Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Into the Beautiful North can help.

Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nayeli dances down the streets of Tres Camarones on her way to work at the Fallen Hand. She used to be a star soccer player and is still in shape, and even though she's been out of school for a year, she still wears her school uniform skirt so she can show off her legs. As she dances, she dreams of leaving town. Nayeli desperately wants to go anywhere that she's seen in the films that play at the local cinema. She sometimes dreams about going to the United States to find her father, but she doesn't like to think about him.
Nayeli idealizes the cultural products of the United States and therefore, the United States itself. Nayeli's pride in her body is also its own kind of idealization: she knows that her body attracts attention, and she generally appears to like that attention, though it's important to note that at this point, there's no indication that she's received any negative attention.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Nayeli is coming from Tía Irma's campaign headquarters. Irma is running for mayor, and if she wins, will be the first female mayor. She's highly qualified, as she was the Lady Bowling Champion and therefore has leadership experience, and she believes that she can bring Mexico back from "chaos and ruin." Nayeli's job is mostly to write campaign slogans in sidewalk chalk, and she earns twenty pesos per week doing that. This is why she has her second job at the Fallen Hand, as twenty pesos isn't enough to buy tortillas.
Right from the start, Irma makes it abundantly clear that women are capable of affecting change in the world and doing that work themselves. Further, like Nayeli, Scarface, and the cop, Irma seems disillusioned with Mexico as a whole—though she differs from them all in her belief that she'll be able to change it, suggesting that she truly believes in her own power to work. In addition, the mention of Irma’s qualifications for being mayor—her leadership experience from her bowling league—highlights that Tres Camarones is not exactly bustling with powerful, politically minded people.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
After Scarface and the state cop have been waiting for several hours for the surfers in the Fallen Hand, the cop decides it's time to eat. The owner, Tacho, brushes off the cop's insults and slurs—he's gay, and he's heard it all. Finally, Nayeli bursts through the door, flirting with Tacho on her way in, making the narcos wonder if maybe Tacho isn't gay. Tying on an apron, Nayeli approaches the table and takes the cop's order. As she turns away, the cop grabs her hand and tells her she's under arrest for stealing his heart. Laughing, he lets her go. Nayeli's face burns, and Tacho quietly calls the cop "ugly old man."
It’s unclear if Nayeli flirts with Tacho for her own amusement or to rescue him from the insults of Scarface. Regardless, Nayeli’s flirtation makes Scarface and the cop question Tacho’s sexuality and, consequently, where Tacho fits within their system of organizing people. This shows how important it is for powerful people (like Scarface) to create carefully delineated systems and borders, as it allows them a greater degree of control.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Still laughing, Scarface and the state cop holler for drinks. Nayeli delivers two beers as fast as she can so that she doesn't have to be near the men. Scarface pulls out his pistol, lays it on the table, and winks at Nayeli as he looks her over.
Guns serve an important function throughout the novel. Though the female characters at large have the skills and tenacity to defend themselves, they never acquire their own guns. Within the novel, guns are exclusively masculine tools, consequently giving men a greater, more threatening sense of power over women.
Themes
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Get the entire Into the Beautiful North LitChart as a printable PDF.
Into the Beautiful North PDF
The narrator explains that nobody knows if Tres Camarones is in the state of Sinaloa or Nayarit, as it boasts no major highways, police stations, or tourist destinations that would make it important. It's about as remote as a person can get and doesn't even exist on a map. The American boys who are supposed to purchase Scarface's marijuana are on spring break from college in California, and they chose to surf and camp on the beaches of Tres Camarones. The locals didn't tell them that although the beaches are beautiful, they're extremely hazardous: there are alligators, Portuguese man-of-wars, and the sand drops off suddenly just past the water line, creating a dangerous trap for swimmers or surfers.
Just as Scarface and the cop question Tacho's sexuality (and consequently have trouble categorizing him), Tres Camarones also resists categorization. Since it’s unclear which state the city belongs to, the city is able to exist as its own independent entity and maintain a degree of control over itself. However, this lack of clarity also means that someone like Scarface will have an easier time drawing his own borders on the territory.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Tres Camarones is used to Americans, as missionaries from California visit often. However, several missions failed due to a lack of converts, and one Hindu missionary left with typhoid and dysentery. The Jehovah's Witnesses left when Irma started calling them "Los Testículos de Jeová" (Jehovah's testicles).
Tres Camarones also defies classification by swiftly rejecting missionaries of all denominations. In doing so, the village maintains ownership over itself instead of ceding power to a governing religious body elsewhere.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
After Scarface finishes eating his tacos, he stands and shouts about the Americans. Tacho only shrugs when Scarface asks where the surfers are, but he agrees to pass on the message that the narcos will shoot the surfers next time they see them. As Scarface and the state cop walk to their car, Scarface notes that there are no cops and no men in this town. He smiles and says that he could do very well in a town like this. They don't pay for their lunch.
Scarface states that there are no men in Tres Camarones even though he has just interacted with (and stolen lunch from) Tacho, who is a man. Since Scarface and the cop previously suspected Tacho of being gay, it seems as though Scarface thinks that Tacho’s  sexuality makes him not even count as a man. Scarface’s prejudice is significant, as it aligns Tacho with the women of Tres Camarones from the very beginning of the novel.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon