Enrique’s Journey Summary

Sonia Nazario

Enrique’s Journey

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Enrique’s Journey Summary

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Sonia Nazario’s book Enrique’s Journey is the powerful true story of a son trying to reunite with his mother. The book represents an expanded version of the story that Nazario wrote for a series of articles that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Enrique was only five years old when his mother, Lourdes, immigrated to the United states, leaving behind Enrique and his sister Belky in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to be looked after by Lourdes’ sister Amelia and Enrique’s father. The decision to leave was not easy for Lourdes; but Honduras economy at the time was flagging, and Lourdes knew she would be unable to provide for her children if she were to remain there. In Honduras, the only source of income for Lourdes was to sell candy and cigarettes by the side of the road, or to offer her services washing clothes in the nearby river. Money earned from such activities would at best allow Lourdes to put her children through school only through fourth grade. So Lourdes set out for the United states in hopes of finding work and sending the money earned back to Honduras.

Although Lourdes may have had legitimate reasons for her departure, her absence was a source of great distress for Enrique as he grew up. Lourdes never gave Enrique a proper goodbye before leaving; she wished she could, but it was too painful for her. For many years, Enrique wondered about what Lourdes was doing in America, why she had to leave, and when she would return. As the years drag on, Enrique eventually gives up hope that Lourdes will ever return. Soon Enrique’s father abandons him as well, after remarrying and starting a new life with a new family. Overcome with anger and frustration, Enrique becomes rebellious and starts experimenting with drugs. Soon he develops a serious drug habit becomes which he can only sustain through criminal activities.

Meanwhile, after arriving in the U.S. with the help of a smuggler who snuck her across the border, Lourdes soon learns that America is not quite the land of opportunity she had expected. While she does manage to find work — first in a factory where she sorts tomatoes, then as a nanny in Beverly Hills – the amount of money that she is able to send back to Honduras is hardly enough to cover the cost of Enrique’s school supplies. While staying in a cramped apartment Lourdes shares with other immigrants, she becomes pregnant with the child of Santos, an old flame from Honduras. Lourdes carries the child to term, only to be abandoned by Santos, who also squanders all the money that Lourdes has been trying to save. Working every job she can find, and learning to function on little to no sleep, Lourdes sends as much money as she can back to her children in Tegucigalpa. While Lourdes longs to see her children again, the journey from Honduras to the U.S. is extremely risky; the fact that Lourdes was able to successfully navigate it once is no guarantee that she can do it again.

After being caught trying to steal jewelry to buy drugs, Enrique decides that he must leave Honduras and travel to America to find his mother. He would be leaving behind his girlfriend Maria Isabel, who wants nothing more than to start a family of her own with Enrique. However, Enrique has become convinced that he cannot be happy until he finds his mother.

The journey is long and fraught with danger. To reach the U.S. Enrique must travel through many regions of Mexico controlled by criminal syndicates and where he faced the risk of arrest by immigration officers. Perhaps most harrowing of Enrique’s experiences during his travels were those he had riding atop trains towards the border of Mexico and the U.S. For those immigrating to the U.S. through the southern border illegally, hopping across the tops of trains is the only hope of avoiding detection by immigration officers or other members of law enforcement. Those bold enough to travel by such means face the risk of being crushed to death if they have the misfortune of falling off the side of the train.

Against all odds, Enrique arrives North Carolina where he ansd Lourdes meet for the first time since Lourdes left when he was five. The reunion, however, does not live up to Enriques expectations and he falls into relapse. Having left behind his pregnant girlfriend in Honduras, Enrique must now deal with the responsibilities of earning money to send back to her. As his relationship with Lourdes further deteriorates, Enrique must overcome his feelings of disappointment in order to fulfill his familial obligations. After a while, Maria rose secures passage across the border, leaving behind her and Enrique’s child in Honduras, echoing the situation at the beginning of the story.

Enrique’s Journey is the product of extensive research. In addition to conducting detailed interviews with Enrique and his relatives, Nazario traveled to Honduras so that she could recreate for herself what Enrique experienced during his passage to the Unites States. By digging deep into Enrique’s background, Nazario is able to give a compelling account not only of a geographical journey, but also an emotional one. For the feelings that Enrique must deal with upon his arrival in the U.S. prove to be perhaps as challenging as the journey that took Enrique across the border.