Enrique's Journey Summary & Study Guide

Sonia Nazario
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Enrique's Journey Summary & Study Guide Description

Enrique's Journey Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario.

Enrique's Journey is a tale of risk, courage, love and danger. Enrique's mother, Lourdes, leaves him and his sister, Belky, behind in Honduras in order to go to the United States. Lourdes leaves her children because she needs to make money to feed them and allow them to finish school.

Over the next several years, Enrique bounces from relative to relative. He begins sniffing glue and finds a girlfriend, Maria Isabel, who eventually gives birth to a daughter, Jasmin. All the while, Enrique dreams of following his mother to the United States. He loves her and misses her and he feels abandoned. Finally, at 17 years old, Enrique leaves Honduras to travel across Mexico on top of trains. Aside from the risks of jumping onto and off of moving trains, Enrique comes up against gangsters, bandits and corrupt law enforcement officials. Along the way, gang members beat him and he goes through periods of not being able to find enough food. He's deported several times across the Mexican border, but every time, he tries again.

Finally, Enrique makes it to Nuevo Laredo, which sits on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. He can see Texas across the river -- as well as American immigration agents who will send him right back to Mexico if they catch him crossing illegally into the United States.

Enrique lives in Nuevo Laredo for weeks and works washing cars to earn enough money to contact his family in Honduras. He's lost his mother's phone number and has no way to find her without it. When he finally reaches his mother, she arranges to pay a smuggler to get Enrique to Orlando, Florida, where her boyfriend picks him up and drives him back to his and Lourdes' home in North Carolina.

During her years in the United States, Lourdes has given birth to a third child with a man who has since disappeared. She's moved from Los Angeles to North Carolina and she lives with her boyfriend, daughter Diana and six others in a trailer. Enrique and his mother are happy to see each other, but in time their relationship deteriorates. He still resents her for leaving and she's angry because she doesn't feel he's paying her enough respect. They fight often and eventually Enrique moves out on his own.

The family eventually moves to Florida. Enrique goes back to North Carolina for a while before moving back to Florida. He pays for a smuggler to bring Maria Isabel to the United States, and a few months later, they bring Jasmin to live with them.

Enrique can't shake his drug and drinking habits, which lead to his arrest and near deportation. His daughter testifies in a trial about a crime she witnessed and receives a U Visa, which allows her and her family to stay legally in the United States.

Author Sonia Nazario chose Enrique as her subject because he represents the typical teen making the trek from Central America to the United States in search of their mothers. Nazario's goal in writing the book was to discourage mothers from leaving their children and also to discourage children from following their mothers, due to the danger. The book explores the issues behind the mothers' need to leave in the first place and possible solutions. There aren't enough jobs in their home countries that allow them to provide the most basic necessities for their children -- food, clothing, shelter and school. Going to the United States to work and send money back home is the only solution they can think of.

Poverty is the main theme in this book. It is what drives the actions of almost all the players. Mothers, and in some cases fathers, leave their children because they need to find a way to feed them. There is a stark, sharp difference between the haves and have nots in Honduras and very few opportunities for those who have little to improve their financial situations. Women have to choose between staying with men who abuse them or cheat on them and leaving and not being able to care for their children. The situation often requires children to leave school in order to work with their mothers just so they can eat.

So the mothers leave and the children left behind live a slightly better life than their peers. But the children feel abandoned and they resent their mothers. Several times in the book, someone says that there is no replacement for a mother's love. However, the people who say this are people who didn't have to spend a significant or memorable part of their lives without enough food. Some even finished school and started their own businesses thanks to their mothers' money.

Poverty is also a large factor in young men joining gangs and attacking and robbing the migrants trying to get through Mexico. Local officials resort to the same behavior in order to give their own families a better life. It seems that all negative behavior is a consequence of someone not having enough.

Drugs play a vital role in Enrique's life from early on. The glue sniffing is his way of coping and he doesn't have the emotional tools to try anything else. His mother has left him and then his father chooses a woman over his own son. Enrique has a lot of pain and abandonment in his life, so he looks for an escape.

But even once Enrique is with his mother again, when he has a girlfriend and child he loves, he can't stop the drinking and drugs. He still holds onto his hurt and rebellious nature, and by now he has developed a physical addiction. While he languished on the banks of the Rio Grande, the glue sniffing helped him feel less hungry when he couldn't get food. That and alcohol helped him forget how helpless he often felt while trying to raise enough money to reach his mother and hopefully get a smuggler so he could get to the United States. When Enrique felt alone, the drugs were always there for him.

In the book's prologue, author Sonia Nazario compares her family's legal immigration from Argentina to the United States with the illegal immigration of the people who are the book's subject. Her experience was much different from her subjects'. Nazario's family arrived on an airplane and there was no danger in the move. In contrast, Enrique and his family risked their lives to get to the United States and lived in fear of deportation from the time they arrived.

Nazario explores many facets of illegal immigration. There are pros and cons both for the immigrants and the country they've moved to. United States citizens are divided about what they want to see happen with this issue. Some are for full amnesty, seeing the immigrants as an asset to the country. Others believe they are a drain and lawbreakers and are in favor of the immigrants being deported. Even the immigrants themselves can't agree on which is the right answer. At one point, Enrique says if he were a citizen, he wouldn't want illegal immigrants in the country, but then he changes his mind and says they provide a service the country's citizens can't or won't.

There are statistics to support both sides -- from the immigrants being particularly hard workers that are assets to businesses to the cost of educating them or providing them with public assistance because they make so little money. Regardless of whether the immigrants are good or bad for the United States, they continue coming. They need to do so in order to provide for their families back home. Lourdes says she likes the United States and will never return to Honduras. It's cleaner and safer in the United States.

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