Migration and Poverty: Insights from “Enrique’s Journey”

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Updated: Sep 04, 2023
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Introduction to Nazario and “Enrique’s Journey”

The book titled Enrique’s Journey was written by the author, Sonia Nazario. Nazario is from the city of Los Angeles and one day, she became intrigued by a story her house cleaner, Maria Del Carmen Ferrez, had told her about her life coming to America. Carmen had to endure a lot while making her way to America. The hardest part was having to leave her children behind. When her husband left her for someone else, she did not have much of a choice but to leave because the amount of money she was earning was not enough to buy food for all her children.

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She was apart from them for twelve years. Carmen’s oldest son, Minor, decided to embark on a journey to America in search of his mother. Eager to learn more about the journey some kids must take, Nazario attended a church in Mexico one day where a nun informed her about Enrique. She became so fascinated with Enrique’s story about his journey to Northern Mexico that she decided to follow in his footsteps and take the same journey.

Enrique’s Initial Struggles and Desire to Reunite

The story begins with this little boy, Enrique, from Honduras, having to observe his mother, Lourdes, leaving him and not knowing where she is headed. She was in so much distress that it prevented her from being able to tell her son that she would not be returning. She had to go to America so she could find a good occupation that pays well. She settled at a home in North Carolina with her boyfriend. Some of the money she made while in America was sent to two of her children, Enrique and Belky, back in Honduras. She was working many shifts at multiple different jobs, and she became extremely stressed. While in America, she became pregnant with a baby daughter, which only added to the difficulties of her daily routine. Back in Honduras, Enrique was constantly thinking of his mother and hoped that one day they would reunite. As a teenager, he became deeply saddened by the fact that he may never see his mom again, so as a way to forget about the problems he was facing, he began taking drugs. Multiple different relatives helped provide a home for him to live in, but he just could not live without his mother.

Journey North: Challenges and Hope

He eventually leaves his home in Tegucigalpa and journeys up north. He had to leave behind his girlfriend, Maria Isabel, who was pregnant at the time. He had high hopes of starting a family in America. The journey is over 12,000 miles long. During the journey, he must try to avoid cops, immigration police, and robbers. During his first try, he went alongside his friend, Jose, and together they took a bus that cut through Guatemala but eventually were captured while on a train in Veracruz, Mexico. After his first effort, he made the decision to go alone but still did not make it. It took him eight tries to make it to his mom. Starving and dehydrated at some points, he was desperate for food and water, so he stopped at people’s houses and asked for help, hoping that the person he asked would not turn him in due to the stereotypes Central Americans faced. Many viewed Central Americans as criminals or contagious with disease.

The Train of Death and Overcoming Adversity

The train he was traveling on was known as a freight train which was often referred to as the Train Of Death. The reason for this was that the riders risked many things, such as falling off and getting caught on the wheel of the train. Migrants would often pray and read the bible, relying heavily on some miracle from God that they would survive and make it to their final destination. However, Enrique did not do this because he thought his voice would be ignored, thinking he had engaged in too many sinful behaviors. Enrique fell asleep in a boxcar with teenagers he met while on the train, but then they woke up to officers who checked them for drugs. The officers could not find anything, so they let them go along with some food and were told to be careful when approaching the upcoming police station since they are stricter. After he was stopped in Mexico City, he stayed and searched for a job so he would not arrive in America empty-handed.

Luckily, a brickmaker offers him a job and also gives him some pointers about getting over the border. When it comes time to cross the Rio Grande River, he cannot do it alone because it is too dangerous. His mother is able to reach out to him and provide him with a smuggler, El Tiríndaro, to assist him. This smuggler ran an encampment that Enrique stayed at for a while. El Tiríndaro suffered from a heroin addiction and so badly wanted to gain Enrique’s trust so that he would pay him to smuggle him, and in return, the money the smuggler would get could be used to purchase more heroin.

Reunion in America: Joy and Conflict

The smugglers safely got him to Orlando, where his mother awaited his arrival. The eighth try was a success. Although they are beyond thrilled to see each other at first, they later start to fight. Enrique is unhappy that she left him behind. He claims that the real mother figure in the family was his grandma, Maria Marcos. Lourdes feels unappreciated and gets angry with Enrique for wasting the money she worked hard for on drugs rather than other necessities such as food or clothing. His alcohol and drug problems carried on into his adulthood. Enrique decided he needed to help his impoverished girlfriend, therefore, he did as his mother did for him and sent money to his girlfriend, who was back in their hometown.

Unfortunately, Enrique’s family did not approve of him doing this because they felt as if his girlfriend was not working for her money but rather just taking Enriques and spending it on whatever she pleased. Maria decided to join Enrique in America so her child could have a better life. Enrique’s daughter, Jasmin, loved her mother very deeply, but unfortunately, her mother, like Lourdes, was left with no choice but to leave her behind. Just like Lourdes, she was unable to inform her daughter where she was headed, and her daughter was left wondering to herself if her mother would ever come back. Nazario noted that many women were raped along their journey across Mexico, so Enrique’s girlfriend must be careful.

Understanding Poverty and Immigration

Around 700,000 immigrants come to America every year illegally in search of a better life. About a million more immigrants have come here legally since the year 2000. Many single mothers like Lourdes try to make their way over to America because they struggle to make enough money to support themselves and their children. In fact, two-thirds of the impoverished adult population consists of women. Some reasons for this include the divorce rate significantly increasing, people choosing not to get married more often now than back in the day, gender-based discrimination, and men having larger salaries than women. The poor are more susceptible to marital instability.

Divorce is known as an individual consequence of poverty. This rise in poverty among women is known as the feminization of poverty. When people do not have the needed economic resources in order to live in a stable environment and comfortably provide for themselves, they are said to be impoverished. Enrique’s family was so poor that he and his sister Belky were likely to not finish grade school. Their family had trouble affording necessities such as food as well.

The average poor family spends around ? of their income on food. Since Enrique’s family suffered heavily from poverty, they wanted to come to the United States to escape it. There are two forms of poverty, and they include dynamic and absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is just accepted because there is no possible way people can escape it. However dynamic poverty is the opposite and it is the type that people such as those who immigrated to the United States from Mexico are facing.

Dynamic poverty is not accepted because there is a way it can be fixed. There is a surplus of wealth this society produces that can easily be used to help at least part of the population in America, but instead, the government chooses to just hold on to it. The only way the problem can be fixed is if the government plays an active role. When people are migrating from Mexico, they leave because they are poor, and when they arrive here in America, they do not suddenly become rich. Voluntaryism is one action people take to try and help. Long-term solutions would be to train the poor for better jobs and to reduce job discrimination.

American sociologist by the name of Herbert Gams claims one reason for people not wanting to help decrease poverty is that the poor support several economic interests that help the non-poor. For example, they may purchase goods and services others do not care for. When Enrique was at the encampment, one of his jobs included selling clothing that was left behind by previous migrants who traveled through that area. All of the people who were buying that clothing were, of course, migrants.

There would be no reason for others who are fortunate enough to have money to support themselves and their family to buy that clothing. Unfortunately, many people viewed migrants as criminals, specifically Central Americans, and therefore, they were unwilling to help them make it over the border. The definition of crime is breaking the law, and that is not what most people are looking to do, although technically, in their entire journey, they are breaking several laws.

However, the crime they are committing is not a violent crime. The people who view immigrants as criminals tend to have an ethnocentric view of society. This basically means they see their culture and their way of life as the only acceptable way to live. This way of viewing foreigners, I feel, may go as far back as the year 1875 in America when the opium trade was occurring. The British got very rich off of the opium trade. However, Americans eventually started to develop a fear of foreign elements, also known as xenophobia. Xenophobia caused states like California to enact anti-opium legislation, which just meant that the use of opium would no longer be allowed. This fear was passed down from generation to generation among certain groups of people. As Enrique was on his journey, he did a good job of avoiding people like this, but he faced his own troubles due to the amount of stress and pressure he was under.

Social Perspectives and the Impact on Immigrants

Troubles are said to be a private matter whereas issues are said to be a public matter. The issue all the migrants faced was simply trying to make it across the border to the United States alive. The trouble Enrique faced was, he turned to drugs and alcohol to relieve him of the pain he was in, not physically but mentally. A social problem is defined as someone breaking moral expectations. There are four “perspectives” on social problems, and the perspective Enrique is experiencing is known as social disorganization. Social disorganization is caused when there is a sudden and fast increase in social change, which leads to people no longer acting in a way that is said to be appropriate in society. One of the consequences of social disorganization is stress and anxiety, leading to abnormal behavior. When thousands of migrants come to the United States every year, there will be an increase in the population of the U.S., which may present many problems considering the population already stands at 329 million. The world population stands at 7.5 billion.

Environmental Concerns and the Bigger Picture

Rapid population growth presents many problems, such as an increase in waste pollution and global warming. Pollution is not just a problem in the U.S. but in Mexico as well. One picture in the book shows young children at a dump in Tegucigalpa, collecting trash. Piles and piles of trash will continue to build up with nowhere to put it. Major cities like New York contribute to water pollution by placing the dump in the ocean.


  • Nazario, S. (2006). Enrique’s Journey. Random House.
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Migration and Poverty: Insights from "Enrique's Journey". (2023, Sep 04). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/migration-and-poverty-insights-from-enriques-journey/