I am reading a book in preparation for s book club with ESL teachers that begins after Spring Break. It is not a light or easy read, but it is compelling. The book is Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario. It is the story of a boy’s dangerous odyssey from Central America to reunite with his mother who immigrated to the US illegally. The book was originally published in 2006 and was revised and updated by the author in 2014.
Anyone looking for insights to understand the complex issues surrounding illegal immigration from Central America and Mexico, especially anyone who wants a personal perspective, would learn much by reading the book. The author is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has written extensively about Latinos in the US and issues of social justice. She researched for this book in Central America, Mexico, and the US. She interviewed the subjects in person and by phone, verifying information through multiple sources. She herself traveled parts of the journey to understand it first-hand.
The story documents the extreme poverty (families trying to survive on as little as $2 a day) that drives mothers to make the journey, leaving their children behind in hope of reaching the US, finding work, and sending money for food and schooling until they can bring their children or save enough to return and have a better life. The story centers on Enrique, one of those children left behind, and documents the desperation that propels him and others like him (in one year 48,000 unaccompanied minors) to take the perilous journey to try and reunite with their parent who made it into the US.
The story documents both unbearable cruelty and astounding generosity. There are horrifying details of the dangers and abuse, and there are stories of the incredible determination and tenacity of the human spirit. It is a human story more than political.
Our ESL department also had a screening of a documentary, Which Way Home, that focuses on the same issue of unaccompanied minors and others riding atop trains across Mexico trying to come into the US. We had discussions in small groups, though it was not easy. It was very emotional.
The issues are complex. Solutions to the many problems will not be easy, nor easy to agree upon politically and internationally. But personally, as we learn about the human stories, I hope we will use our voices and perhaps even be moved to action to seek relief for the human suffering.