Catalina is Reyna’s Tío Gary’s five-year-old daughter. When the river near their family home in Iguala floods, Catalina is swept up in the deluge and washed away. By the time her family finds her, she is dead, and her father hangs her by her feet from a tree branch so that “the river [can] drain out of her.” Reyna shudders at the sight of her cousin’s “bloated body,” and begins to worry, as a result of Catalina’s death, that she and her siblings will suffer a similar fate before the time their father comes back for them. Catalina, then, becomes a symbol of Reyna’s recognition of the extreme poverty and danger that have characterized her childhood. Reyna, Mago, and Carlos have all suffered from worms, lice, and scorpion bites; rarely has there ever been enough food to go around, and they have had to bathe and wash their clothes in dirty water all their lives. These hardships are just part of normal life in their Iguala village, and yet as Reyna witnesses death for the first time, she comes to fear that she will not survive her childhood and make it to El Otro Lado—the promised land where her Papi has gone—or even simply to a better set of circumstances in Mexico. This fear catalyzes many of Reyna’s decisions in the latter portion of the novel, most importantly her choice to risk everything by following her father on an illegal and dangerous border crossing to join him in Los Angeles.
Catalina Quotes in The Distance Between Us
They hung Catalina by her feet so that the river would drain out of her. We all kneeled and prayed, and not once did I take my eyes off my cousin's bloated body, and I shuddered at seeing her like that, hanging by her feet, like the chickens at the meat section in el mercado, just as cold and lifeless. I was gripped with a fear so great, it made my stomach churn. What if something happened to me, Mago, Carlos, or Betty? What if, by the time Papi finishes his dream house, there’s no one left for him to keep safe? Or what if he never finishes it, what if he never returns, and we are left here to face the wolf all on our own?