In April 2000, Enrique approaches Veracruz, about a third of the way up Mexico in the state of Oaxaca. Many migrants around him thank God for making it this far, and pray for help and protection as the train passes a statue of Jesus. Even though the migrants must keep their possessions to a minimum, many carry Bibles as one of their few belongings. In them, they record the names, phone numbers, and addresses of their loved family members. But Enrique does not ask for help from God, believing that he has committed too many sins to be heard.
Religion plays an important role both in the lives of migrants and those who help them. It keeps hope alive for those who have every reason to become despondent. For people in Oaxaca and Veracruz, whose generosity is shocking to migrants, religion becomes a reason to help others. Furthermore, churches become safe hiding places for migrants from the police--a risky endeavor for the priests, who could be accused of smuggling. At the same time, that the generous and compassionate people in this book all seem to be working to help the migrants and against official policy at least suggests that official policy may not be working.
In Oaxaca and Veracruz, Enrique does not need to ask for help—unlike most of the people of Chiapas, most of the people of Veracruz believe in helping the migrants. They run alongside the trains passing up bundles of food. They give migrants refuge in churches. Some residents provide protection from the police, hiding migrants in their backyards and gardens at the risk of arrest themselves. At times, even whole communities resist the threats of police in solidarity with the migrants. Nazario recounts an incident in 2000, when drunk police officers shot at migrants and even beat a pregnant migrant, and 500 townspeople demanded the release of any of the migrants who had been arrested.
These compassionate people are remarkable especially because of the great risks that they take in their good deeds. Despite the possibility of their own punishment, they stand up for people who they believe deserve better treatment and the opportunity to complete their journeys. They regard the migrants simply as other human beings who are worthy of help, not as illegals to be deported, or vulnerable people to be exploited, or even as numbers to be cited and argued over.
Enrique leaves Veracruz headed northward and makes friends with two other boys, one thirteen, and the other seventeen. They offer advice to one another and are generous with their belongings. He knows that their friendship will be short-lived, but relishes it nonetheless. They arrive in Mexico City, and the local people suddenly become less friendly. They fear the arrival of migrants and believe they are criminals. Enrique finds a hiding spot until he can get on a 10:30pm train to the Texas border. When the train comes, Enrique and his friends settle in a boxcar and fall to sleep, only to be wakened by police who have found them. The police take the boys to their jefe – or chief – and check them for drugs. Finding none, the jefe gives them food and toothpaste, and then warns them to make sure to get off the train before the next security guard station, which is notorious for being strict.
Again, Enrique meets people who are full of kindness and compassion. Despite the harshness of people in Mexico City, his fellow companions look out for each other and the police on the train are surprisingly lenient. As regards the police, the suggestion is that they are less concerned with weeding out migrants than with catching drug smugglers.
For the first time on his journey, Enrique decides to stop moving for a while. He wants to earn some money, so as not to enter the United States without any money. In Mexico City, he asks for food from a brick maker, who replies by offering a job, including food and a place to stay. The brick maker also advises Enrique about the best way to make his way to the border, telling him to take a combi (a minibus) through the first checkpoint, because those are not checked by the migra. The bricklayer further advises that Enrique then take a bus to Matehuala, where he might be able to hitchhike a ride up to the Rio Grande.
The brick maker shows Enrique the utmost compassion, offering him work and advice even when he does not ask for it.
After working and earning 80 pesos along with enough to buy clothing and shoes, Enrique follows the brick maker’s travel advice, and ends up in Matehuala asking truckers for a ride. Many turn him down, but one, finally, accepts. He asks Enrique about his situation and is prepared to help. At a checkpoint, the trucker lies and says that Enrique is his assistant, and the officials ask no further questions. The driver drops Enrique off in the city of Nuevo Laredo, and Enrique then uses some of the money he earned to take a bus into the center of the city. There he meets a man from Honduras who takes him to an encampment near the Rio Grande, where he can see the United States. Enrique thinks of his mother, of how close he now is to her but also of the emotional distance that remains between them.
.Similarly, the trucker who picks up the hitchhiking Enrique takes risks and lies on behalf of Enrique. Those who recognize the difficulty of Enrique's position show willingness and generosity in the face of Enrique’s strength, desire, and love. Encounters like these ones make Enrique's journey possible for a seventeen year old boy to complete.