Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After dark, the group stands against a wall, and Yolo suggests they call Irma. Vampi and Yolo insist they've already failed, but Nayeli vows to herself to find Don Pepe. Tacho calmly says they need to find a place to stay for the night, and the group begins walking north. A group of street kids grab at them on a dark street, and Nayeli stops at a taco cart after the kids disappear. Two men and the taco chef look the group over, and the chef asks if they're lost. Nayeli admits they are, and one man calls her "prieta," or "dark-faced girl," which is an insult in Tres Camarones.
This moment with the taco stand workers sets Nayeli up to encounter different types of racism, especially racism that's based on skin tone rather than nationality. Interestingly, “prieta,” or “dark-faced girl,” is an insult in Tres Camarones, even though everyone there has dark skin and (almost) everyone is female. Meanwhile, Nayeli's desire to find her father and bring him back to Tres Camarones illustrates how she still places more importance on male heroism than her own female version.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Nayeli asks the men to direct her to a hotel, and one offers Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi fifty pesos each to have sex with him. Finally, the man leads them to a small hotel in the red-light district. The door of the hotel room is cheap plywood with a defective lock, so Tacho puts a chain on the door. The group shares the two towels, put their dirty clothes back on, and climb into bed. Nayeli hears a woman and a man having sex next door. She tries to shut out the sound, but when the man moans, Tacho yells for somebody to "milk that cow." They all laugh at their neighbor's expense.
Here, the novel highlights that Nayeli and her group have been sheltered from the outside world and are consequently inexperienced in big cities. Admitting she's lost opens Nayeli up to being taken advantage of, especially since she still seems willing to trust anyone who appears to want to help. This shows that Nayeli idealizes both life in the city and the people who live there; she seems unaware that these people could be planning to take advantage of her.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Around three in the morning, Nayeli hears whispers outside the door. She watches as the knob turns, the latch pops, and a man's arm reaches into the room to find the door chain. Nayeli gets out of bed and recognizes the man's sleeve—it's the man from the taco stand. She grabs Tacho's pepper spray. When the man finds the chain, Nayeli kicks the door closed on his arm. She snaps his pinkie finger backwards, pulls the door open a crack, and fires the pepper spray into the man's face. Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi start screaming. Nayeli allows the door to open fully and stomps on the man's genitals when he falls back. Nayeli wedges the chair under the doorknob and doesn't sleep the rest of the night.
Even though Nayeli unwittingly enabled this attack by trusting these men, she ultimately proves that she's capable of defending herself and is the hero that she and the rest of the group need. This suggests that the plan to bring men back to Tres Camarones to protect the village may be unnecessary, as Nayeli is living proof that women are more than capable of defending themselves. In addition, it seems that Nayeli’s karate training is what allows her to protect herself and her friends from the men. 
Themes
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon