Enrique's Journey

What is Enrique’s life like along the river encampment?

What is Enrique’s life like along the river encampment?

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Enrique stays at an encampment for migrants, coyotes, drug addicts, and criminals. It is hidden from the U.S. immigration authorities by high reeds, thereby enabling the migrants to watch the agents and their sports utility vehicles. Enrique knows he will have to cross the river in order to get to the U.S., but so far has no idea how to achieve this. Some migrants swim over, while others use inner tubes.

Each evening, Enrique takes a bucket and two rags to a popular taco stand. There, he attracts potential costumers with a red rag. He earns very little money. Luckily, two local parish centers offer free meals to migrants. Though overcrowded, Enrique benefits from the charity, and meets other children who have similar stories to his own.

The encampment is run by a man called El Tiríndaro, a patero who smuggles people into the U.S. by pushing them across the river in an inner tube. He is a heroin addict who finances his drug use through tattooing people, petty theft, and smuggling. In Mexico, heroin is called la cura (the cure).

Enrique, known in the encampment as El Hongo (the mushroom) because of his shyness, continues to explore options as he lives under the protection of El Tiríndaro, who considers him a potential customer for smuggling. For $1,200, El Tiríndaro can not only get a migrant across the river, but also set him up with a smuggling operation that will get him further into the country. Luckily, many migrants in the camp look after him because of his age, which allows him to explore options. Each night, when he leaves to wash cars, he is scared to be outside of their protection.