Later that night, Matt escapes to Carla's side of the duplex. They pass a bong back and forth, and Matt slurs that there's nowhere for him to sleep in his house. They talk about illegal aliens and mention building a fence, and Matt suggests calling Border Patrol. They both laugh, and Matt declares that the trouble with "illegals" is that they settle in and then never leave, though he admits that he has a crush on "the cute one." Carla admits she can't tell the girls apart.
Thus far, Matt has been portrayed as a kind, sympathetic character. However, this exchange with Carla reveals that he, too, harbors a great deal of latent racist beliefs. Further, Matt’s racism isn't affected by the fact that he has a crush on one of the girls (it is unclear which one), highlighting that his racist beliefs are more deeply rooted than his romantic feelings.
At Matt's house, El Brujo fries beans and meat and Tacho blasts disco music. Atómiko sits outside, smoking, drinking, and reminiscing about his parents and the dump. He had a cozy hut there, fenced with mattress springs like the other huts, and he made friends with the dump dogs.
Atómiko's musing about fences reminds the reader that the dump dwellers are just as interested in defining their own borders as everyone else, which is an indicator of their humanity and the human impulse to carve out a space for one’s self in the world.
Chava accepted the girls' invitation to come for dinner, and as he drives to Matt's house, he realizes the girls delight him. He misses Tres Camarones and Irma, and he thinks that nobody in the US can fathom how wonderful Mexican women are. He thinks that he has so few nice evenings in the US—being around the girls makes him realize how lonely he is. At one point during the dinner, Chava pulls Nayeli aside and explains that he knows a young man named Angel who used to be in the Mexican Navy. He suggests that Angel might be more in line with Nayeli's mission and offers to take Nayeli to him the next day.
Chava's inner monologue provides proof that he idealizes the life he left behind in Mexico, specifically in terms of the romantic opportunities. The fact that he knows a man who might be interested in returning to Tres Camarones suggests that disillusionment with the US might be widespread among immigrants, and that the United States doesn't actually live up to its allure and provide immigrants with a better life.
Chava picks Nayeli and Tacho up at eight the next morning. As they head for the car, Atómiko insists on coming and bringing his staff. As they drive, Chava explains that he met Angel when Chava’s car broke down. Angel fixed his car and wouldn't let Chava pay him, so Chava slips Angel free meals when he comes to the bowling alley. Nayeli interrupts and says she wants to find her father, and Tacho says that America would be perfect if only there were hot air balloons. He sees a hot air balloon rise in front of them and insists that America wins every time.
The hot air balloons rise as if on cue, making America seem perfect and cinematic. However, the hot air balloons are just something for Tacho to look at—he doesn’t actually get to take part in the experience of riding in a hot air balloon. This highlights that though the US can appear ideal, many elements of an idealized American life are things that Tacho and other immigrants will never be able to experience firsthand.
Chava explains that he's only been to the migrant camp a few times, and he always takes supplies. He drives to a grocery store, and Nayeli is in awe of the abundant produce and clean cuts of meat. As Nayeli and Tacho laugh at the man on the oatmeal box, two white men with shaved heads approach from either end of the aisle. The first, Sully, blocks Nayeli and Tacho's way out, and Jimbo comes up behind them. Sully and Jimbo snicker at the "wetbacks," and Sully says he'd impregnate Nayeli if she didn't have AIDS.
Jimbo and Sully demonstrate overt racism in their actions, words, and even their appearances—tightly shaved buzzcuts are often adopted by white supremacists. Jimbo and Sully use the term "wetbacks," which refers to illegal Mexican immigrants who often arrive in the US via the Rio Grande—that is, the immigrants arrive in the States with actual wet backs from the river.
Chava runs his cart into Sully's heels, frantically apologizes for being a "stupid Mexican," and ushers Nayeli and Tacho into the checkout line. He instructs them to not look at Sully and Jimbo, who hover and glare at them. Chava explains mildly that some people don't like Mexicans.
Chava's way of getting Nayeli and Tacho out of the supremacists' grasp mirrors the way that Rigoberto got Tacho over the border: Chava plays into Sully and Jimbo’s racism and preconceived notions by calling himself stupid, which seems to placate the men.
