Vampi and Araceli water the roses, while Yolo and Porfirio drink a cocktail made with the rum. Tacho tells Atómiko the group's story, and finally, Atómiko confirms that they're serious about sneaking illegally into the US to illegally bring back illegal aliens. He finds the story thrilling. Yolo, bored, suggests they take seven men from the dump home, but Tacho insists on seeing Hollywood. Vampi agrees with Yolo, but Atómiko insists that they can't do that: he declares that the "warriors" in the dump aren't worthy, and the Tres Camarones group needs the men who made it over the border. The girls find his fervor and enthusiasm somewhat stirring.
The roses are one way for Araceli to claim ownership over the land, much like farming allowed her to claim ownership over her land before she was forced to become a beggar. Tacho's insistence on going to the US indicates that despite his misgivings, he still perceives the US as an ideal place. It seems that the girls also want to think that the US will be wonderful, and they just need someone's help in negating their doubts—something Atómiko manages to do with his unbridled enthusiasm.
Atómiko ends his speech by saying that the group needs a warrior like him to accompany them over the border, and Nayeli rudely insults Atómiko's "elegant" life and the fact that he used to sneak over the border when he was a soldier. Tacho shoots Nayeli a look and tells Atómiko that they want his help crossing the border. Atómiko steps outside the yard and whistles an obscure tune. Promptly, an ancient Oldsmobile creeps out from an alley and pulls up by the gate. Nayeli calls him a loser, and Atómiko boasts that he has powers.
The rivalry developing between Nayeli and Atómiko is very much a rivalry between two different kinds of heroes. Nayeli represents a quieter, more subdued female heroism, while Atómiko represents a scrappy, unthinking, gallant version of heroism that the novel suggests is uniquely male. However, when Atómiko can conjure help, it shows that male heroism isn't useless.
A man named Wino jumps out of the car and jokes with Atómiko and Tacho in broken English. Nayeli tries to decline Wino and Atómiko's help, but Tacho speaks over her. Wino promises to take them to a guide who will take them to the US. He asks for $150 per person, and though Tacho and Nayeli pretend to discuss the offer, they don't know if it's a good or bad price. They finally agree, and Atómiko gleefully runs off to get his things.
In this situation, Tacho acts as the girls’ guardian because he is male. This shows that the novel does still afford men some degree of power, given that Nayeli seems to listen to him and allows him to be her protector.
Nayeli dislikes Atómiko, but Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi insist on allowing him to come. Atómiko tells Nayeli he's coming with them because there's nothing on TV, and Yolo suggests that he and Nayeli are going to get married. Wino turns out to be a fantastic tour guide, and he drives them through the neighborhoods of Tijuana, pointing out all the sights.
It's telling that all of Nayeli's friends fight her on the issue of Atómiko—and make jokes about romance—as this suggests that his straight male presence is somehow threatening to the status quo of the girls' friendship. This in turn foreshadows the girls' issues to come.
When the group reaches Colonia Libertad, they discover that it's the place where millions of people have made their way over the border. In the 1970s and 1980s, the US put up stadium lights and the fence. Now, dozens instead of hundreds of people wait and watch for their chance to cross. The narrator says that many will be caught, but most of them will try again the next day. Coyotes (crossing guides) mill around, and Christian missionaries drive through. Nayeli watches for Matt.
Here, the narrator situates the group in a greater historical context. In doing so, the novel suggests that Nayeli and her friends are not the only ones to idealize the United States, given the sheer number of people who try to get across the border despite the risks.
Atómiko and Wino negotiate with a coyote. The girls are scared of the coyote, and Tacho tries to hide his fear. Finally, the men strike a deal and Wino leaves. Suddenly, Nayeli notices a commotion. People are throwing rocks at a white Border Patrol truck on the other side of the fence. The truck stops, the agent gets out, and he flips off the Mexicans with a smile before getting back in his truck. Yolo and Vampi wonder if they should just go home, and they brush off Atómiko's attempts to soothe them. Tacho insists that he's going, and when Nayeli suggests they call Matt once they cross, Yolo and Vampi agree to go.
Again, there appears to be a relatively friendly, teasing rapport between the Border Patrol officers and the Mexicans who presumably wish to cross. This shows again that the idea of the border is somewhat absurd, as it fosters this cat and mouse game between the officers and the illegal immigrants. When Nayeli is able to tempt Yolo and Vampi with the possibility of finding Matt, it indicates that he also represents some sort of ideal in their minds.
The coyote begins to address the group. He explains the path they'll take to cross the border and tells them that if Border Patrol catches them, he's abandoning them. He runs through the dangers of the crossing: rapists, junkies, "rateros," and Border Patrol. When he's finished, another Border Patrol truck drives by. Mexicans throw stones at the truck, and two more trucks arrive and begin firing teargas grenades. The coyote leads Nayeli and the group to a safe spot, and they wait for nightfall.
Although the border is an arbitrary line in the desert, for Nayeli and her friends, the border is the difference between poverty and shining idealism. Meanwhile, the teargas suddenly shifts the dynamic between the Border Patrol officers and the Mexicans from friendly and teasing to serious and dangerous. Just as the group will find kindness and compassion in unexpected places, they will also be faced with brutal racism, nationalism, and violence.
Atómiko promises that if Nayeli and the group get caught, he'll meet them at the deportee drop off site in Tijuana. After another Border Patrol truck passes, the coyote leads them forward. He pulls a section of the fence loose and crawls through. Nayeli cuts her scalp on the sharp edge as she runs through after the coyote, and Tacho panics before remembering their first meeting point. Once they all reach the first meeting point, the coyote takes off through the tall brush. Nayeli follows, with Yolo, Tacho, and Vampi behind her. They notice a pregnant woman (later revealed as Candelaria) running with them, and the woman pulls Vampi up when she trips.
Atómiko's promise indicates that he knows the border is heavily policed, and that the group is likely to be caught. It seems that Atómiko has no illusions about crossing the border and is instead doing so for the thrill. Meanwhile, the fact that the pregnant woman helps Vampi shows that there is a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among those who are trying to cross the border.
Nayeli soon becomes frustrated with the coyote—he's a smoker and out of shape, and she feels as though she could run all night. Finally, everyone, including the pregnant woman, reaches the bridge overpass, which is the final meeting point. The coyote snaps at the pregnant woman, who introduces herself as Candelaria, but before they can argue over Candelaria paying for her passage, they hear vehicles on the bridge. When one stops and they hear a door open, the coyote vanishes. Nayeli hears an American voice above, and then they see a stream of urine coming down off the bridge. They try not to laugh but do so freely once the agent gets back in his car and drives away.
Candelaria's presence expands Nayeli and her group's conception of what the border means to different people—for Candelaria, getting across likely means a better life for her baby. This shows that Candelaria also idealizes the US and what it will bring for her, but later events will show that this idealization is somewhat misguided.