Study Guide

Enrique's Journey

by Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey Summary

Extended Summary

Sonia Nazario’s book, Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother, is an account of the journey of one boy who travels from Honduras to North Carolina, USA, to find his mother. The book is an extension of a series of articles that Nazario wrote for the Los Angeles Times, titled “Enrique’s Journey.” Nazario explains that after learning an “estimated 700,000 immigrants enter the United States illegally,” she began to investigate this pattern of immigration. Nazario points out that these migrants are unusual because it is the mothers that tend to leave home to find work rather than the fathers. Because of this, it is common for their children to follow years later. Nazario finds Enrique in a town near the Mexican-American border, and her investigation into his journey is documented in Enrique’s Journey.

Nazario anticipates that many of her readers will find it difficult to understand the choice that Lourdes makes. How can a mother leave her children? Lourdes and her two children, Enrique and Belky, live outside of Tegucigalpa, in Honduras. Lourdes works hard, scrubbing laundry and selling tortillas, used clothes, and plantains, but she has never been able to afford to buy her children toys or a cake to celebrate their birthday. Soon, her children will be old enough to go to school, an additional expense that the family cannot afford. However, without an education, Lourdes knows that her children’s future will be more difficult. After catching a glimpse of American cities like New York and Las Vegas on a neighbor’s television, Lourdes decides to leave for America. Her plan is to travel there, make money to send home, and return after a year. Nazario explains how Lourdes overcomes her feelings of guilt by reminding herself that she is leaving for her children. She leaves them on January 29, 1989.

However, little goes according to plan. Belky is raised with Lourdes’ family while Enrique is raised by his father. His father soon leaves Enrique to start another family, and Enrique is left in the care of his paternal grandmother. María Marcos lives in a small shack with four rooms, three of which are without electricity and there is no running water. Before long, Enrique realizes that he is missing his mother. A relative owns a phone, which allows Enrique to hear his mother’s voice once a month, but sometimes Lourdes chooses to save money rather than to spend it on an expensive call.

Unfortunately, life in America is not going as expected. Lourdes has made it to Long Beach, and she initially finds work that allows her to send between $50 and $100 home for her children. However, she must also feed herself, and she hopes to save enough money to bring her children to America. Noticing that she can live more cheaply with a man, she starts a relationship with Santos. However, when Lourdes gets pregnant, Santos does not take her to the hospital, nor does he visit her or answer the phone because he is drinking. Now, Lourdes has another child, Diana, to feed, and she soon loses her job. When Santos leaves, she is forced to abandon her apartment and she moves into a garage. She resorts to working as a “fichera” at a bar, which entails asking men to buy her drinks. A friend helps her to get work cleaning offices and houses, and she manages to get work as a clerk as well. However, she is hardly sleeping at all at night because she is always working. Although she eventually manages to make about $1000 per month, years have passed and her children in Honduras are still without their mother.

In fact, by this time, Lourdes’ plan has changed. She hopes to become a legal resident of America and then she will be able to bring her children to her. However, her plans are again frustrated. One woman introduces herself to Lourdes’ friend, Dominga, claiming to be a lawyer. She offers Dominga and her friends a special deal to file for residency. However, after Lourdes and others pay their fees, they return to the woman’s office and find it empty. It might be easier to hire a “coyote,” or a person that can smuggle migrants through Central America and across the American border. However, these coyotes can also be quite dangerous. Many are addicts and it is not uncommon for them to abandon their charges at the first sign of trouble.

Back in Honduras, things are also difficult. Although Enrique and Belky are able to go to school longer than most of their peers, they begin to harbor feelings of deep resentment for their mother. They feel abandoned. By the time Enrique is a teenager, his grandmother kicks him out of the house, as do several other relatives. Enrique soon gets into the habit of sniffing glue on a daily basis. He has a girlfriend, María Isabel, who stands by Enrique in spite of his...

(The entire section is 1975 words.)