Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Agent Arnold Davis has been working for the government for twenty-seven years, and he's just about ready to call it quits. He thinks that all the new Border Patrol agents don't know anything about the border, and they're all desperate for action despite the number of crossings being at a historic low. He shakes his head thinking about agents' desire to find terrorists and bombs, and he thinks that the new government policy to catch illegal immigrants heading back to Mexico is enough to make him want to quit.
The new policy of catching immigrants returning to Mexico indicates that the Border Patrol is as much about making a show of power (and of racism) than of preserving the integrity of the border. When Arnie indicates he doesn't agree with the policy, it makes him a more sympathetic character, as he presumably feels compassionate toward the immigrants.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Arnie ushers Nayeli out of the holding pen and seats her at a desk. When he asks Nayeli about her American money, she begins to tell her story. It's the dumbest thing he's heard but also the most original story all week. He and another agent laugh at Nayeli, and Nayeli insists she's not a liar. Arnie thinks she looks a lot like his daughter and leads her to a vending machine. He buys Coke and snacks for Nayeli and her friends before putting her back in the pen. Nayeli feels ashamed; she thought the Americans would be happy to let her in.
When Arnie compares Nayeli to his daughter, it begins to break down the borders between them and allows Arnie to see Nayeli as more human. In turn, this causes him to treat her with kindness and buy her food. Arnie’s reaction to Nayeli offers an indication that listening to other people’s stories is a way to bridge racial and cultural gaps.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
When Nayeli finds Yolo, Tacho, and Vampi, Yolo is incensed. She pushes Nayeli, attracting the attention of an officer, and Tacho tries to calm everyone down. Finally, Yolo accepts a hug, and Tacho tells the girls to think of home. Buses arrive, and the scene becomes extremely noisy. Tacho yells again to think of home, and yells that he thinks about La Mano Caída. The Border Patrol agents zero in on Tacho and ask if he's Al Qaeda. Tacho doesn't understand and repeats the name of his bar. The agents jump on him, and the girls are swept up with the others and onto buses.
The novel takes place after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which means that the "War on Terror" is likely in full swing—and any mention of a terrorist group can get a person in trouble. When Tacho says “La Mano Caída,” the agents mishear him, thinking instead that he said, “Al Qaeda.” The fact that Tacho isn't immediately aware that he's in deep trouble is another indicator of how isolated Tres Camarones is from the rest of the world.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon