Enrique’s Journey first appeared in 2002 in the Los Angeles Times, as a series of six articles written by Sonia Nazario, with accompanying photographs by Don Bartletti. Both author and photographer were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their work. Nazario later expanded the article into a book, which was published by Random House in 2006. Since then, Enrique’s Journey has won numerous book awards, and is on the required reading list of a number of colleges and high schools across the country.
Nazario was inspired to write Enrique’s Journey after discovering that her friend and maid, Carmen, had left her four children behind in Guatemala so that she could earn money in the U.S. to support them. When Carmen's son Minor later arrived, having braved a journey fraught with dangers, he told Nazario about El Tren de la Muerte (The Train of Death) that migrants must brave to make it to the U.S.
Nazario soon discovered that Carmen and Minor’s story was not uncommon among the immigrants who arrive in the United States illegally from Central America and Mexico each year. In fact, she realized, it was particularly common for single mothers and their children. To illustrate this changing face of immigration, Nazario began a five year investigation into the lives of migrants traveling to the United States from Central America. In order to give a human face to her work, she chose to retrace the steps of one child’s journey north. By centering her book around a central narrative, she maintains the journalistic freedom to explore the myriad questions of immigration without losing dramatic momentum.
Enrique’s Journey is, at its core, the story of one young man’s odyssey. Over eight attempts north, Enrique travels from Honduras to the United States, guided by only his wits and his hope to reunite with his mother. Like many children who take the same journey, Enrique faces numerous challenges including starvation, dehydration, the dangers of the trains, the harsh weather conditions, the brutality of the gangsters, and the negligence of the immigration authorities and police. Despite the odds, Enrique refuses to give up and finally reaches the United States to reunite with his mother.
Nazario's book is by no means a political tract, and the author mostly avoids expressing any strong opinions. Instead, her intention is clearly to ask the right questions, and influence the immigration debate in the U.S. so that it includes not only economic and social factors, but also the human, individual ones.