Enrique’s Journey

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Enrique Character Analysis

Enrique is the protagonist of this non-fiction story. He makes the odyssey from Honduras to find his mother in the United States. Growing up, Enrique is quiet and becomes moody as an adolescent--a result of his feelings of abandonment and loss at the departure of his mother, Lourdes, who leaves Honduras for the United States in order to support her family when he is only five years old. As he grows up, he becomes more and more intent on reuniting with his mother. On his journey, he shows emotional and physical strength that will help him when he arrives in the United States. Rebuilding his relationship with his mother proves difficult, but he persists. Finally, he sends for his girlfriend Maria Isabel, the mother of his young daughter, Jasmin.

Enrique Quotes in Enrique’s Journey

The Enrique’s Journey quotes below are all either spoken by Enrique or refer to Enrique. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family and Abandonment Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Enrique’s Journey published in 2007.
Prologue Quotes

"Then I began to retrace his steps, doing the journey exactly as he had done it a few weeks before. I wanted to see and experience things as he had with the hope of describing them more fully."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique
Page Number: xix
Explanation and Analysis:

Nazario retraces the progress made by Enrique: a young man who tried to enter the United States to see his mother again. Nazario hoped to learn something about the experience of immigration by retracing Enrique's steps. From the beginning, it seems, she conceived of Enrique as a symbol for immigrants in general and from Latin America in particular.

Nazario combines the specificities of Enrique's experience with the breadth of her knowledge as a journalist: in other words, the book we're about to read will be both a look at the life of one immigrant, and the story of the immigration experience as a whole.

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1. The Boy Left Behind Quotes

"[Enrique] will remember only one thing that she says to him: 'Don't forget to go to church this afternoon'."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique, Lourdes
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Nazario describes some of Enrique's last memories of his mother, leading up the moment when she abandons him and leaves for the United States. Lourdes loves Enrique, but she also needs to find a decent job--thus, she leaves her child and goes to the U.S. Enrique, a little boy at the time, has no idea why his mother is leaving him: from his perspective, she's leaving for no reason. Nazario conveys the senselessness of the abandonment by describing a particularly vivid memory of Enrique's: just before Lourdes left, she told Enrique to go to church. From Lourdes's perspective, the quote is probably insignificant (it's unlikely she remembers it after all these years). But because Enrique misses his mother so intensely, he remembers her words perfectly. The passage is a sign, then, that Enrique continues to long for his mother, even after she leaves him for America: in a way, Lourdes is Enrique's church; the woman who gives his life a purpose and a meaning.

"This had been his first home, the small stucco house where he and Lourdes lived until Lourdes stepped off the front porch and left. His second home was the wooden shack where he and his father lived with his father's mother, until his father found a new wife and left. His third home was the comfortable house where he lived with his uncle Marco."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique, Lourdes, Luis, Maria Marcos
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

In the absence of a mother to take care of him, Enrique finds himself moving from house to house, since his family situation just isn't stable. Although his father is supposed to take care of him, Enrique finds that his father isn't much good at parenting--he seems more interested in remarrying and enjoying himself. As a result, Enrique moves between many different households according to his father's situation: there's no stability in his life. One could say that Enrique is used to traveling and moving around: growing up, he's never able to find "roots" anywhere, which perhaps helps explain why he would choose to journey to the United States.

The passage is tragic because it suggests that Enrique's life is fragmented and twisted because his mother isn't there to take care of him. Enrique knows that a mother is supposed to comfort her children and provide a sense of stability--in the absence of such stability, he gets "thrown around" a lot. 

2. Seeking Mercy Quotes

"When Enrique's mother left, he was a child. Six months ago, the first time he set out to find her, he was still a callow kid. Now he is a veteran of a perilous pilgrimage by children, many of whom come looking for their mothers and travel any way they can."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique, Lourdes
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Nazario flashes back to the first time that Enrique tried to meet up with his mother in the United States. Enrique was only a small child, and he didn't get very far; and yet as he's grown older, Enrique has continued to try to journey to America. His love for his mother, and his assuredness that meeting his mother will solve all his problems, is total. One could say that Enrique's coming-of-age is just a steady process of trying to come to America and failing, again and again, until finally he succeeds.

As always Nazario makes it clear that she's not just telling the story of one immigrant, but many: there are thousands of young Enriques trying to come to America to rejoin their beloved families.

"In spite of everything, Enrique has failed again--he will not reach the United States this time, either. He tells himself over and over that he'll just have to try again."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Enrique attempts to enter the United States for the seventh time; he catches a ride from an undercover border patrol officer, who just sends Enrique back to his home town. Enrique is discouraged from entering the U.S. again and again, and yet he keeps telling himself that he'll try again the next day. Enrique's courage and commitment to finding his mother is enormous: he refuses to give up, showing us how important the "stakes" of his travels are.

Enrique's journey to America is important because it symbolizes the journeys that millions of other immigrants have attempted, some successfully, some not. Enrique isn't motivated by crime, greed, or any other material motive: he just wants to see his mother again.

3. Facing the Beast Quotes

"He was five years old when his mother left him. Now he is almost another person. In the window glass, he sees a battered young man, scrawny and disfigured. It angers him, and it steels his determination to push northward."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Enrique continues to be steadfast in his desire to reach the United States and reunite with his mother. He's changed visibly by his experiences attempting to enter America; his body is hurt, and his mind filled with traumatizing experiences. And yet Enrique never gives up. Even when he's confronted by real, material evidence of the way his journey is destroying his life--his battered reflection in the window glass--he continues with his quest. One could even argue that Enrique becomes more obsessed with entering America after he sees how he's changed. Enrique has sacrificed his present happiness for the sake of reuniting with his mother in the future: he can't give up now, because he has nothing left to lose.

4. Gifts and Faith Quotes

"Somewhere over there lives his mother. She has become a mystery, too. He was so young when she left that he can barely remember what she looks like: curly hair, eyes like chocolate. Her voice is a distant sound on the phone."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique, Lourdes
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

The great irony of Enrique's journey is that although he's traveling to reunite with his mother, he can barely remember her: the actual physical evidence he remembers of her is so vague that it could be said to describe all sorts of people. Perhaps it's fair to say that Enrique is as interested in the idea of having a mother as he is in his specific mother's life. Enrique's lack of knowledge of his mother's life shouldn't be taken as a criticism of their relationship: rather, Enrique seems absolutely right to want to reunite with his mother--his actions seem like basic human nature (children want to be with their parents, particularly if they haven't seen their parents in a long time). The difference, of course, is that Enrique, unlike most people in the U.S., has to travel thousands of miles and break various laws in order to see his mother; as a result, his memory of his mother begins to fade, tragically.

5. On the Border Quotes

"His mother is a stranger...But he can feel her love."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique, Lourdes
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

 Enrique is still far away from his mother: he's living in Nuevo Laredo, working to ensure that he has enough money to travel into the United States. Enrique gets a tattoo of his mother's name in order to remind him of his devotion to his mother and provide himself with a constant reminder of his quest to enter the United States. Nazario sums up Enrique's relationship with his mother by saying that, although Lourdes is far away, Enrique can feel her love.

The passage is important because it acknowledges the vast distances between Enrique and his mother--both literal and metaphorical. At the same time, it suggests that it is possible for Enrique to love his mother, despite having never really known her.

6. A Dark River, Perhaps a New Life Quotes

"Children like Enrique dream of finding their mothers and living happily ever after. For weeks, perhaps months, these children and their mothers cling to romanticized notions of how they should feel toward each other. Then reality intrudes."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Enrique, Lourdes
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

The tragedy of Enrique's journey, as Nazario has already hint, is that his quest isn't really that meaningful in the end. Enrique risks his life and his freedom in order to reunite with his mother, a woman he doesn't know well. Enrique is sure that meeting with his mother will solve all of his problems: over the years, his mother has become a nearly mystical figure, a "holy grail." Inevitably, then, when Enrique reunites with his mother, he'll be somewhat disappointed: the idea of his reunion will always be more satisfying and perfect than the real thing.

Without any need to idealize their parents, immigrants like Enrique can see their mothers for what they really are: kind, loving people who are nonetheless flawed. Ultimately, then, Enrique's journey is tragic because reality intrudes.

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Enrique Character Timeline in Enrique’s Journey

