Luis Alberto Urrea

Into the Beautiful North

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Into the Beautiful North Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 30-page guide for “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 36 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 10 important quotes, discussion questions, and key themes like Reality and Illusion and Senseless Racial Boundaries.

Plot Summary

Into the Beautiful North is an adventure story that parallels the plot of the Hollywood movie, The Magnificent Seven. Set in the village of Tres Camarones in Sinaloa, Mexico, the novel’s protagonist, nineteen-year-old Nayeli, notices that there are no men left in the village – they have all gone north for more opportunities and a better life. Fearing that the village will be taken over by bandidos, and with no real law enforcement or men to protect them, Nayeli is inspired by The Magnificent Seven to head north, round up seven men that will essentially become Tres Camarones’ warriors and protectors. She is supported by her Aunt Irma, Tres Camarones Municipal President (Mayor) and brings along her friends Yolo, Vampi and Tacho.

Their journey begins on a long bus ride towards Tijuana. Though one would assume that the troubles they would face would not come until they tried to cross the border, the threat of collection and deportation happens in their own country. While on the bus ride, the Tres Camaronians witness a rough deportation of Colombians and customs officials sexually harass Tacho. When the bus eventually stops in Tijuana, their bags have disappeared and they are only left with the clothes on their back and the money that they happen to be carrying directly with them.

Tijuana, while an amusing spectacle at first, becomes a threatening, dangerous place for the warriors. Nayeli tries to call their contact in the United States (Chava Chavarin) but according to the operator, he does not exist. They will have to find their way across the border themselves.

A friendly older couple has mercy on them and invites them to their home for food and a place to sleep. To their surprise, they live at the garbage dump. There, they meet Atomiko, the “King of the Dump” who becomes Nayeli’s fierce protector and is intrigued by their desire of finding seven warriors to take back to Tres Camarones with them. He wants to accompany them on their journey and summons a “coyote” who will get them across the border. They manage to break through the fence and run into the forest at night, but are soon caught. They are transported back to the deportation office, and Tacho is violently apprehended for saying “La Mano Caida” (the name of his restaurant). The guards think he says “Al Qaeda” and he is arrested and taken away while the girls are immediately transported back to Tijuana.

Atomiko and Wili (the “coyote”) feel bad for what has happened to the group and their noble cause and comes up with a second opportunity. The girls, along with Atomiko, manage to walk right under the border through an underground tunnel that is disguised as a muffler shop on the Mexican side and comes out the other end in some sort of fabric shop. They are rushed into a van, and dropped off in San Diego.

Their first impression of the United States is jubilant. They manage to find Missionary Matt quite easily and they are invited to stay at his place the next day. Their plan is to find Chavarin, and eventually, Nayeli wants to travel to Kankakee to find her father. During breakfast the first morning they are in the US, Vampi meets El Brujo and it is love at first sight. He promises to come back to Mexico.

Meanwhile, Tacho is released from interrogation and meets a handsome, wealthy older man named Rigoberto in a gay bar in Tijuana. Rigo takes him back to his place and allows him to shower and change into clean clothes. Tacho is the doppelganger of Rigo’s lover, who happens to be away, and so Rigo drives Tacho across the border while he is impersonating Rigo’s lover, even using his passport. Rigo drops him off in San Diego and Tacho is reunited with the girls.

Nayeli and Yolo call Chavarin and find him. He is working at a bowling alley and they meet him there to discuss their quest. He vows to come back to Mexico (although he is ashamed of his behaviour that led him to leave in the first place) and wants Nayeli to meet Angel, a young migrant worker who was a former member of the Mexican Navy.

They drive out to the migrant camp and end up in a fight against two American bullies that seem hell-bent on removing all illegals from the US. Atomiko’s fighting skills and Nayeli’s audacity inspire Angel and the others to stand up for themselves and end up scaring Sully and Jimbo away. They return to Matt’s place and learn that Aunt Irma is on her way to “finish the job”. She has advertised for Mexican men to repatriate Mexico. However, Nayeli wants to travel to Illinois to find her father. Matt helps her plot her journey on a map. She and Tacho use Matt’s van and head off on their trip.

Nayeli’s and Tacho’s drive is mixed with tourist stops, friendly strangers and judgemental people. Sometimes they are mistaken for a different nationality, and other times they are clearly labelled as “illegals”. Tacho becomes violently ill with fever and diarrhea, despite him heeding the advice about not drinking American water, and when they arrive in Kankakee, Nayeli seeks out her father on her own. Based on the advice from a kind stranger, Nayeli heads to the library and finds Mary Jo who agrees to help her. There is a strong Mexican presence in Kankakee, and so this sort of “work” that Mary Jo is doing as most likely been done before. With the help of a detective, they locate the address of Nayeli’s father and she is dropped off there. After waiting some time, she sees her father walk into a house. He has another woman, and a toddler. Nayeli walks away when she realizes he has found a new life in el Norte, and it does not include her.

Because Matt’s van breaks down, Mary Jo helps them purchase bus tickets back to San Diego. Back in San Diego, there is a tremendous turnout for Irma’s application process. They eventually collect twenty-seven men to come back to Mexico. She and Chava’s romance has been rekindled and they are able to take seven men back to Mexico immediately. The other twenty will have to find their own way back.

The book’s epilogue has the “army” of Tres Camarones walking up the street into the village, with Nayeli, Tacho and Atomiko leading the way.

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Chapters 1-3