Author Sonia Nazario’s inspiration to write “Enrique’s Journey” began by wanting to know more about the “little army” of children leaving Central America and traveling through Mexico in search of parents living in the States. -United.
She finds Enrique, whom his mother left him in Honduras at the age of 5 to work in the United States. He set out to find her when she was 16, with only her phone number.
He and the other migrant children rode the sides and tops of freight trains, dodging corrupt cops, bandits and mobsters. After telling Enrique about his eight attempts to reach the United States, Nazario spent three months retracing his journey, boarding the trains and talking to migrants and those who helped them along the way.
“The trip showed me the worst, but also the best of humanity,” she said.
Centaurus Librarian Shoshannah Turgel hosted a school-wide reading of “Enrique’s Journey” before her visit. In addition to speaking at Centaurus, Nazario planned to speak Thursday night at the Lafayette Public Library and Friday at Monarch and Fairview High Schools. The library helped defray her speaking costs and donated copies of her book to Centaurus students.
Nazario first published Enrique’s story as a serial in the Los Angeles Times, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Writing Feature Films in 2003. The story was later turned into a book.
At Centaurus, a dozen classes, as well as students reading the book on their own, were invited to attend his lecture in the auditorium. One of the reasons Turgel chose the book is that Centaurus has a “newcomers” program for students who are new to the country.
“We really need to hear a voice like this,” she said. “Some people need to be represented and some people need to hear it. This is a perfect opportunity to bring different groups together.
Nazario, an immigrant herself who lived in fear during state terrorism in Argentina, said she considered herself the ‘queen of overcoming obstacles’ – until she heard the story of his housekeeper. Her governess was a single mother who left four children in Guatemala to move to the United States to find work so they wouldn’t starve.
“She showed me real determination,” she said.
She noted that there were 147,000 children at the southern border last year seeking to enter the United States, although the journey has become even more dangerous. An estimated 60% of migrant girls are raped trying to reach the United States, she said, while Mexican drug cartels kidnap migrants for ransom, enslave boys and prostitute girls .
They keep trying, she says, because “travel is now less dangerous than staying. These children are refugees. They flee to save their lives. It’s different to come here for a better life.
She shared her thoughts on pragmatic ways to fix a broken immigration system, including investing in reducing violence and corruption in Central America and providing migrants with a legal and fair asylum process to enter the United States. She said immigrant children do not have access to a lawyer if they cannot afford one, creating a “sham unworthy of our legal system”.
“Letting in people who are afraid, who ask our government for safety, is part of our laws,” she said.
While this is not a popular opinion among liberals, she said, she also believes once there is a fair system that those who lose their asylum claims should be deported.
“We need to stop yelling at each other from opposite sides of the political divide,” she said.
After her speech, Nazario visited teacher Molly McCue’s English language development classroom to answer questions from students, including how she felt when she first met Enrique and what happened to her. inspired her to retrace her journey.
She said she initially worried that Enrique might not be the right kid to focus on, as he turned to glue sniffing to cope with his trauma. But her publisher, she says, reminded her that all great literary characters have flaws.
She said she spent two years researching, including making the trip through Central America and Mexico twice, because she wanted readers to “feel like they were sitting on this train with him during the best and worst moments of his journey”.
Junior Evandro Limachi, who came to Lafayette with his family from Peru, said he really liked the book because of this perspective.
“It’s so immersive,” he said.
Junior Fatima Fraire, who is from Mexico, said she liked being able to feel what Enrique was feeling, adding that she cried both while reading the book and listening to Nazario’s speech.
“I feel like I can relate to Enrique,” she said.
Junior Hayden Lyall read the book not for a course but because of his interest in the subject. He plans to send a signed copy of the book to his cousin, a second-generation Mexican immigrant. He described the book as really important.
“It was horrible, but that’s the way it is,” he said. “The more people who know, the better they can adapt to accepting people.”