Much of Enrique’s journey is about overcoming impossible obstacles, confronting extreme danger, and making it out alive. At 17, Enrique succeeds in traveling from Honduras through 13 of Mexico’s most violent states and crossing the border into the U.S. in large part due to his determination. Of course, he is lucky too – benefiting from the help of others and gaining knowledge from experienced peers. He gives himself a time limit that shows his perseverance and the gravity of his decision: he will make it to his mother even if it takes a year. Despite the dangerous circumstances jumping trains, facing corrupt policemen, immigration checkpoints and officers, bandits, and gangsters, Enrique persists.
Even before he sets out on his journey, he shows determination and resolve after a period of drug addiction and emotional confusion. Once on the route, it is not only Enrique, but also many other characters in the book that exhibit strength and perseverance in the face of impossible tasks, including the medics from the Red Cross and the leader of the shelter in Tapachula, Olga. Furthermore, perseverance is not only a quality that Enrique must possess in order to make the physical journey to the United States. After he arrives, survival is no longer a concern in the immediate sense that it was while riding the tops of trains through Chiapas. But now, he must learn to survive with his mother, to persevere in their relationship, and to stick to his goal of sending money back to Maria Isabel and his daughter Jasmin. Just as he persevered through his drug addiction in Honduras, Enrique also must fight addiction to drinking and sniffing paint thinner in the United States. Finally, his ultimate dedication to his family – Lourdes, Maria Isabel, and Jasmin – leads him to overcome addiction and work hard for the good of those who love him. Thus, Enrique learns that perseverance is important for both immediate and long-term consequences, for his literal survival and for the well-being and mental health of himself and his family.
Perseverance and Survival ThemeTracker
Perseverance and Survival Quotes in Enrique’s Journey
"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."
"In their absence, these mothers become larger than life. Although in the United States the women struggle to pay rent and eat, in the imaginations of their children back home they become deliverance itself, the answer to every problem. Finding them becomes the quest for the Holy Grail."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"At the rate of nearly one every other day, the Red Cross estimates, U.S.-bound Central American migrants who ride freight trains lose arms, legs, hands, or feet."
"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."
"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?"
"Outside the church after dinner, many migrants engage in a crude kind of street therapy: Who has endured the worst riding the trains?"
"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."
"'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."