Enrique’s Journey, as its title indicates, is the non-fiction story of a 17-year-old boy’s struggle to travel across Mexico to the United States to reunite with his mother. The events depicted in the book are set in motion by an initial instance of abandonment: Lourdes’ difficult decision to leave Enrique and his sister Belky in Honduras, while she seeks work in the United States to send money back to her family. Leaving her children is a painful choice that haunts her throughout her time in the United States. Abandonment, in this case, is harsh but necessary. The layers of family disintegration run deeper than this single decision, though. After Lourdes leaves, Enrique’s father, Luis, also walks out on the family, forming a new one with another woman and leaving his son in the care of their grandmother, Maria. When Enrique begins to rebel in response to his complicated feelings of abandonment, his grandmother also rejects him. By an early age, Enrique has felt the pain of being deserted by his family members three times.
Nazario writes throughout the book of the commonness of Enrique’s situation, giving statistics on the numbers of single women who leave behind their families in Central America in search of work in the U.S. and listing mothers in situations similar to Lourdes’. Within the story she tells, the reader starts to see patterns, in which abandonment leads to abandonment, and the disintegration of one family has ripple effects that lead to the disintegration of others. These traumatic moments of abandonment come out of necessity and the best of intentions in awful circumstances, but the scars of abandonment remain even after some families manage to reunite.
Family and Abandonment ThemeTracker
Family and Abandonment Quotes in Enrique’s Journey
"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?"
"[Enrique] will remember only one thing that she says to him: 'Don't forget to go to church this afternoon'."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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?"
"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."
"His mother is a stranger...But he can feel her love."
"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."
"Maria Isabel does not say goodbye to her daughter. She does not hug her. She gets out of the car and walks briskly into the bus terminal. She does not look back. She never tells her she is going to the United States."