these sites include personal hygiene products such as combs, backpacks, excess clothes, and empty water bottles. In preparation for the arduous journey across, migrants might purchase inexpensive sneakers like this one. They are often poorly constructed and ill-fitting and may cause discomfort and/or serious injuries along the way. Migrants often report forming severe blisters due to ill-fitting sneakers. Many times these shoes become damaged during the crossing. As seen on the shoes above, migrants will often personalize their personal items with motivational messages to help them make the journey more bearable. The inscription written in Spanish translate into “I love you, “I miss you”, and “I miss those kisses.”
Object Name
Associated Place
United States: Arizona, Territory of, Nogales
Physical Description
synthetic leather (overall material)
overall: 4 in x 4 in x 9 in; 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ethnic
Many Voices, One Nation
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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