Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Into the Beautiful North can help.

Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator explains that the "bandidos" came to the Mexican village of Tres Camarones at the worst time, when the village was already in flux. Nobody there likes change—even getting electricity in the 1930s was a struggle. The mayor, García-García the First, spent two years lobbying for electricity. Even after he was successful, some citizens continued to burn candles and build bonfires in the street, necessitating a ban on street fires. García-García lost his next election but was later reelected—citizens figured there would be less change with the same mayor.
It is immediately clear that the residents of Tres Camarones (Three Shrimp) idealize the past and have done so for generations. García-García the First's reelection shows that there's a major desire among the Tres Camarones citizens to preserve some semblance of this idealized past, suggesting a desire for familiarity and stability, as well as a fear of the future.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Tres Camarones only changes when inclement weather washes away parts of the town or reshapes the beaches. However, this all changed when the value of the peso dropped. Work disappeared, and tortillas were suddenly too expensive to buy. Some traditionalists voted to get rid of electricity, but none of the women wanted to get rid of their appliances. Instead, the men began going north.
The peso’s dramatic decrease in value refers to the major economic crises that Mexico experienced throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. Some people think that simply getting rid of electricity will fix the deep-rooted economic problems, once again highlighting the residents’ anxiety about change and the future, as well as their tendency to idealize the past.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The bandidos arrive in Tres Camarones as the sun rises. One is an officer with the Sinaloa State Police—he makes more than 15 times his officer's salary as an "advisor" for the drug cartels. The other is a low-level "narco" looking for his own territory so he can make it big. He's known as Scarface. He and the state cop are driving to Tres Camarones to deliver marijuana to some American surfers, though Scarface thinks that the bumpy road and the heat are a lot of trouble for marijuana.
Scarface’s mention of needing his own territory introduces the idea that the borders in Mexico aren't always conventional ones. In this case, a Scarface wants to impose his own borders on the land so that he can achieve greater success and clout as a drug dealer. While this may be beneficial for Scarface, this would likely be detrimental for the people of Tres Camarones.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Both men are extremely irritated: the state cop's gun holster is squeaky, and the only music on the radio is Mexican music. Scarface and the cop argue about which hip-hop artists are best and agree that Mexico is a terrible country. Driving through the dirt streets, the men are disgusted by the overwhelming smell of the town’s outhouses and laugh at the skinny dogs and roosters. They see one house with a satellite dish. Finally, they come upon the town square and notice a restaurant called "Taqueria e Internet 'La Mano Caida.'" They scoff at the name—Fallen Hand—and decide to stop and wait for the surfers.
Scarface and the state cop clearly don't find rural Mexico charming, which implies that unlike the residents of Tres Camarones, these men typically exist in an urbanized, modern world and like it. However, as much as Scarface and the cop think of this place as provincial, the satellite dish suggests that Tres Camarones might not be as backwards as they think it is.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Get the entire Into the Beautiful North LitChart as a printable PDF.
Into the Beautiful North PDF