Reyna’s first two attempts to cross the border are failures. The first time, she is waylaid by a toothache, and as Papi carries her through the desert, they are stopped by the border patrol and sent back to Tijuana. The second time, Reyna has trouble keeping up, and they’re caught again. The third time, Papi tells his children that this is their last chance to make it across—he threatens them, telling them that if they don’t make it, he will send them back to live with Abuela Evila.
The border crossing is a perilous endeavor, and to do so with such young children is even more dangerous. Reyna tries hard to keep up, but she is very little and struggles. Papi has no time for nonsense, though—crossings are expensive, and the threat of being imprisoned or killed is not worth it to him. He would rather leave his children behind.
That night, at sunset, Papi wakes the children up from their naps and they take a bus to meet the smuggler who will guide them across the border. As they set off, Papi urges them all to remember that it is their last chance. They walk through the night without incident for a while, until the sound of a helicopter overhead scatters them all and frightens them. After the helicopter’s searchlights move away, they resume their trek, and make it across the border.
The third and final border crossing is at last a success, though still a harrowing and traumatizing experience. Reyna and her siblings are beginning to understand just how much her father—and countless others—have sacrificed to make it to El Otro Lado.
From Chula Vista, right on the other side of the border, Papi, Reyna, Carlos, and Mago pile into a truck that will take them to Los Angeles. The children are simultaneously carsick and hungry, and Reyna eats sunflower seeds as she crouches on the floor of the truck. When Reyna asks how far they have travelled, the smuggler driving them tells them that they’ve come two thousand miles from Iguala. Reyna is stunned by this figure, and makes a silent promise to never forget her mother—or the place she comes from—now that she is in her new home.
As she arrives in El Otro Lado, the young Reyna is beset by conflicting emotions. She is happy to be in this exciting new land, but at the same time, is determined not to forget where it is she really comes from.