Enrique’s Journey

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Themes and Colors
Family and Abandonment Theme Icon
Perseverance and Survival Theme Icon
Compassion and Faith Theme Icon
Humanization and Dehumanization  Theme Icon
Immigration  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Enrique’s Journey, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Compassion and Faith Theme Icon

Nazario begins Enrique’s Journey by explaining what drew her to find this story. Her own experience talking to her housekeeper inspired her to give voice to the unspoken stories of immigrant families. This is the first moment of compassion in the book. The compassion of others, in addition to Enrique’s own determination, makes his journey successful. Chapter 4 in particular outlines the generosity of strangers and the protection that they provide to migrants along the way.

Enrique also finds compassion and companionship in his fellow migrants atop trains, who look out for each other, share their knowledge, and strive for a sense of community. The characters of great compassion in the book, such as Olga and Pedro Leo, are admirable not only for their dedication to helping others but also for their sacrifices of their own safety and security. They are neither wealthy nor powerful; protecting migrants means risking their lives. In many cases, compassion is also deeply tied to another important theme in Enrique’s Journey – religion – that offers solace to the desperate and faith to those who have every reason to lose it. Religious people are also often the ones who are willing to help migrants, who are selfless in their commitment to doing good. Finally, what unites the family is the characters’ ability to be compassionate to one another’s situations and to have faith against all odds.

Compassion and Faith ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Compassion and Faith appears in each chapter of Enrique’s Journey. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Compassion and Faith Quotes in Enrique’s Journey

Below you will find the important quotes in Enrique’s Journey related to the theme of Compassion and Faith.
Prologue Quotes

"I was stuck by the choice mothers face when they leave their children. How do they make such an impossible decision? Among Latinos, where family is all-important, where for women motherhood is valued far above all else, why are droves of mothers leaving their children? What would I do if I were in their shoes?"

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker)
Page Number: xii
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sonia Nazario talks about her motivation for writing the book. She was talking to her housekeeper Carmen, and gradually discovered that Carmen had left behind her children in order to come to America and seek fortune there. Nazario was amazed that a kind, talented woman would abandon her children in order to move to a new country; she couldn't help but wonder if she (Nazario) would do the same thing, if her best chance of finding a job was in America.

The passage lays out the basic project of the book: to study Latin-American culture and Latino immigration by focusing on a single family. The last sentence of the passage might be the most important: "What would I do?" Nazario's goal isn't just to describe her subjects' experiences: she wants to create a dialogue between reader and subject, creating empathy and, perhaps, political change.


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"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.

3. Facing the Beast Quotes

"'No one tells me something can’t be done. Everything can be cured. Nothing is impossible.'"

Related Characters: Olga (speaker)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

In Tapachula, a woman named Olga selflessly helps the people who are trying to get into America. Olga isn't a doctor, but she uses spiritual medicines in an attempt to help the immigrants who've become gravely injured during the course of their attempts to enter the U.S. Olga is proof that the immigrant experience brings out the best in some people: although she seems to have no material investment in helping the immigrants, she sacrifices her own time and effort for the sake of strangers on the road to America. Olga doesn't just help the immigrants' bodies; she gives them the optimism they need to succeed on their quest.

4. Gifts and Faith Quotes

"'We are human. We should treat people in a humane way. It's okay to send people back. But they shouldn't shoot them, beat them this way.'"

Related Characters: Maria Enriqueta Reyes Marquez (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

Maria Enriqueta Reyes Marquez is a Mexican woman whom Nazario asks about the current immigration policy between the U.S. and Latin America. Maria offers what could be considered the "moderate" position on immigration: there should be some attempts to keep out certain immigrants, but governments shouldn't use such violent means (sending people to jail, beating people, etc.).

It's probably true that even the most enthusiastic supporter of American immigration wouldn't argue that there should be no attempt to control or monitor immigration; by the same logic, it's true that even the most hardened anti-immigration figure probably wouldn't support the human rights atrocities committed against immigrants trying to get into the U.S. Thus, Maria's position is fundamentally common-sensical: we should be stern but decent to other human beings, even if they don't share a nationality with us.

5. On the Border Quotes

"Outside the church after dinner, many migrants engage in a crude kind of street therapy: Who has endured the worst riding the trains?"

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker)
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Nazario describes some of the ways that immigrants and other downtrodden people survive their lives without falling into despair. Instead of trying to forget their hardships, the immigrants turn their hardships into entertainment: they make a game out of who endured the worst pain on the trains.

The immigrants' "game" is a powerful survival mechanism, designed to help traumatized, lonely people find a sense of community. The music historian Albert Murray said that the point of the blues isn't to cause sadness: it's to get rid of sadness by singing about it. Much the same could be said of the games the immigrants play: therapeutically, their games rid the immigrants of some of their pain.