Into the Beautiful North


Luis Alberto Urrea

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Themes and Colors
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Into the Beautiful North, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Borders and Ownership

Into the Beautiful North follows nineteen-year-old Nayeli, a Mexican girl from the small village of Tres Camarones, who embarks on a quest to save the town from "narcos and bandidos," the violent men involved in the drug trade. All the men in Tres Camarones, including Nayeli’s father, have since left the village to take jobs in America. Nayeli attempts to save the town by hatching a fantastical plan to illegally cross the Mexican-American…

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Nayeli and her friends encounter racism on both sides of the Mexican-American border. Tía Irma's campaign policies are exceedingly nationalistic in favor of Mexico and racist towards Central Americans, and Nayeli is shocked to see how awful some Americans act towards her and other Mexican people. This establishes racism as a central concern as Nayeli navigates along her journey, especially when she begins to see firsthand that racism isn't as benign as it initially…

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Disillusionment and Idealization

As Nayeli, Yolo, Vampi, and Tacho travel north through Tijuana, San Diego, and finally, through the continental United States, they enter into the final throes of their coming of age as they're forced to abandon their youthful understanding of the world and their role in it. Planning to find seven men to bring back to Tres Camarones to repopulate and protect the village, the friends begin their journey with an idealized vision…

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Male vs. Female Heroism

Into the Beautiful North is, first and foremost, a novel about women. The heroes of the story are women such as Tía Irma and Nayeli, not the male "heroes" they endeavor to bring back from the United States. Although the novel casts women in the roles of heroes, those heroic women struggle throughout the novel to define heroism as something that can be an inherently female quality. In this way, the novel poses the…

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Female Friendship vs. Romance

For Nayeli, it's only natural that she take her two best friends, Vampi and Yolo, and her boss, Tacho, with her on her quest to the United States. Tía Irma agrees with Nayeli's assessment, stating that their friendship will be the reason the girls that the girls succeed in bringing men home to save the village. However, Nayeli's friendships begin to unravel near the end of the novel, which coincides with Vampi…

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