Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Wino drives Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi out past the Tijuana airport to a muffler shop. Yolo and Vampi are entranced, but Nayeli fears that they're going to be raped and killed. Strangely, she finds Atómiko's presence comforting, as she doesn't believe he'd allow Wino to hurt them. Wino leads the girls into the shop. Men with machine guns greet them, and they tell Nayeli to tell people that Atómiko led them across the border. Vampi suddenly yells "marijuana," and Nayeli notices that bales of marijuana line the walls. As he opens a trapdoor, the man snaps that if Wino weren't his nephew, they wouldn't be doing this.
The fact that the tunnel is a drug cartel tunnel muddies the simple good versus bad and narcos versus Tres Camarones dichotomies the novel has set up. It's very possible that the very tunnel the girls will use to enter the US is one that Scarface and other bandidos use.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
When everybody is in the tunnel, Atómiko whistles that he could make a million dollars off of the tunnel. The man laughs and explains that the tunnel runs for a half a mile and ends in a stitching company in the US. At night, his associates will open the door. When Nayeli asks what happens if the man is caught, he explains they'll blow up the tunnel, but he hopes that his "donations" are enough to keep him safe. The man sends the girls and Atómiko off through the tunnel, assuring them that they can't get lost.
This man makes "donations" to local law enforcement, which recalls the arrangement between Scarface and the state cop and provides more evidence that this tunnel might be connected to the very people Nayeli is trying to evict from her village.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
When they reach the end of the tunnel, Atómiko mentions that he could use some cocaine. The girls are in awe; they've never met a real drug user. They all sit at the end of the tunnel and argue about going to Kankakee and visiting Matt. Suddenly, they hear a scraping above and a male voice tells them to climb up. He directs them to a garage and from there, into a box truck. Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi clutch each other as the truck winds through traffic. After a while, they feel the truck exit the freeway and drive into a gravel lot. When the truck stops, the man lets them out and drives away.
The girls’ are shocked to find out that Atómiko uses drugs, which points back to their sheltered lives in Tres Camarones. Meanwhile, the girl’s continued interest in Matt indicates that as interesting as Atómiko might be, Matt is still the ideal version of manhood the girls desire, possibly because he is American.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi look around and wander out of the lot. They come to a playground, and Vampi and Atómiko swing on the swings. They laugh as they walk, entranced by the clean sidewalks and playgrounds. They find a clean public restroom and finally, a visitors' center. They wave at city policemen on bikes, and Nayeli sighs that she loves America. Atómiko complains that there are no bonfires in America, and Vampi points across the bay towards men sitting around a bonfire. A car full of girls drives by, blasting Eminem. Vampi shouts with glee and hugs Atómiko.
In this passage, it seems as if America has lived up to the group’s idealized expectations. However, the brief moment about the bonfires highlights that although America may seem ideal, the characters still can’t participate in the idealized American lifestyle. In this case, Nayeli and her friends notice a group of men enjoying a bonfire on the bay, but Nayeli and her friends only witness it, they don’t get to take part in it. 
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
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Vampi asks the group what they want to do now that they're in America. Nayeli wants to find her father and Matt, Yolo wants to find Matt and Tacho, and Atómiko declares he wants to go to Disneyland. The girls stare and giggle, and Atómiko says he wants to hit Mickey Mouse with his pole. The girls start weeping for Tacho, and Atómiko points across the street to a Jack in the Box and insists they need food. Nayeli attempts to call Matt at the payphone but realizes she's out of American money.
Atómiko's reasoning for wanting to go to Disneyland appears to be more of a face-saving afterthought than anything else, which indicates that he's not just the warrior he wants the girls to think he is. In comparison, the girls' interest in finding the men in their lives implies that they still think of heroism as being male rather than female.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon