“Enrique’s Journey” tells immigrant’s story

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The longest some SLU students are ever separated from their mothers is when they are at school between breaks. Every few months, they take the Megabus, Amtrak or Southwest flight home, where parents, siblings, family all live together, returning to where they have lived their entire lives.

It is the story of many.

Yet there are others who share a story more similar to Enrique’s, the protagonist of Sonia Nazario’s “Enrique’s Journey,” this year’s required reading for incoming freshmen.

“Enrique’s Journey” is the true story of a Honduran boy’s odyssey to reunite with his mother. At the age of five, she left him with his father’s family in Honduras when she moved to the U.S.  Nazario writes of Enrique’s childhood spent missing and wanting his mother.

Enrique decides to travel to the U.S. to be with her. Nazario details the challenges that Enrique faces, including seven deportations to Guatemala, months of travel atop freight trains in Mexico and evading gangsters, bandits and corrupt law enforcement officers, dangers that most SLU students do not have to face on a regular basis.

Immigrants make up a growing percentage of the U.S. population. Nazario states in the epilogue of “Enrique’s Journey” that around 1.7 million immigrant children live illegally in the U.S.

That these immigrants exist is no secret, but rarely does one think backwards to the story of their journey. Many of these children come to the U.S. in ways similar to that depicted in “Enrique’s Journey.”

“Enrique’s Journey” gives insight into a unique demographic and the issue of immigration. Nazario achieves the result of “giving a voice to the voiceless.”

The book was chosen for this year’s freshman due to its correlation to the Jesuit mission of social justice and awareness. Immigration is a prevalent issue right now, but cannot be faced without listening to those experiencing this issue.

“Enrique’s Journey” gives the reader some sense of unease in contemplating the issue of immigration, however, in the end the reader comes to understand the fellow human person.

Reading is a practice in empathy, which is necessary to the sort of service and social justice that SLU focuses on a Jesuit university.

Nazario researched the immigration experience and “Enrique’s Journey” by undertaking her own version of his travels. Over the course of five years, Nazario spent six months in locations from Enrique’s story, including Central America and North Carolina, interviewing those he met along the way and investigating the conditions in which he travelled.

The initial research Nazario gathered was originally published as a series in the Los Angeles Times in 2002. Nazario’s work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.

Nazario will speak at SLU on November 6 at 7 p.m. in the BSC Wool Ballroom. Additionally, first year students can continue to participating in the freshman year experience by participating in the summer reading essay contest. Winners will receive free use of textbooks for the spring semester and an invitation to attend dinner with Sonia Nazario on November 6.