Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Tía Irma Character Analysis

Tía Irma, who is also known as “La Osa” (“the she-bear”), becomes the first female mayor of Tres Camarones. She is a Mexican nationalist and believes that women are the future of the country. She was also the Ladies' Bowling Champion in the 1960s. As a young woman, she fell in love with Chava Chavarín, another professional bowler. He introduced her to the cinema, and when he left her for an American woman, Irma became La Osa to deal with her sense of betrayal and grief. In the present, she acts as a mother figure to Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi, and she organizes and finances most of the girls' trip to the United States. Though she does share the girls' desire to have men save the village, Irma also never speaks well of men and regularly refers to them as dogs and insists they're useless. When she joins Nayeli in San Diego, Irma reconnects with Chava and takes it upon herself to interview the seventy Mexican men who wish to return to Mexico.

Tía Irma Quotes in Into the Beautiful North

The Into the Beautiful North quotes below are all either spoken by Tía Irma or refer to Tía Irma. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown and Company edition of Into the Beautiful North published in 2010.
Chapter 3 Quotes

Karate, Tía Irma insisted, was good for the legs. Power on the field. But Nayeli was not fooled. To La Osa, life and love were war, and she expected Nayeli to win as many battles as possible.

Aunt Irma wanted her to beat up men.

Related Characters: Nayeli, Tía Irma
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

"We are Mexicans," Irma informed the fruit seller—needlessly, he felt. "Mexicans eat corn and beans. Did you notice? The Aztec culture gave corn to the world, you little man. We invented it! Mexicans grow beans. How is it, then, that Mexicans cannot afford to buy and eat the corn and beans they grow?"

Related Characters: Tía Irma (speaker), Nayeli, Vampi, Yolo
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

"These illegals come to Mexico expecting a free ride! Don't tell me you don't have Salvadorans and Hondurans in your school, getting the best education in the world! They take our jobs too [...] What we need is a wall on our southern border."

Related Characters: Tía Irma (speaker), Nayeli, Vampi, Yolo
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

"They took my house from me!"

She stood there in her tattered nightgown and curlers.

"Can I sleep here?" he asked.

Irma had only been in charge of the town for scant days, and already the troubles were starting.

Related Characters: García-García (speaker), Tía Irma
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

"You will see," Irma said. "The Americanos are kind. Friendly people. Generous people. They have quaint customs—they aren't really, shall we say, sophisticated like we are. You can't drink the water—it will give you diarrhea. But it's very clean there. Good food. You'll see."

Related Characters: Tía Irma (speaker), Nayeli, Tacho, Vampi, Yolo
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

"You are there to collect Mexicans," Irma reminded her. "Don't fall in love with that missionary!"

"I won't."

"And don't screw him, either. If you give him the milk for free, why would he buy the cow?"

"Tía!"

"Don't bring me any damned American surfers. And don't bring me any American babies. Bring me Mexicans."

Related Characters: Nayeli (speaker), Tía Irma (speaker), Matt
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

Only when she was back in Tres Camarones did Irma hear from Chava's mother that he had impregnated an American woman […] Chava was marrying her.

That was the end of Irma, that day.

La Osa, her alter ego, appeared in all her relentless glory to inspire chagrin and penance in the homeland.

Related Characters: Tía Irma, Chava Chavarín
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

"Men are no good."

"My father is good."

Your father is a dog like all the other dogs."

Related Characters: Nayeli (speaker), Tía Irma (speaker), Don Pepe
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

"Brother," one of the men said, "take us back to Mexico.

"Please," said another.

The voices rose.

"It is too hard. We want to go home."

"We just need jobs."

Related Characters: Tía Irma, Atómiko
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Into the Beautiful North LitChart as a printable PDF.
Into the Beautiful North PDF

Tía Irma Character Timeline in Into the Beautiful North

The timeline below shows where the character Tía Irma appears in Into the Beautiful North. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Nayeli is coming from Tía Irma's campaign headquarters. Irma is running for mayor, and if she wins, will be the first... (full context)
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Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
...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). (full context)
Chapter 3
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Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The next morning, Nayeli hurries after Tía Irma as they walk down to the dock. Nayeli's mother slides into a boat behind Irma,... (full context)
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
...crabs are much like the women in Mexico, and Yolo tells her to not let Irma hear. (full context)
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
...the women eat their crabs, Nayeli asks the group if anyone in town is pregnant. Irma jokes that she and her friends are too old but finally asks Nayeli why she's... (full context)
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That night, Irma turns her color television towards the window so the village can watch TV. Nayeli watches... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The next morning, Tía Irma steers her ancient Cadillac towards Mazatlán. Vampi, Nayeli, and Yolo snore peacefully in the backseat.... (full context)
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In the fruit market, Irma berates the vegetable seller for charging an exorbitant amount of money for beans. The seller... (full context)
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Irma storms out of the man's stall and snaps at a Guatemalan woman picking through spoiled... (full context)
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Irma agrees to let Nayeli drive home. As Vampi and Yolo sleep in the backseat, Nayeli... (full context)
Chapter 6
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In the days leading up to the election, Nayeli and Irma work hard to make the women of Tres Camarones believe that they should vote for... (full context)
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Irma's distant cousin and the only rich man in town, García-García, owns the theater. Recently, his... (full context)
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A few days before the election, Irma and Nayeli knock on the door of García-García's big, white house. One of his five... (full context)
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Irma says that she expects new employment opportunities for women after the election, and García-García insists... (full context)
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When Irma is finished, she takes one of García-García's cigarettes and waits for him to light it.... (full context)
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...the town but don't stop. At ten in the morning, the voting is over, and Irma wins by a landslide. The outgoing mayor, Ernesto James, notes that women counted the ballots,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...of Tres Camarones comes, even Pepino, the "town simpleton." Nayeli and Tacho sit behind Tía Irma, who snaps at them to not say stupid things during the movie. Nayeli purchases a... (full context)
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...and the laughter from the moviegoers is so loud that the bats leave their perches. Irma puts her lighter in the air to scare them off, and then Westworld begins. Nayeli... (full context)
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When the movie begins, Nayeli feels more tingles. Irma and García-García engage in a shouting match over who is better, Yul Brynner or Steve... (full context)
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...Mexico. The girls give each other high fives and argue about whether to tell Tía Irma. (full context)
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Late that night, Irma wakes up to a knock on her door. It's García-García, and he has a black... (full context)
Chapter 8
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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... (full context)
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...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'... (full context)
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Irma tells the women that they're stupid, first for allowing themselves to be subjugated for hundreds... (full context)
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Irma explains that the Americans are kind and have quaint customs, but you can't drink the... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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At the train station, Irma buys tickets for the girls and Tacho. The ticket taker smirks at the four one-way... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...phone and the bathrooms. She drops in coins and tries to dial the number Tía Irma gave her. The phone spits the coins back out, and Nayeli dials the operator. The... (full context)
Chapter 11
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After dark, the group stands against a wall, and Yolo suggests they call Irma. Vampi and Yolo insist they've already failed, but Nayeli vows to herself to find Don... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Atómiko follows Nayeli to a small bodega, where she calls Irma. Irma doesn't pick up, and Nayeli almost cries. Atómiko then follows her back to Porfirio... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
...irritated to find Atómiko outside her room with Wino. She finds a payphone and calls Irma. When Irma picks up, Nayeli begins to cry. She tries to explain to Irma that... (full context)
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Irma suddenly asks about Atómiko and Tacho. Nayeli sighs, ignores her, and says that they're going... (full context)
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...Tacho's fate. Yolo and Vampi open the door, and they discuss the phone call to Irma with Nayeli. They decide to call Matt when they get to the US, but they... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Once he arrives in Tijuana, Tacho calls Tía Irma. She explains that Nayeli supposedly went to Matt's house, but she doesn't know if she... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...places the call. Chava is shocked when Yolo explains that she's calling on behalf of Irma in Tres Camarones. Yolo discovers that Chava works at a bowling alley, but he doesn't... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Long ago, Chava was Irma's bowling guru. He also introduced her to the cinema. Though Irma never cared much for... (full context)
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
...state bowling finals. Chava lost early on to an upstart, so he sat and watched Irma bowl. Irma felt him staring at her backside, and the tension helped her throw strike... (full context)
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...wrote home saying that he was winning bowling tournaments in America, and finally, in 1965, Irma went to America to bowl with him. Though Irma expected a wedding, Chava only kissed... (full context)
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...while Atómiko insults them, and Nayeli and Chava talk. He tells her how he betrayed Irma. Nayeli explains that Irma never married and is now mayor and asks what happened to... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Rigoberto buys Tacho lunch and then passes him a cell phone to call Irma and Matt. Rigoberto later drops Tacho off at a visitors' center. They gruffly say goodbye,... (full context)
Chapter 25
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...She feels like she lost Yolo, Matt, and Vampi, and she wonders if she'll lose Irma now that Chava is in the picture. Nayeli understands that she's being demoted since Irma... (full context)
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The next day, Nayeli, Tacho, Vampi, and Yolo walk into the hotel where Irma is staying. Irma greets them in the lobby with kisses, though she slaps Tacho. She... (full context)
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...shave while she waits. Chava complies, and then Nayeli tells him that he must help Irma recruit the rest of the men, as Nayeli must leave to find her father. Nayeli... (full context)
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Back at the hotel, Irma is incensed: Vampi promised El Brujo control of the cinema one night per week, and... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...Diego, Chava polishes his shoes and dresses nicely. He feels confident as he drives to Irma's hotel but starts feeling shaky when he pulls into the parking lot. He tries to... (full context)
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Chava hears Irma call him from inside, and he retreats to the elevator. Atómiko sends Chava back towards... (full context)
Chapter 31
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At nine in the morning in San Diego, Irma waits at a table in a conference room. Atómiko drinks all the coffee he possibly... (full context)
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A hotel employee informs Irma that the applicants have arrived, and Irma asks him to send them in. When twelve... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...the photo. She wonders if it's a sign. She showers, crawls into bed, and dials Irma's number. Irma shares that Yolo decided she wants to stay in the US with Matt—but... (full context)
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Nayeli tells Irma that they made it to Kankakee, and Tacho is sick. Irma tells Nayeli that she's... (full context)
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Nayeli admits that she and Tacho broke the minivan, and Irma snaps that they'll just have to take the bus back to San Diego. She adds... (full context)
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When Nayeli confesses she's tired, Irma insists that she changed the world. Irma orders Chava out of the room and tells... (full context)
Epilogue
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...Camarones, the bandidos park their big, black cars at the major corners of the village. Irma sends Chava and García-García to Mazatlán so the bandidos won't beat them up, and grandmothers... (full context)