Immigrants ducking and holding on to a train passing underneath some tree limbs, just one of the many hazards faced on the journey north.
First published in 2006, Sonia Nazario‘s account of a young man’s frightening travels from Honduras to the United States through Guatemala and Mexico to reunite with his mother was very disturbing. Enrique’s Journey is the true story of what the life this one particular boy was like before, during, and after his struggle to get to his mother. The mother, Lourdes, left her two children, a boy, 5 (Enrique), and a girl, 7, to seek work in the U.S. She left them with family, sending money as she could. Enrique was determined to leave his life of poverty, drugs, and family drama when he was old enough to make the journey by himself. Like most of the immigrants from Central America, the greatest hurdle was making it safely through the state of Chiapas in Mexico by hopping trains. Each day, many are caught by Mexican authorities and deported, if they don’t happen to lose limbs (or their lives) as a result of riding the rails. Ms. Nazario has done extensive research and followed Enrique’s route herself and talked to many of the people Enrique encountered on his trip.
Not only are the trains a danger to those who make the journey, but immigrants also have to deal with lack of food and water, lack of cleanliness, gangs, thieves, corrupt police, and illness. Enrique was severely beaten on his journey but survived solely due to the kindness of strangers. Many people that live along the train routes give what they can to the constant stream of immigrants heading north. Most of these people barely make a living themselves but still manage to find something to offer the travelers such as water and snacks.
I found that the saddest thing for these immigrants is the emotional toll taken by both the parents who leave their little children to come to America and by the children who feel abandoned and unloved by the mothers (and fathers) who try to better their children’s lives by working in the U.S. and sending money home. Many of the parents who work in the U.S. do begin new lives and meet and marry new spouses, which only add to the emotional problems of the children left behind. When Enrique reached his mother, who was then living in South Carolina, Lourdes had a long-time boyfriend (his father had split from his mother back in Tegucigalpa, Honduras), as well as a 9-year-old daughter born in the U.S. Once the children reunite with the parent (if they ever do), then there is much anger and resentment by the children. The parent cannot easily understand these feelings as their lives have been no picnics striving to send money back home. Ms. Nazario has won two Pulitzer Prizes for the articles she wrote for the Los Angeles Times about Enrique and his journey to the U.S. These articles were the basis for her book. This short blog posting only skims the surface of what can be learned and understood from reading Enrique’s Journey.