Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nayeli knows she has to take charge; she declares that they should travel east towards San Diego. The group climbs up to the road and soon, Atómiko joins them. As they walk, they loudly argue about attractive American actors. They hide from helicopters, but after less than a mile, the group suddenly finds themselves illuminated by headlights. Nayeli hears a voice telling them that they're under arrest.
The group's carelessness suggests that they wrongly believe that crossing the physical border was the hard part—in reality, it's getting deeper into the country that's the difficult task. This sets Nayeli up to expand her understanding of what borders can do and what they even consist of.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Agent Anderson shines his light in Tacho's face as Agent Smith drives up. They hear yelling and cursing from the south. The entire group looks to see the light of the helicopter illuminating Atómiko, who appears to want to fight the helicopter. In Spanish, Anderson asks Tacho what's up with Atómiko. Tacho explains he's crazy, and Anderson decides to not handcuff Tacho. Atómiko waves his staff around, yells that Nayeli rules, and then pole vaults over the wall. The agents are impressed. They turn their attention back to their "clients" and usher them into the back of their car.
When Agent Anderson decides to not handcuff Tacho due to Tacho's cooperation and candidness, it shows that Anderson doesn't necessarily dehumanize these people he's arresting.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Agent Smith helps Candelaria into the car and suggests she try to cross on Sunday, his day off. They apparently know each other, and this seems a common exchange. The agents drive off but soon stop when they see two agents beating a Mexican boy. Smith seems embarrassed, and Vampi and Yolo cry. Smith gets out to help the agents, and when he returns, he asks why they don't all just stay home. Tacho laughs that he wishes he stayed home, and Nayeli offers that her group isn't bad.
Again, the banter between the agents and their detainees suggests that this is all very commonplace, and everyone is simply doing their job—everyone involved, save for the boy being beaten, are treated relatively humanely. However, the boy being beaten is significant, as it’s a reminder of the dark side to border crossing.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Finally, the agents reach a school bus and drop off their clients. Agent Anderson and Candelaria acknowledge each other, and Nayeli's group loses track of Candelaria on the bus. Nayeli is shocked to see that some men on the bus are asleep. A guard with a huge gun boards the bus and explains what will happen: they'll conduct interviews and send them home. Tacho thinks the US is disappointing, while Yolo shakes with anger and Vampi cries.
The sleeping men indicate that this is a normal part of life on the border. Their nonchalance shows that being detained means little to them and suggests that they'll surely try again soon. Once again, it is clear that the most difficult part of crossing the border is getting past the agents and the official channels; crossing the line is relatively easy.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
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A number of government officials, from ICE agents to a San Diego city cop, usher the Mexican detainees into a holding pen. Nayeli feels a hand grab her buttocks and another touch her breast. This distracts her, and when she turns her attention back to Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi, she can't find them. She looks around at the others in the pen and is shocked to see mothers with children.
The presence of children in the pen is an even more poignant reminder that the US represents the hope of a better life for many people. Nayeli realizes that the mothers surrounding her are willing to put themselves and their children at risk (maybe even repeatedly) to one day make it to the place where they can live out that better life.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
When Nayeli looks at the agents on the other side, she thinks they look big and crisp. As she watches them move, she wonders what makes them different from her. A female agent catches Nayeli's attention, and then she sees a black agent. She's never seen a black man in the flesh, and when he notices her staring, she shyly tells him his skin is beautiful. Agent Smith walks by and calls the black man Arnie. Arnie ushers Nayeli out of the pen to process her.
Nayeli’s reaction to Arnie’s skin signals that Nayeli is not racist but has been extremely sheltered. However, it’s also possible that Arnie allows Nayeli to feel white in comparison, given that the men in Tijuana referred to her as "dark girl."
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
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