The timeline below shows where the character Enrique appears in Enrique’s Journey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
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...would provide the story for the book she wants to write, Nazario finds out about Enrique from a nun at a church in Nuevo Laredo, near the Rio Grande in Mexico.... (full context)
1. The Boy Left Behind
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Enrique is five years old on January 29, 1989, when his mother, Lourdes, leaves Tegucigalpa in... (full context)
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Enrique’s separation from his mother defines his life, and his desire to see and reconnect with... (full context)
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When Lourdes leaves Honduras on that fateful day, Enrique is left confused and abandoned. His father, Luis, who had been separated from Lourdes for... (full context)
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...afar, the money cannot make up for their emotional loss. Her relationships to Belky and Enrique become more strained. In response, Lourdes plans to become a resident of the United States... (full context)
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In Honduras, the anger Enrique feels at the separation from his mother causes him to rebel. He is suspended three... (full context)
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...in love with a house painter from Honduras, who also has two children back home. Enrique is doing well living with Marco, who works as a money changer at the border,... (full context)
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Enrique next moves to his maternal grandmother's, where he grew up with Lourdes. At fifteen, Enrique... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Enrique meets and falls in love with Maria Isabel, who has also endured a difficult childhood... (full context)
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When Enrique turns sixteen, he and his friend Jose decide to try to get to the United... (full context)
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The failed attempt pushes Enrique deeper into his drug addiction. He ends up 6,000 lempiras ($400) in debt to his... (full context)
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Although she is advised to leave Enrique, Maria Isabel persists in their relationship. She also thinks that she may be pregnant with... (full context)
2. Seeking Mercy
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In a small town in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, Enrique, severely battered and wearing only his underwear, limps towards a field hand. The man provides... (full context)
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After this episode, Nazario turns the story back six months to when Enrique made his first attempt to travel north. The first attempt was described in the previous... (full context)
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Meanwhile, in Honduras, Maria Isabel worries about Enrique and blames herself for his leaving. She wishes that he will be deported back to... (full context)
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At the Guatemalan border where Enrique was deported after being caught for the sixth time, he must quickly find his way... (full context)
3. Facing the Beast
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This chapter recounts Enrique's eighth attempt to reach the United States, after having been deported to Guatemala after the... (full context)
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On the trains, Enrique encounters many other children like him, some as young as nine, most fifteen or younger.... (full context)
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In the brush, Enrique's main concern are madrinas, civilians who help the authorities. Carrying machetes, they often comb the... (full context)
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In Chiapas, Enrique knows that people are not likely to help migrants. They hold prejudices against Central Americans,... (full context)
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Back on the train, Enrique stands holding on to a hopper as he suffers in the heat, which is over... (full context)
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Some migrants who set out with Enrique for Chiapas have been caught and deported, while others have been severely injured or even... (full context)
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Finally, Enrique makes it to the state of Oaxaca, 285 miles into Mexico. He gets off the... (full context)
4. Gifts and Faith
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In April 2000, Enrique approaches Veracruz, about a third of the way up Mexico in the state of Oaxaca.... (full context)
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In Oaxaca and Veracruz, Enrique does not need to ask for help—unlike most of the people of Chiapas, most of... (full context)
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Enrique leaves Veracruz headed northward and makes friends with two other boys, one thirteen, and the... (full context)
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For the first time on his journey, Enrique decides to stop moving for a while. He wants to earn some money, so as... (full context)
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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... (full context)
5. On the Border
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Enrique has been on the banks of the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo for days. He... (full context)
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In Nuevo Laredo, Enrique lives in an encampment among migrants, coyotes, junkies, and criminals. Though the camp is dirty... (full context)
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...to heroin and pays for his addiction by smuggling, tattooing, and stealing. He hopes that Enrique will be one of his customers, so he treats him well. Enrique is protected by... (full context)
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By May 14, 2000, Mother's Day, Enrique has made enough to pay for two phone card. The next day, in celebration, he... (full context)
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Enrique thinks about crossing the river alone, but he is warned not to, especially as he... (full context)
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Enrique decides that his only option is to use a smuggler. He chooses El Tiríndaro because... (full context)
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On May 19th, Enrique goes to Pedro Leo, a kind local priest, because he knows he allows migrants to... (full context)
6. A Dark River, Perhaps a New Life
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On May 21, 2000, Enrique waits with two other migrants, a Mexican brother and sister, at the beginning of the... (full context)
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...are held for an indeterminate amount of time. Many become desperate and even suicidal. As Enrique waits, his mind fills with dread about what could happen. But after half an hour,... (full context)
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...El Tiríndaro's in his network of smugglers. The vehicle has pillows in the back, and Enrique soon falls asleep sleeps, but is woken when they are approaching a checkpoint. The migrants... (full context)
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In North Carolina, Lourdes, worried sick about Enrique, waits to hear from her son. She has not been able to sleep and has... (full context)
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Enrique and Lourdes fit this pattern. The first day is joyful, just as they expected. They... (full context)
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Not long after, on a phone call back home, Enrique learns that Maria Isabel is pregnant. On November 2, 2000, she gives birth to their... (full context)
7. The Girl Left Behind
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Enrique and Lourdes continue to argue. He blames his mother for leaving him and his sister... (full context)
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As Enrique and Lourdes become more estranged, Enrique turns to alcohol to ease the tension and starts... (full context)
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Enrique sinks deeper into addiction and begins to huff paint thinner. He gets a speeding ticket,... (full context)
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Enrique has been in the U.S. for two and a half years. Arguments with his mother... (full context)
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...understands the hard decision that her own mother had to make. When Mirian moves in, Enrique is frustrated by how crowded it is in his mother’s apartment and decides to move... (full context)
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...begins to enjoy her life, spending time with her boyfriend and her daughter Diana. However, Enrique doesn’t like this new situation and soon moves back to North Carolina to work with... (full context)
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By the spring of 2004, Enrique has been away from Honduras for four years and he has not been able to... (full context)
Epilogue
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Not long after Nazario publishes the articles on Enrique’s journey that come to make up this book, the TV show Don Francisco Presenta airs... (full context)
Afterword: Women, Children, and the Immigration Debate
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...living in the U.S., and most are from Mexico and Central America. Many are like Enrique and have been separated from a parent. In schools, one in four children is an... (full context)