III-"Enrique's Journey" - Sonia Nazario - Los Angeles Times

III-"Enrique's Journey" - Sonia Nazario - Los Angeles Times

Defeated Seven Times, A Boy Again Faces 'the Beast'

by: Sonia Nazario, Don Bartletti | publication date: October 2, 2002 | Publication: Los Angeles Times | pages: A1

As Enrique enters Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas, he knows why immigrants call it "the beast." Bandits, street gangs and police will be out to get him. Even tree branches scraping the boxcars may hurl him from the train. But he will take those risks. He needs to find his mother. Enrique wades chest-deep across a river. He is 5 feet tall, stoop-shouldered and cannot swim. The logo on his cap boasts hollowly, "No Fear." The river, the Rio Suchiate, forms the border. Behind him is Guatemala. Ahead is Mexico, with its southernmost state of Chiapas. "Ahora nos enfrentamos a la bestia," immigrants say when they enter Chiapas. "Now we face the beast." Painfully, Enrique, 17, has learned a lot about "the beast." In Chiapas, bandits will be out to rob him, police will try to shake him down, and street gangs might kill him. But he will take those risks, because he needs to find his mother. When he was 5 years old, she left him in Honduras and joined hundreds of thousands of women from Central America and Mexico seeking work in the United States. An estimated 48,000 youngsters go north alone every year, many to search for their mothers. This is Enrique's eighth attempt to reach El Norte. First, always, comes the beast. About Chiapas, Enrique has discovered several important things. In Chiapas, do not take buses, which must pass through nine permanent immigration checkpoints. A freight train faces checkpoints as well, but Enrique can jump off as it brakes, and if he runs fast enough, he might sneak around and meet the train on the other side. In Chiapas, never ride alone.

The third article in the Pulitzer Prize-winning series tracks Enrique's journey through the dangerous Mexican state of Chiapas

Los Angeles Times