Enrique’s Journey

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Humanization and Dehumanization Theme Analysis

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.
Humanization and Dehumanization  Theme Icon

While Enrique’s Journey features stories of worthy people who express care and compassion for the human needs of migrants, the book also does not shy away from describing the dehumanizing circumstances that Enrique and others must confront. Nazario’s interest in finding a single story to illuminate the debate surrounding immigration policy in recent decades shows her commitment to humanizing immigration studies. In the prologue, she discusses her reconstruction of Enrique’s journey in order to give a full picture of the trials that he had to face. One way that Nazario portrays the humanity of the characters is by showing them in all their complications. She does not absolutely praise anyone nor does she judge the people she meets for their mistakes. Enrique at times deserves praise for his persistence and at others, criticism for his negligence. Illustrating a full picture of him, Nazario displays his humanity.

As Nazario strives to humanize these characters through her writing, she also points out the constant dehumanizing situations that they encounter. On the route from Honduras to the United States border, migrants confront countless threats, from physical danger to psychological harm. Many of them are caused by other people who have no respect for their humanity and no reservations about degrading others. Women migrants are especially dehumanized, unable to escape the grasp of sexual assailants. The police are also described as treating migrants without humanity, hunting them down like animals. Nazario portrays INS officers as equally bloodthirsty and cruel, following migrants’ trail until they capture them. Enrique’s Journey can be read as an attempt to restore the humanity of illegal immigrants – who have otherwise been stripped of it – in order to show the complications of these immigrants’ stories and open up the conversation about how to ameliorate the situation on all sides.

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Humanization and Dehumanization ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Enrique’s Journey related to the theme of Humanization and Dehumanization .
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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"Although I often felt exhausted and miserable, I knew I was experiencing only an iota of what migrant children go through...The journey gave me a glimmer of how hard this is for them."

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

In order to understand Enrique's journey, Nazario literally took the journey herself, walking and traveling through the different parts of Mexico in order to enter America. Nazario isn't trying to say that she underwent as much hardship as Enrique did (that's simply not true), but she does believe that she came to understand his experience a little better by imitating it herself.

Nazario wants to convey the difficulty and the stakes of Enrique's experience to her readers: the novel will give us a snapshot of Enrique's journey not through our own personal experience, but through another's--we'll be able to learn about the hardships he underwent through Nazario's journalism.

3. Facing the Beast Quotes

"Nearly one in six migrant girls detained by authorities in Texas says she has been sexually assaulted during her journey, according to a 1997 University of Houston study."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

It's difficult for any Latin-American immigrant to enter the United States, but it's particularly difficult for immigrant women to do so. Immigrant women are essentially forced to put their trust in strangers; people whom they hope will treat them with respect on their journey to the U.S. Instead, their "helpers" will often sexually assault them, recognizing that an illegal immigrant can't go the authorities to prosecute a sex criminal.

The passage is a good example of how Nazario situates Enrique's journey within the context of immigration as a whole. Enrique isn't a representative immigrant--because there's no such thing. Thus, Nazario enhances her book by adding information about some of the overall trends in the immigration experience: how immigration is different for women and men, the old and the young, etc.

"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

"It's wrong for our government to send people back to Central America. If we don't want to be stopped from going into the United States, how can we stop Central Americans in our country?"

Related Characters: Man from Veracruz (speaker)
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

A man from Veracruz offers Nazario his opinion of the immigration process in Mexico. There are many in Mexico who have come illegally from Central America in the hopes of entering the United States one day: Mexico is a transitional region for them, in which they'll live for a short time before journeying north. The man from Veracruz argues that it would be hypocritical for the governments of Mexico to send back illegal immigrants in their country, since so many people from Mexico attempt to enter the United States in much the same way. Mexico is caught in a tough position: it's trying to be a legitimate state, and yet its economy is to no small degree empowered by immigrants in the U.S. who send money home to their relatives.

The passage also alludes to one of the most common observations about the anti-immigration stance in the U.S.: many of the same Americans who are descended from immigrants are themselves opposed to Mexican immigration--how can they oppose immigration and yet come from immigrant stock?

"'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.

7. The Girl Left Behind Quotes

"'It's like a miracle,' [Lourdes] says. It is as if all the hurt he felt inside had to come out and now he is ready to move on."

Related Characters: Sonia Nazario (speaker), Lourdes
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Enrique continues to resent his mother for abandoning him when he was only a young child--even if he understands the harsh economic realities that led her to do so. And yet when he comes to America to live with his mother, he begins to change his relationship with her. As if in revenge, Enrique separates from his mother for a second time: he moves to North Carolina with his friends, voluntarily. Enrique quickly begins to realize that he really does love his mother: he begins to think more about why she left him to come to America.

As Lourdes puts it, Enrique has gone through two "rounds" of pain: the first when Lourdes left him to come to America; the second when he separated from Lourdes to live in North Carolina. Because of these painful separations, Enrique has come to see the truth about Lourdes: she's a kind, loving, but ultimately imperfect woman who tried to do her best to provide for her family, even if that meant abandoning her family. Enrique, it would seem, is ready to move on with his life, instead of dwelling on his love and resentment for his mother. One could say that Enrique's real journey has been psychological, not literal: he's come to see the light about his family situation.