Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario

March 27, 2010

enriques journey Summary (with spoilers): Every year, thousands of migrants illegally cross the U.S. border and filter into the country, desperately seeking a way to make a better life for themselves and their families. Contrary to popular belief, these are not all Mexicans. Indeed, many of the migrants come from much father away and have to do a lot more to get to the U.S. than simply “cross the river”. Sonia Nazario’s 2006 book Enrique’s Journey follows a single migrant as he makes his way from Honduras all the way to North Carolina.

Enrique’s connection with the United States began when he was five years old. That’s when his single mother Lourdes decided that the only way she could adequately provide for Enrique and his sister Belky was to try to get a job in the U.S. She therefore left the family, promising to come back in a few years once she saved enough money. But after 12 long years pass, Enrique realizes that his mother is never coming back. She still calls and sends money, but that’s not the same as having a mother. Enrique wants to be with her again.

Now 17, Enrique decides to attempt the perilous journey to America. Having no money to his name, this is not a simple matter. There are no airplanes in Enrique’s future. Instead, he has to illegally hop aboard trains in order to go the distance from Honduras to Texas. This is an extremely dangerous practice for several reasons. First, many migrants are maimed or killed from falling off or under the trains as they try to grab hold of the moving cars. Second, immigration officers in each Mexican state are constantly on the lookout for these train-riding migrants in order to catch and deport them. Third, bandits and gangs routinely prey on the migrants, robbing them of their meager possessions and beating them senseless.

Enrique experienced two of the three dangers. He was deported by Mexican immigration officials seven times (before finally succeeding in eluding them on his eighth try) and was often robbed by the corrupt ones. In addition, a gang got hold of him one time and beat him bloody just for the few pesos he happened to have on him. Still, he kept on going and eventually made it into the USA.

Unfortunately, the reunion with Lourdes was not the stuff of Hollywood films. They were happy to see each other, but once the novelty wore off, they realized they were essentially strangers. It was hard for them to live together in cramped quarters, and they often ended up at each other’s throats. But they manage to work things out to a sufficient degree. To this day, both still live and work (presumably illegally) in the United States.

Liked:

  • I had no idea that people rode the trains like that in order to get to the U.S. It sounds so crazy and dangerous, yet hundreds (thousands?) of people do it every year. Shouldn’t this be a major news story?
  • I enjoyed Nazario’s descriptions about the various people who provide what essentially amounts to roadside assistance for these migrants, including shelter workers, priests, and regular folks who live near the tracks. I’m sure there would be a lot more deaths if these types of people didn’t exist.

Disliked:

  • The writing wasn’t anything spectacular. Apparently the book was adapted from a series of newspaper articles Nazario wrote for the L.A. Times, and the result is decidedly lacking in style. But I guess that makes it more accessible to everyone — including low-level readers.
  • Nazario was a bit too sympathetic to the migrants for my taste. It seemed that she was trying to justify their actions every step of the way and was trying to evoke complete and utter sympathy for all of them. But the bottom line is they’re doing something illegal. If they manage to make it to the U.S., congratulations. But if they don’t, then they have to suffer the consequences of deportation, beatings, robberies, or whatever. They all know the dangers before they go, so why should anyone feel sorry for the ones that don’t make it?
  • Enrique wasn’t all that interesting as a main “character”. In the prologue, Nazario described her search for a migrant to follow for her articles. There were lots of choices at her disposal, but she picked Enrique for some reason. He was boring and stubborn and stupid and unlikable. That made the book hard to enjoy or relate to.

Rating:

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario was an occasionally interesting account of the extremes that many would-be migrants go to in an effort to illegally cross into the United States. But there simply wasn’t enough material here to make a book out of Enrique’s experiences. The story lagged in a number of places, the characters were unsympathetic, and the overall liberal leaning made the whole thing a bit hard to stomach. I give this book 2 stars out of 5.

6 Responses to “Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario”

  1. I quite agree with this summary. We had to read it for school, and I had a tough time with the writing style. My classmates and I also agreed that it was EXTREMELY repetetive. The book could have been half as long and still told the same story. I appreciate what was said about Enrique himself. all my friends and I hated him! He made it extremely difficult to feel any sympathy to illegal immigrants.

  2. I’m glad someone else feels the same way I do. I couldn’t write this way in my summaries for my class because my teacher loved this book. It was such a relief to be able to get my true feelings out here!

  3. The book wasn’t written at a high level and wasn’t really compelling to me they were doing something illegal and knew the risks. If your asking me to feel sorry for people who do illegal things then I must also feel sorry for Charles Manson

  4. What Brian replied is extremely ignorant. Trying to escape terrible living conditions in the country in which you happened to be born is not the same as brainwashing people into murdering innocent people. Pull your head out of your ass and realize that not everyone is born into a free country, like the United States. The only reason that Enrique and people like Enrique are considered criminals is because a man-made law calls them that. There is nothing morally or ethically wrong with trying to escape from horrible living conditions. As a matter of fact, keeping people from pursuing happiness and freedom is morally wrong. Shame on close-minded people like Brian who do not accept people who are different. Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered a criminal and he went down in the history book as an American Hero who fought for equality and tolerance.

  5. Well the book mentions nothing about Enrique being in “terrible living conditions” in Honduras as Brian mentioned. The problems with survival and safety only began when he decided to make the journey to the US. He did not leave Honduras to escape poor living conditions Brian, he did it to see his Mom

  6. @Daniel actually this book mentions many times the horrible living conditions not just Enrique but most people in central American countries endure such as many people living in cramped quarters , no food , no running water , no electricity , and very little means of education . If you are going to say something ignorant , atleast read the book first asshole .

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