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 and Yolo's discoveries of romance. Specifically, the novel suggests that it's not romance itself that threatens female friendship; rather, it's romantic competition and a misguided sense of ownership that causes these rifts.
Several years before the start of the novel, a white missionary named Matt spent time in Tres Camarones. He was beloved by all the women of the village, young and old alike, but Nayeli was the only one he kissed before returning home to California. When the notorious girlfriends talk about Matt in the present, they talk about him with the assumption that Nayeli will be the one to steal Matt's heart when they see him in San Diego—and further, this isn't something that seems to harm the girls’ friendship at all. This suggests that when the girlfriends look back on their only experience with an eligible romantic interest, they view it through the lens of nostalgia and youth. Matt represented a romantic coming of age for the girls, but their youth and the impossibility of a long-term relationship with Matt took away much of the competition that shows up in the present.
The lack of a male population in Tres Camarones creates a unique environment in which female friendships flourish by necessity, as there are simply no opportunities for heterosexual romantic relationships. In the beginning of the novel, then, the girls are extremely supportive of each other out of necessity: the journey to the United States is conceptualized as something that can only be accomplished by the friends as a group, and further, as an experience that will strengthen the girls' friendship. The precedence of female friendship and the fact that their friendship and teamwork gets the girls through the distress and difficulty of getting to the US in the first place is a testament to the power of loyal friendship. Further, because Tacho is gay and therefore not an eligible romantic interest for the girls, he's allowed to exist alongside their group as "one of the girls," sharing in their trials and triumphs and supporting them along their journey.
During the girlfriends' time in San Diego, it's Yolo, not Nayeli who ends up sleeping with Matt. Notably, Nayeli directs all of her anger towards Yolo, referring to her as a tramp and a traitor and saying nothing negative to or about Matt except that he's "lost" to her. With this, Nayeli demonstrates that her friendship with Yolo was predicated on the belief that Yolo wouldn't "steal" a man whom Nayeli had previously "laid claim" to by kissing him several years prior—an understanding that casts romance as competition. However, the sense of loss that Nayeli feels when Yolo enters into her relationship with Matt extends to the way that Nayeli conceptualizes her relationships to others as well, even if they haven't "stolen" her love interest: she notes that Vampi is also lost to her after falling in love with El Brujo, and Nayeli wonders if even Tía Irma will be lost now that she's reconnected with Chava. To combat this, Nayeli strikes out with only Tacho to find her father, Don Pepe, in Kankakee, Illinois. Though Tacho hates the idea of the journey, hates driving, and doesn't even believe they'll be successful when they do reach Kankakee, his willingness to go with Nayeli re-centers friendship as something powerful that helps friends grow and change together. At the end of the journey, Tacho finds himself completely disillusioned with the US as a whole, and Nayeli struggles to figure out how to exist in the world now that she realizes that her father has no intention of returning home or acknowledging his family in Mexico.
Though the novel offers no clear resolution of Nayeli's relationships with her girlfriends, it ends with the overwhelming sense that friendship and loyalty are necessary to accomplish a goal. Nayeli owes the part of the success of the quest to Vampi and Yolo, and Nayeli owes her final disillusionment to Tacho's willingness to drive her thousands of miles. In the case of Tacho and Nayeli's final triumphs, and the fact that they're the only ones mentioned by name as returning to Tres Camarones in the epilogue, the novel shows that romantic competition stands in direct opposition to friendships, while friendship and loyalty are essential to getting things done.
Female Friendship vs. Romance ThemeTracker
Female Friendship vs. Romance Quotes in Into the Beautiful North
Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go el norte.
A man like Tacho had to learn to survive in Mexico, and he had learned to re-create himself in bright colors, in large attitudes, thus becoming a cherished character. If you wanted to achieve immortality, or at least acceptance, in Tres Camarones, the best thing to do was become an amazing fixture. It was very macho to be a ne'er-do-well, even if you were gay.
"You are there to collect Mexicans," Irma reminded her. "Don't fall in love with that missionary!"
"And don't screw him, either. If you give him the milk for free, why would he buy the cow?"
"Don't bring me any damned American surfers. And don't bring me any American babies. Bring me Mexicans."
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.