Enrique’s Journey

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.

Enrique painting on a job in the U.S.

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.

  1 comment for “Enrique’s Journey

  1. August 18, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    I wanted to thank you for blogging about ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY and alert you that a new version, targeted to young readers, will be published August 27, 2013. The new version of the book is among the first non-fiction award-winning works to be written for younger readers — junior high students and reluctant readers in high school — and specifically aimed at complementing the national Common Core curriculum that requires teaching more literary non-fiction and that schools must adopt in the coming year. The original version is among the most read books in colleges – required reading for college freshman and a text that has helped facilitate discussion about one of the most critical issues of our time.

    ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY is not just the story of a boy in search of his mother, or of one family’s struggles to migrate to the U.S. It is the story of the 65,000 undocumented students that graduate each year from U.S. high schools, who must live in the shadows. And it is an issue whose magnitude and urgency has grown in the past year. While the overall apprehension of immigrants unlawfully entering the U.S. is at a 40-year low, the number of children coming alone and illegally is surging. In the last fiscal year, close to 14,000, twice as many as the previous year, were placed in federal custody. An equal number of Mexican minors were deported immediately. The numbers placed in federal custody are expected to nearly double again this year. These are young people who are fleeing poverty and forced recruitment into gangs. Many are coming in search of their mothers, much like Enrique.

    Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have
    about the new version of the book and what it will mean for students.

    Sonia Nazario,

    Jodie Hockensmith
    (212) 782-9317

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