Journalist Sonia Nazario, author of “Enrique’s Journey,” Meredith’s 2011 Summer Reading Program (SRP) selection, visited Meredith on August 29, 2011.
“Enrique’s Journey,” the story of a young Honduran boy’s perilous quest to locate his mother in the United States, began as a Pulitzer Prize-winning story for the Los Angeles Times. During her lecture at Meredith, Nazario discussed what inspired her to explore immigration, and her own history as someone “with migration in [her] blood, growing up as an Argentine in Kansas.”
During a conversation with her housecleaner, Nazario discovered what she called “an increasingly global phenomenon” of mothers leaving their children in order to work in another country. According to Nazario, four out of five nannies in Los Angeles had left their own children to go work. At the time of her research for the Los Angeles Times, 48,000 children made the journey from Latin America through Mexico in order to reach the United States. Most of these children were trying to find a parent.
As a way to humanize the immigration issue, Nazario decided to find a child who had attempted this, which she said “taught her what true determination is.” She met Enrique, and retraced his journey to find his mother, who at the time worked in North Carolina.
“I went through one iota of what these kids went through,” Nazario said. “I couldn’t fathom what these kids were willing to do … to be with their moms.”
“Enrique’s Journey” does not have a Hollywood ending for Enrique and his mother. The book covers what happens when Enrique finally succeeds in finding his mother, and the struggles the two go through to repair their relationship. Nazario says this struggle is typical.
“What’s very sad about these separations is these mothers lose what is most important to them, the love of their children,” Nazario said.
Nazario said immigration is a very complicated issue, and she argues that the solutions are to “tackle this exodus at its source by helping create jobs in the countries that a majority of immigrants come from.”
She also suggests providing microloans to women in these countries, through organizations such as KIVA, and lobbying the U.S. government to improve trade policies to let more products from Latin America into the U.S.
“Spending money to create jobs south of the border won’t be popular now,” Nazario concedes, “but the truth is we are already spending buckets of money on efforts that aren’t working.”
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