Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Huila, the bus stops for a thirty-minute break and to pick up a relief driver. Tacho, Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi cross the street to a diner to freshen up and eat. However, the toilets are so disgusting that the girls pee in the sink, and Tacho uses newspaper as toilet paper. In the diner, Tacho orders arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), and the girls order eggs and tortillas. When their food comes, Tacho inspects his rice and finds cockroaches in it, but the cook seems unconcerned. Vampi is the only one who eats her breakfast.
The disgusting bathrooms and food at the diner again illustrates that Mexico as a whole isn't as perfect as Tía Irma would like Tacho and the girls to believe. These disgusting experiences may only further the group’s idealization of the US, leading them to think that everything will be better once they cross the border.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
When the bus departs again, Vampi and Yolo sleep while Tacho listens to talk radio. The radio hosts talk about keeping Guatemalans and Salvadorans out of Mexico. Nayeli sits behind the new driver, who points out car wrecks, an Indian woman walking with her baby, and patrol vehicles. Nayeli watches the cattle become more and more emaciated and finally says that the suffering cows are sad. The driver jokes with her for a minute before laughing and saying that the cows are "northern rabbits."
Again, the nationalist sentiments expressed on the radio create the sense that racism and nationalism are widespread problems and are not unique to the US. The fact that Tacho listens to it rather than change the station possibly suggests his complicity with these ideas.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
When the bus reaches a customs station, Chuy tells Nayeli to not say anything to the officers and if she has marijuana, to get rid of it now. Yolo remarks that it'll be a miracle if they survive Mexico, and Tacho says he's not worried about the US anymore. Yolo thinks about writing a memoir as the officers wave the passengers off the bus and into the station with their bags. As Nayeli enters the station, one of the officers refers to her in a way that indicates he'd like to have sex with her, but Nayeli keeps her head down.
This scene in the customs station shows that Mexico is corrupt, and those in charge are hungry for power. Chuy's advice suggests that playing along and allowing the officers to believe that they're wholly in charge is the only way to get Tacho and the girls out in one piece.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
The officers ask each traveler if they have drugs or other illegal items and then ask if they're Mexican or not. One officer points and laughs at Tacho, whispering with his coworkers. Nayeli whispers that this man is the Jefe (boss). The Jefe approaches Tacho and accuses him of being on cocaine. Tacho attempts to tell the man that he's not on drugs but jumps when the Jefe touches him. The Jefe accuses Tacho first of being a male prostitute and then calls him a faggot. A single tear rolls down Tacho's cheek as he argues with the Jefe, and Nayeli and Yolo tell the Jefe that they're all going to Tijuana for Tacho and Nayeli's wedding.
Although Tacho’s new haircut may make him feel better and more like himself, it also puts him at a greater risk of violence at the hands of men like the Jefe. By insisting that Tacho is indeed straight and going to get married, Yolo attempts to give Tacho some control by insisting that he's just as masculine as the Jefe. This highlights that people like the Jefe define masculinity by sex with women.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
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The Jefe looks Nayeli up and down, suggests he search her for marijuana, and leads Tacho away. A kind agent tells Nayeli to not cry or yell. Meanwhile, the Jefe whispers in Tacho's ear that he might have drugs in his anus. The Jefe shoves Tacho into the men's restroom, bumps into Tacho, and then accuses Tacho of bumping into him. He makes Tacho apologize, calls him a faggot again, and then grabs Tacho's genitals roughly. The Jefe hits Tacho, throws him once, and tells him to get out.
Even in the midst of this horror, the presence of the "kind" agent indicates that not everyone shares the Jefe's concerns about power and control—though it's also worth noting that the agent is complicit in the Jefe's violence against Tacho, suggesting that this kind of violence is normal and not something that can be stopped.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Tacho hurries to the bus and pretends to sleep. The Jefe calls to Nayeli to come see him sometime as she leaves the building, and the officers laugh. The bus breaks down twenty miles outside of Mexicali, and Chuy gets out to walk towards the city. Tacho cries silently with his head in Nayeli's lap, and Nayeli listens to the coyotes howling outside.
For the Jefe and the other officers, assaulting Tacho and instilling him with fear is a way for them to assert ownership over his body. The Jefe and the officers also assert their superiority and sovereignty by catcalling Nayeli.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon