Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tacho and Nayeli carry on with their work. Nayeli thinks about one particular missionary, Matt. All of Nayeli's "notorious girlfriends" loved him, especially since he was the first blonde boy they'd seen in person. When he was in Tres Camarones, he spent his evenings in the cinema with the women of the town, from the old aunties to young girls. They were all taken with him, and Matt made them love him even more by writing the girls' names phonetically on notecards. He added his address and phone number to each card and passed them out as gifts before he left, and Nayeli thinks that it's the closest thing to a love letter she's ever gotten.
For Nayeli and her girlfriends, Matt was an idealized representation of masculinity and American culture, which was (and still is) supported by the girls’ constant consumption of American movies. When Matt wrote out all the girls' names phonetically, he was helping himself combat racism in a small way by doing his best to pronounce the girls’ names correctly, rather than in an anglicized way that would erase their Mexican identity.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Nayeli pulls out Matt's card, which she keeps in her knee sock, to inspect it. It's signed with "love, Matt!" and she wonders what kind of "love" Matt was referring to. She brushes off Tacho when he tells her to get back to work. The narrator explains that along with Matt's card, she also keeps a postcard from her father in her knee sock. It came from Kankakee, Illinois. Her father, Don Pepe, has been gone for three years.
The fact that Nayeli spends time wondering if Matt truly loves her (when it's implied that he wrote the same message on other girls' cards, too) shows how desperately Nayeli wants to believe that Matt loves her. At this point, it is clear that Nayeli is doe-eyed about Matt, romance, and America. All of these idealizations will be challenged over the course of the novel.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Nayeli sweeps the sidewalk outside and thinks that boys no longer whistle at her. She wonders if at nineteen, she's already too old to attract their attention, and she feels like everything is changing. Because she's female, she can't be a champion soccer player. It's too expensive to go to college, as Nayeli's mother does laundry for a living. They survive mostly because Tía Irma gives Nayeli's mother money. Nayeli muses that Irma was the reason she started playing soccer, and it was Irma and Don Pepe who enrolled her in karate. She thinks that to Tía Irma, who is known as "La Osa" (the she-bear), life is war—and as far as Irma is concerned, Nayeli must be prepared to win.
Nayeli’s concern about being too old points back to Scarface's assertion that there are no men in the town—if he's right, then Nayeli's not too old, there just aren't any young men around to whistle at her. This passage also introduces the theme of male and female heroism. When Don Pepe and Irma enrolled Nayeli in karate, they were attempting to give Nayeli the tools she'd need to be her own hero. This karate training will come in handy later in the novel, when Nayeli must save herself from several dangerous situations.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As Nayeli sweeps the floor, she sighs over Matt. Finally, she tosses her broom inside and declares that she's going on the internet—the bar became an internet café when Matt donated his computer to Tacho. Tacho scolds Nayeli, but the narrator explains that he's cranky with everyone, and it’s just part of his act. It's macho to be a lovable jerk, even a gay one, and that act allows Tacho to find acceptance in Tres Camarones. The name of his bar comes from a common Mexican slur for gay men: the "fallen hand" refers to the stereotypical limp wrist. When Tacho named his bar the Fallen Hand, even the macho men loved it because they thought it was witty.
The assertion that Tacho's grumpiness is just an act suggests that Tacho has created this role for himself to achieve a sense of safety and belonging, not because he actually enjoys being a jerk. This shows that one must navigate many obstacles in order to find a sense of belonging in a place. In addition, the backstory about the name of Tacho’s bar provides an explanation as to why Scarface and the cop were disdainful of the bar’s name and swiftly assumed that Tacho was gay.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Tacho sighs, thinking that these days, the bar only attracts old ladies and Nayeli's friends, none of whom spend money. He started selling shoes out of his bedroom after he discovered eBay, and he makes more money doing that. Both Tacho and Nayeli use the computer to "spy on" big cities, as both dream about leaving Tres Camarones.
Again, though Tacho doesn't mention that there are no men in the town, his assertion that only women frequent his bar suggests that Scarface is right.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Tacho groans—Nayeli's friends, "the notorious girlfriends," are approaching his bar, yelling "Adios," the customary greeting in Tres Camarones, to everyone. Nayeli is thrilled. Yoloxochitl is a pin tender at the bowling alley, and Verónica is a shrimp peeler. Neither likes their jobs. Per usual, everyone stares at Verónica, as she's the only goth in town. The phase began three months ago, though only the notorious girlfriends noticed that the change coincided with the death of Verónica's parents. They call her La Vampira, or Vampi for short.
These first few chapters give the indication that there isn't much to do in Tres Camarones, given that three employed young women are hanging out in an empty internet cafe during the middle of the workday. This paints a bleak picture of the village and again shows how isolated Tres Camarones is from the rest of the modern world. Similarly, Vampi's goth appearance is also striking because of the village's isolation and the residents’ skepticism regarding change.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
The girlfriends burst into Tacho's bar, exchanging insults with him and using rough slang. Vampi slumps onto a barstool and declares dramatically that she doesn't know how much more she can take. Yolo and Nayeli roll their eyes, but Tacho makes up a bowl of cut fruit sprinkled with chili powder. He implores Vampi to eat.
Tacho is able to act like both be a friend and a guardian to Nayeli and her friends. He seems like one of the girlfriends, perhaps because of his sexuality or perhaps because there are no other men around for him to spend time with.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Nayeli and Yolo pull up videos on the internet. When they find one of Captain Jack Sparrow, Yolo jokes that Nayeli will marry Johnny Depp. Tacho agrees with the girls that Jack Sparrow is hot, but Vampi is dismissive. She claims she can only marry one man. Nayeli grumbles, but she searches for a gothic band called The 69 Eyes. She pulls up Vampi's favorite song, "Gothic Girl," and Vampi dances enthusiastically. She sings along with her heavy accent, and the others laugh at her.
In this passage, the girls are able to bond over celebrity crushes and hypothetical relationships with celebrities. However, later in the novel, real-life relationships have the power to threaten the girls’ friendship. In addition, Tacho and Nayeli’s mutual love for Johnny Depp foreshadows Tacho’s profound realization at the end of the novel about America, immigration, and upward mobility.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
When Nayeli gets home late, her mother tells her that they're going to the lagoon the next day. Later, Nayeli dreams that she lives in a big white house in the foothills of a snowy mountain. She speaks English and eats ice cream. Her husband, Johnny Depp, tells her that the next day, they're going to Kankakee, Illinois.
Nayeli's dream is an insight into what Nayeli idealizes—that is, the rich life she believes she could lead in the United States, an unaccented grasp of English, and finding her father in Kankakee.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon