Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Enrique's Journey" by Sonia Nazario

Forgive me if this blog entry runs a bit long. This book hit me like a Mack truck.

I picked it up in part because it was featured in the "One Book, One San Diego" library program, and in part because its story begins in Honduras--a place I have a plane ticket to.

I came away from the book:
A) Convinced that illegal immigration is bad for all involved parties, which includes:
-The immigrants
-Their families
-Their home countries
-The countries they pass through
-The United States
B) Completely pessimistic about humanity.

Actually, there is one group that does profit from illegal immigration: Americans who (cheaply) hire them to raise their kids, work as cheap labor, and tend their yards.

This is the true story of a Honduran boy who comes to America to find his mother, who left him 10 years previous because she was literally unable to feed him and his sister. She sends back money and toys from America, but it is not enough to make an appreciable difference in their lives, and anyway they resent that she left them.

Enrique makes seven unsuccessful attempts to come to America before making it through. Along the way (riding the tops of Mexican trains) he is beaten and robbed, endures extreme temperatures, struggles to find food and clothing, and is treated like an animal.

I don't want to give a play-by-play of what happens, but suffice to say this is not a happy, mother-son reunion story. Enrique finds his mother, but he feels that she abandoned her, and she feels that he is ungrateful. Everything is complicated by Enrique's girlfriend back home (and the baby he's never met), and I came to think that dividing families like this is just not good.

The ultimate solution is that the poor need to, somehow, be enabled with opportunities so they don't have to leave their countries. But hell if I know how to do it. Honduras, which was just starting to shed its Banana Republic moniker, may very well be about to collapse.

Anyhow, you should really read this book. Even if it will bum you out.


lpanik said...

You help them by not allowing handouts in this country for them and get their government to stimulate jobs. Easier said than done.

As for those americans that profit. Tax them and the workers doing the work. Use the money to help their country. Our country has become too much of a helper always thinking we can do things better. I'm against increasing taxes but in this case both the worker and employer have that choice to make for them selves and not forced on them.

OK off my soapbox. Open for others.

Michelle Panik said...

Thank you for all of your thoughtful posts to my blog lately!

I am reading another book now, Banker to the Poor, which makes me feel a little better about the world. The author believes that the aid one government gives to another government never does any good. But if you can get the money into the hands of the citizens who need it, then you will really be affecting change.

Fascinating book. Look for my thoughts on it here in a couple days. :)