Taylor, in the company of photographer Maeve Hickey, offers the vivid record of ""a series of encounters--amusing, painful, often strange, and nearly always unforeseen,"" along the road that crosses the Sonoran desert, linking Mexico and Arizona, a road much traveled, in both directions, through the centuries. Settled first by Indians, then by settlers pushing up from Mexico, then by Anglos, the border region has always nurtured a complex and colorful culture. Taylor (Anthropology/Lafayette Coll.) does a convincing job of catching that vigorous, distinctive culture in the voices and lives of a number of individuals. He interviews, among many others, a mural painter in Tucson (where some 200 murals have been painted on the walls of barrio buildings), a crusading Hispanic politician, an elder of the Tohono O'odham people (whose reservation is on the Mexican border), and an archaeologist fascinated by the densely interwoven cultures of the area. Through their words, and through Tailor's descriptions of the region (its ranches and missions, suburbs and reservations) and its many rituals (both Indian and Hispanic), a portrait of a vital, sun-scorched area, dense with history, emerges with great precision.