39 pages 1 hour read

Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2005

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Summary and Study Guide


Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother is a best-selling nonfiction book by Sonia Nazario, an American journalist best known for her work on social justice. Originally published in 2006, the book is based on Nazario’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Enrique’s Journey” series, which was written in six parts and published in The Los Angeles Times.

The book, which has been published in eight languages and adapted for young adults in English and Spanish, is the product of extensive research. In addition to conducting detailed interviews with Enrique and his relatives, Nazario traveled to Honduras to recreate what Enrique experienced during his passage to the United States. By digging deep into Enrique’s background, Nazario is able to give a compelling account of both a geographical journey and an emotional one, for Enrique’s enduring feelings of resentment, abandonment, and anger prove to be perhaps as challenging as his journey across the border.

This summary refers to the 2007 edition published by Random House Trade Paperbacks.


Enrique’s Journey consists of 10 parts: a Prologue, seven chapters, an Afterword, and an Epilogue. In the Prologue, Nazario explains that she wrote the LA Times articles and book after learning that many single mothers in Central America abandon their children to find work in the United States. By publishing Enrique’s story, she aims to bring attention to the plight of migrants.

Chapter 1 focuses on Enrique’s early life. Enrique is only five years old when his mother Lourdes immigrates to the United States, leaving Enrique and his sister Belky in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The decision to leave is not easy for Lourdes, but she knows she can better provide for her children by working in the US.

Although Lourdes has legitimate reasons for leaving, her absence greatly distresses Enrique. Lourdes never gave Enrique a proper goodbye before leaving, as it was too painful for her. For many years, Enrique wonders about what Lourdes is doing in the US, why she had to leave, and when she will return. As the years drag on, Enrique loses hope that Lourdes will return. Enrique’s father abandons him as well, after remarrying and starting a new life with a new family. Overcome with anger and frustration, Enrique rebels and starts experimenting with drugs, developing an addiction. After he’s caught trying to steal jewelry to fuel his addiction, Enrique decides he must leave Honduras and travel to the US to find his mother. He will be leaving behind his girlfriend María Isabel, who is pregnant, though they don’t realize it until after Enrique’s departure.

Chapter 2 describes Enrique’s seven failed attempts to migrate to the United States, stressing the dangers he encounters along the way. The journey is long and treacherous. To reach the US, Enrique must travel through many regions of Mexico controlled by gangs, where he faces risk of arrest by immigration officers. Perhaps the most harrowing of Enrique’s experiences are those days spent riding atop trains heading toward the US-Mexico border. Hopping across trains is the only hope of avoiding detection by immigration officers or other law enforcement. Those bold enough to travel by such means face the risk of being crushed to death if the trail derails or if they fall off its side.

Chapters 3 and 4 address Enrique’s successful trip north. The former focuses on his time in Chiapas, Mexico, while the latter describes his encounters with kind strangers in Veracruz. Chapter 5 centers on Enrique’s experiences in Nuevo Laredo on the US-Mexico border. Chapter 6 describes Enrique crossing the Rio Grande into the United States with the help of a coyote. In Chapter 7, Enrique arrives North Carolina, where he and Lourdes reunite. However, the reunion does not live up to Enrique’s expectations, and he relapses. Having left his pregnant girlfriend in Honduras, Enrique must now earn money to send back to her. As his relationship with Lourdes deteriorates, Enrique must overcome his feelings of disappointment to fulfill his familial obligations. After a while, María Isabel secures passage across the border, leaving her and Enrique’s daughter Jasmín behind in Honduras, echoing the situation at the beginning of the story.

In the Afterword, Nazario outlines the two sides of the immigration debate and presents foreign aid as a primary solution to the problem of illegal immigration. The Epilogue, which describes María Isabel’s journey north, describes the cyclical nature of child abandonment.