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 Enrique with a pair of pants and directs him to the mayor, who brings him to his home and takes care of him. A mayor from a neighboring town arrives in a truck and takes Enrique to the doctor. The alternative is to let Enrique die, but the cost of burying him would be three times as much as the doctor's fee. Before they leave for the hospital, Enrique sees a judicial office, who robbed him the day before. The robbing, beating, and extorting of migrants by corrupt police is a common occurrence.
Enrique's injuries demonstrate the physical dangers of his journey and the extent of his determination to find his mother. Although the people of this town show compassion and generosity towards Enrique, Nazario also complicates these characters' decisions by inserting the detail about the price of burying migrants—they are helping, but they are also just being practical. This exemplifies Nazario's balanced way of storytelling, which allows her to present the facts without imposing her own judgment on the situation.
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 chapter: he travels by bus through Guatemala with his friend Jose, but is seized atop a train in Veracruz, Mexico. The second time, Enrique traveled alone, but was caught atop the trains and again deported to Guatemala. On the third, police caught him asleep in a house and robbed him. Police caught him asleep again on his fourth trip in Tapachula, Mexico. The fifth time, he was caught in Mexico City. His sixth journey, was the most successful: he had covered 1,564 miles and was at the Rio Grande river, with the United States in view on the other side, when he was seized by immigration agents who sent him back to Guatemala.
This list of attempts emphasizes the many obstacles that migrants encounter on their way. It also shows how the intense efforts of the migrants can be shut down and made pointless in a moment, returning them to where they started. Enrique's multiple attempts reveal his inner strength and resolve that drives his desire to see his mother. From this description, it seems as though he will never give up. Also note that Enrique is not only trying to circumvent a system that is stacked against him. The system itself is corrupt. The police don’t just catch him. Some of those police are corrupt, and also rob him. The desperate migrants are exploited and mistreated by many of those who are in power.
Meanwhile, in Honduras, Maria Isabel worries about Enrique and blames herself for his leaving. She wishes that he will be deported back to Honduras. She is unwell and losing weight, and wonders if she is pregnant. Finally, she decides with a friend that they will go to the U.S. together.
Maria Isabel's resolve to find Enrique shows another layer of family disintegration. Just as Enrique must find his mother, so too does Maria Isabel feel the need to find him. Again the book shows how an initial abandonment ripples outward, creates a cycle of abandonment.
At the Guatemalan border where Enrique was deported after being caught for the sixth time, he must quickly find his way back into Mexico to avoid the dangers of the border towns. On his seventh trip, he crosses the river into Mexico at El Carmen and gets onto a freight train. There, he is robbed and badly beaten by six men. To escape from the men, he jumps from the train, which is moving at almost 40 miles per hour. At this point, the story joins up with the first episode in the chapter—Enrique finds the field hand, Gomez, and the mayor, and he is brought to a clinic. The doctor tells him that he is lucky; many others whom he treats after a day, ready to continue his journey. As he limps down the road, a few people give him a little money out of people. Soon he flags down a car for a ride. Unfortunately, the driver is an off-duty immigration officer, who sends him on a bus back to Guatemala. Despite failing for a seventh time, Enrique tells himself that he must persist.
This section conveys the wide range of characters that migrants meet on their journeys, from the bandits to the doctors to the migras. Nazario's description of the beating shows the cruelty inflicted on migrants, who are determined to survive to make it to their loved ones. Then, Enrique's trip to the doctor reveals the conditions of other patients who are at even more risk. Finally, his ultimate failure—which comes about because of a pure stroke of ridiculously bad luck—does not deter him from his goal, and he resolves to keep trying.