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

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

At Journey's End, A Dark River, Perhaps a New Life

by: Sonia Nazario, Don Bartletti | publication date: October 7, 2002 | Publication: Los Angeles Times | pages: A1

Enrique's mother pays smugglers to get him across the Rio Grande and then to her in North Carolina. She cannot sleep. She has visions of him dead. At 1 a.m., Enrique waits on the edge of the water. "If you get caught, I don't know you," says the man called El Tirindaro. He is stern. Enrique nods. So do two other immigrants, a Mexican brother and sister, waiting with him. They strip to their underwear. Across the Rio Grande stands a 50-foot pole equipped with U.S. Border Patrol cameras. In daylight, Enrique has counted four sport utility vehicles near the pole, each with agents. Now, in the darkness, he cannot see any. He leaves it up to El Tirindaro, a subspecies of smuggler known as a patero because he pushes people across the river on inner tubes by paddling soundlessly with his feet, like a pato, or duck. El Tirindaro has spent hours at this spot studying everything that moves on the other side. Enrique, 17, tears up a small piece of paper and scatters it on the riverbank. It is his mother's phone number. He has memorized it. Now the agents cannot use it to locate and deport her. She left him behind in Honduras more than 11 years ago and entered the United States illegally to seek work. In all, Enrique has spent four months trying to find her. El Tirindaro holds an inner tube. The Mexicans climb on. He paddles them to an island in midstream. He returns for Enrique with the tube. He steadies it in the water. Carefully, Enrique climbs aboard. The Rio Bravo, as it is called here, is swollen with rain. Two nights before, it had killed a youngster he knew. Enrique cannot swim, and he is afraid. El Tirindaro places a plastic garbage bag on Enrique's lap. It contains dry clothing for the four of them. Then El Tirindaro paddles and starts to push. A swift current grabs the tube and sweeps it into the river. Wind whips off Enrique's cap. Drizzle coats his face. He dips in a hand. The water is cold.

Enrique crosses the border into the US in the final article of the series.

Los Angeles Times