Chava steers the car inland and drives on roads that run through fields of flowers. He pulls over next to a barrier, and he, Nayeli, Tacho, and Atómiko each grab a bag of groceries. Chava muses that they're in the richest city of the richest state in the richest country before leading them down into a canyon. Soon, they see the camp ahead, and Chava calls out to the residents. When they finally push through the bamboo, Nayeli sees dark, thin men and a crude altar to the Virgin Mary. Chava introduces himself as Angel’s friend, and the men immediately smile. Atómiko helps himself to coffee, and the camp's leader, Don Arturo, says that Angel is washing up.
The camp itself reveals that making it into the US and making it past Border Patrol doesn't guarantee a person a better life than the one they left behind. This migrant camp is tenuous and exists on the fringes of a rich city in a rich country. The makeshift nature of the camp is also suggestive of the makeshift houses at the dump in Tijuana, highlighting that life may not be all that different for immigrants in the US.
As the men distribute donuts, Don Arturo tells Nayeli how they live in the camp. They split costs and often throw out clothes that are too dirty to wash. Suddenly, Angel steps through the bamboo with Sully, Jimbo, and four other white men behind him. Sully and Jimbo are armed with a chain and a bat, and Angel apologizes for bringing the supremacists to the camp. Jimbo pushes Angel to his knees, spits, and declares that the "mud people" stink. Atómiko burps and marvels that all the migrants all look terrified of these "thugs." He casually hangs up his coffee cup and begins taunting the supremacists, his staff balanced loosely across his shoulders.
Sully and Jimbo seldom refer to their victims as actual people. By using slurs, Sully and Jimbo are able to avoid acknowledging that their victims are actually their fellow human beings. Meanwhile, Atómiko's overblown sense of his own heroism has some possibility for positive effects here, as his belief in his heroism is what gives him the courage (or dumb lack of fear) to take on Sully and Jimbo.
Atómiko continues to taunt Sully and Jimbo in his broken English, which Nayeli struggles to understand. She stands up, Sully calls her a bitch, and the back-and-forth taunts continue. Sully is confused—normally, his victims beg or flee—and when Angel stands up, Atómiko twirls his staff and brings it down across Sully's face. Nayeli kicks Jimbo, and Angel throws Sully into the creek. The fight continues until Tacho and Angel attack from behind with frying pans. Nayeli smiles at the final thug, which terrifies him, and he runs away. Nayeli offers Angel a job.
When Nayeli joins the fray, it shows that Atómiko's slapdash heroism is not the only kind that can be effective: Nayeli's karate training is just as useful in this situation. It's also worth noting that Nayeli's confidence here comes from training, not in an inherent belief in her own superiority and strength—this suggests another reason why Nayeli wants to bring back men, as she may view their confidence as more inherent.
Chava drops Tacho, Nayeli, and Atómiko back at Matt's house around midnight. They find Carla in an inflatable pool in the yard. Atómiko pulls his shirt off and jumps in with her, and Carla explains that Vampi is off with El Brujo, and Matt and Yolo are inside. Nayeli steps inside and calls for Yolo but hears only her cries of pleasure. Nayeli walks to the door of Matt's room and sees Matt and Yolo having sex. She backs out of the house, shocked and hurt.
Nayeli's sense of betrayal indicates that she believed she did have a right to Matt—something that Yolo violated by sleeping with him. This moment also suggests that “the cute one” Matt referred to earlier while talking to Carla may have referred to Yolo, not Nayeli.
Carla calls for Nayeli's attention and says that Nayeli received a call. Nayeli can barely listen; she tries to rationalize that she never staked a claim on Matt. Carla finally says that Tía Irma called to say she's in a hotel in San Diego. Tacho is surprised, and they hear Yolo cry out from inside the house. Tacho watches Nayeli cover her eyes and walk down the alley. Tacho understands immediately and says, "what a day."
Nayeli focuses on how she and Yolo "negotiated" who had a claim to Matt, effectively ignoring the fact that Matt has feelings of his own and is just as complicit as Yolo. By ignoring Matt’s role in the situation, Nayeli makes the betrayal Yolo's fault—something that will surely damage the girls' relationship.