Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Many of Tres Camarones' residents are gathered in Irma's living room. Tacho daydreams about going north with the girls. In his fantasy, they cross the border under hay in a truck, and it resembles Allied heroes escaping occupied France in Nazi movies. Tacho thinks he's so ready to see Hollywood and "Los Beberly Hills." Irma promised to manage the Fallen Hand in Tacho's absence and also negotiated with Vampi and Yolo's family members.
Thus far, life hasn't seemed particularly great for Tacho in such a small town on account of his sexuality. For him, the US (and liberal California, specifically) represents a place where he believes he'll be able to be himself in a way he's not able to in Tres Camarones. However, when he describes his fantasy in the context of a film, it shows that he, too, has a distorted picture of reality.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
In the living room, Nayeli asks what harm can come to them if God is with them, and Tacho thinks of all the biblical tragedies but says nothing. Irma addresses the room and says that she represented Tres Camarones when she was the ladies' bowling champion, and she insists that she faced many horrors to do so. She says that she fought alone for the women and "useless men" of Tres Camarones and admits that at the time, she illegally crossed the border into the US. Getting into her stride, Irma lists the bowling alleys she bowled at, and says that she won for Tres Camarones—just like the girls will.
Irma's sense of national pride is evident when she speaks about bowling, which reinforces her political platform: saving Mexico from chaos and ruin through the work of women and girls. When she speaks about crossing the border illegally, it's worth noting that she did so in the mid-1960s, when there wasn't nearly as much animosity or obstacles to cross the border. This suggests that Irma is stuck in the past.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Irma tells the women that they're stupid, first for allowing themselves to be subjugated for hundreds of years, then by allowing their men to escape, and finally by denying Nayeli, Vampi, and Yolo the future. She snaps her fingers at Tacho to get her coffee, and he grumbles but complies. Irma reminds her listeners of the first man to leave Tres Camarones: Chava Chavarín, the most handsome man in the village who moved to Tijuana in 1963. Irma says she posed as his wife, and he drove them right over the border. Standing, Irma announces that she just sent a telegram to Chava, and he will certainly get the girls into the US. She hands Nayeli an outdated phone number, LIB-477.
The fact that the narrator tells the reader outright that the phone number is outdated provides more evidence that Irma is stuck in the past. As far as she's concerned, crossing the border should be as easy and as thrilling as it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, when Irma snaps her fingers and demands that Tacho get coffee for her, Irma acts sexist and treats Tacho as her butler, which he is not. This appears as a reversal of the way men traditionally treat women, but it is still sexist, unjust, and unproductive.
Themes
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Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Irma explains that the Americans are kind and have quaint customs, but you can't drink the water there. Pointing to Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi, Irma says that God himself came from Tres Camarones, and she won't allow bandidos or weak, disappearing men ruin the village.
To a contemporary reader, Irma's assertion about American water may seem comedic and ill-informed, but it’s actually true. While American tourists must avoid drinking Mexican water as to not get sick, Mexicans must also avoid drinking American water. This is because Mexican tap water and American tap water contain different microbes that can make a person sick if he or she isn’t usually exposed to them.
Themes
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Related Quotes
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Later, Nayeli packs her belongings. She tucks Matt's card and the phone number from Irma into her pocket, and her mother insists she take Don Pepe's postcard. Nayeli's mother says she wishes Nayeli could bring Don Pepe back to Tres Camarones, and Nayeli promises to try. Later, Irma makes the girls bags of toiletries. Tacho cuts his hair, dyes the tips platinum blond, and spikes it straight up. García-García gives Tacho $500, as he doesn't trust the girls with that kind of money. The rest of the town places over $1,000 into Nayeli's hands, and the "warriors" pile into Irma's Cadillac.
Tacho's new haircut is further proof that he believes he'll be able to be himself in the US, as he thinks the US will be more liberal and accepting of gay people. Meanwhile, when García-García gives Tacho the money instead of giving it to Nayeli or one of the other girls, it indicates that sexism and misogyny still pervades in Tres Camarones.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
At the train station, Irma buys tickets for the girls and Tacho. The ticket taker smirks at the four one-way tickets to Tijuana, and Irma snaps at him. She buys the girls water and soda and accompanies them to the bus. The driver, a large man named Chuy, loads their bags under the bus and promises Irma that he will take care of the girls. As Nayeli boards the bus, Irma reminds her to bring home only cops or soldiers. Irma tells Nayeli to call her if things go wrong, and Irma will come to Tijuana. Blushing, Irma says that everything depends on Chava. Nayeli thinks that Irma is in love.
The ticket taker’s smirk implies that one-way tickets to Tijuana are usually purchased by Mexicans who want to cross the border and not come back. Further, the smirk suggests that crossing won't be as easy as Irma would like to think, as it's reasonable to assume that a ticket taker who interacts with a wide variety of travelers would know that crossing successfully isn't easy.
Themes
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Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Nayeli blurts that she's going to find her father, and Irma says simply that they'll see. After the girls board, Irma tells them to make her proud and hurries away. Nayeli, Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi take over an entire row of seats in the back of the bus, and the girls flirt energetically when an American boy gets on and sits behind them. When everyone is on the bus, Chuy announces the planned stops, turns on the air conditioning, and the bus rolls off. After forty minutes, Chuy drives off the highway and parks the bus by a small house. Chuy gets out, and the passengers watch as a woman greets him at the door with a passionate kiss. Chuy and the woman go inside and slam the door. The passengers applaud when Chuy gets back on the bus.
Even though Irma generally maintains a misguided understanding of what the US is like, her reply to Nayeli regarding Don Pepe suggests that Irma is at least more realistic than the girls. In casting a shadow of doubt on Nayeli’s ability to find Don Pepe, Irma seems to hint at the fact that she knows something that Nayeli doesn’t. However, Irma doesn’t outright discourage Nayeli, which suggests that Irma knows that Nayeli will have to discover things for herself in order to truly believe them.
Themes
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Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
In the middle of the night, Nayeli jerks awake as the bus stops. She meets Chuy's eyes in the rearview, and he makes a calming motion at Nayeli before opening the doors for armed soldiers. Nayeli wakes Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi as Chuy turns the light on. The soldiers make their way down the bus aisle, asking passengers if they have drugs or are illegal. They taunt Tacho and tell him to not come back to Mexico after he crosses the border. In the back of the bus, the soldiers accuse a Colombian couple of being illegal and roughly pull them off the bus. The soldier motions to Chuy to move on, and Nayeli watches the soldiers load the Colombians into a Humvee.
These passages of arrests and fear highlight that Mexico isn't an idyllic, perfect place—nor will it be simply with the addition of seven more men. The soldiers’ Mexican nationalism is terrifying and has very real consequences for those who come across it. This also begins to show that Tía Irma's nationalism isn't as benign or as funny as it may have seemed at first glance.
Themes
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Racism Theme Icon
Just before dawn, Nayeli and Tacho wake suddenly to the sound of gunshots. Nayeli creeps up the aisle and asks Chuy what's going on, but he doesn't know. Chuy puts the bus in gear and speeds up, and a wobbly pickup truck passes them. Nayeli and Chuy laugh—the men in the truck are holding a sign for a political rally. Chuy tells her about all the things he's seen while driving long-haul trips, including the story of a driver who drove off a cliff and killed everyone on the bus except for himself.
Chuy’s story about the driver who drove off a cliff is, presumably, the same driver who killed Vampi's parents. In bringing this story full circle, the novel creates a sense of interconnectedness and shows that Mexico itself is extremely interconnected, even if just through stories.
Themes
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