Adult/YA (unfortunately) nonfiction
"Black rats and a pig root around in a ravine where the children
At dinnertime, the mothers count out three tortillas for each
child. If there are no tortillas, they try to fill their children's
bellies with a glass of water with a teaspoon of sugar mixed in."
In the most obscene and vicious election year of my life so far
we're hearing a lot of condemnation of undocumented immigrants. They
come to America to take advantage of our welfare system and live la
dolce vita off our tax money. Simultaneously they take the jobs we
need. They bring in drugs and make our crime rates soar. They impose
a burden on our educational, medical, and penal systems.
The purveyers of those sound bites would almost certainly never
read Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey. It behooves the rest of us
to, however. This eloquent book simultaneously puts a human face on a
complex plight and uses a young man's narrative to lead to greater
understanding. I know I learned a great deal.
Many of us picture Central American and Mexican undocumented
immigrants as males who send home money earned in the States. A lot
these days are mothers (Hispanic mothers for whom family is of prime
importance) driven by poverty to a very cruel Sophie's choice: to
leave their beloved children with relatives and send the money that
will give them a chance to survive or to risk starving together. They
usually know full well that odds are high they will perish in the
attempt. But they see no other choice.
This was the plight of Lourdes, Enrique's mother. Despite
scrubbing laundry in a stream, selling food and used clothes door to
door, and vending small items on the sidewalk she could scarcely feed
her children (Enrique and his sister)-- mind afford school supplies as
basic as pencils. How will they complete grade school? There was only
place she could think of where she could earn the money they
desperately needed. When Enrique was five she started the journey
Children in their teens and younger, striving to rejoin the
mothers who left them, make another ever growing migrant stream.
Enrique was one of those youngsters. Left with his father, he was
sent to his grandmother when his dad started a new family. That was
only the first time he was passed on. He was one of those child
vendors scrambling to earn a few centavos. (Other children scavenged
at a dump amid filth and medical waste). An uncle who took him in
after his grandmother decided he was more than she could handle was
killed. He believed that if he could just be together with his mother
again his life would finally get better.
What he and other children went through is best captured in the
phrase Hell on Earth. I can't describe it vividly enough. You have
to read the book. Not all survived and many lost limbs falling under
the wheels of trains they were riding on top of. Some of the people
who robbed, beat, and took advantage of them were police. Imagine, as
I did, that these were our children.
If humanitarian instincts and/or religious teachings aren't
enough to motivate you to do something, ask yourself these questions:
Whose trade pacts make it impossible for so many Mexicans and Central
Americans to survive in their homes?
Whose country destabilizes nations by selling arms and propping up
Whose citizens enrich gangs by providing the demand in the drug supply/
That's all I have to say.
At the moment.
On a personal note, I read this book to get ready for a presentation
by a graduate student who has seen first hand the cruelty that is
inflicted on people trying to cross the border. Can you believe some
people even slash bottles of water that are meant to keep them from
dying of thirst? How can anyone be that heartless?
A great big shout out goes out to those who do their best to help
Sent from my iPod