The next morning, Julia goes into the room which used to be her mother’s bedroom and looks around. She is aware of the irony of the fact that though she hates when her mother goes through her things, she’s now going through her mother’s old things. She doesn’t find anything exciting, though she does come upon a framed drawing of Amá when she was young. She brings the drawing to Mamá Jacinta and asks who drew it—Mamá Jacinta, surprised by the question, reveals that Apá drew it. Julia is surprised, and insists her father doesn’t draw, but Mamá Jacinta tells her that he was once known as the best artist in Los Ojos. Julia asks her grandmother why Apá would have stopped, and Mamá Jacinta suggests that Apá got too busy with work in the factory and other responsibilities once he got to America.
Julia’s journey towards becoming a more empathetic person starts with a reversal of roles. Normally, her mother is the one who does the snooping in hopes of figuring out who her daughter is and what she’s up to—now, wanting to know more about her mother and understand her better, she engages in that very same action. Julia is learning more about her parents, and beginning to see them as people—people with just as many hopes and dreams for their lives as she herself has, and also people with their own imperfections.
That night, in bed, Julia lies awake and wonders how long she’ll be in Mexico. She wonders if she’ll ever be able to find out who Olga’s boyfriend was, and as she thinks about what she knows so far, decides that he had to be a doctor at the office where Olga worked.
Julia is still unable to shake her desire to solve the puzzle of Olga’s life—but now in Mexico away from the constant quest to find more information she is able to put some of those pieces together to understand more about her sister’s situation.
Fermina’s oldest daughter Belén is “the town hot girl.” She is not much older than Julia but nearly a foot taller, and dresses in revealing clothing that makes everyone in town stare whenever she walks down the street. Belén decides to take Julia out and introduce her to everyone else in town—Julia is nervous about talking to so many strangers, but decides to go along. After a few of these walks, Julia begins to enjoy them, and loves listening to Belén’s constant gossip, even though she doesn’t know who any of the people her cousin talks about are.
Julia is bonding with her entire family, and learning to appreciate a different, slower way of life. Julia has been so obsessed with college and forward motion that she’s forgotten how nice it can be to just enjoy the present.
On one walk with Belén, Belén points out a “depressing park” as the place where a group of narcos—drug lords—beheaded the town mayor years ago. When Julia is shocked by the violence, Belén points out a nearby house that was burned down by a Molotov cocktail. Julia asks if she is safe in Los Ojos, and Belén insists she is—as long as she doesn’t stay out late, “especially alone.”
This passage foreshadows the terrible violence that has come to Los Ojos—and will come again. While in many ways her extended family’s life in Mexico is better than that of her life as an immigrant in Chicago, in other ways it is much more dangerous. After this passage, it is more clear why people would leave the town to go to the United States illegally, despite the risks.The destruction described here also points to the cyclical and often inescapable nature of poverty.