Enrique's Journey

Enrique's Journey Summary and Analysis of Seeking Mercy


Near a small rail side town in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, Enrique hobbles up towards a field hand. He is severely beaten, and dressed only in his underwear. The field hand gives him clothes and water, while women from the town give him money. A mayor from a neighboring town arrives in a pickup truck, and takes Enrique to a local hospital. Though the task irks him, the mayor knows it costs more to bury a dead migrant than to pay the $60 county fee to have him treated by a doctor. The mayor has already buried eight migrants in the last eighteen months.

Enrique agrees to go to the hospital, but recoils when he sees the mayor’s driver, whom he recognizes as someone who robbed him the day before. Nazario explains that the Mexican judicial police routinely stop trains in order to rob and beat migrants. Corrupt police have even been known to kidnap migrants, and hold them for ransom from family in the United States.

Nazario rewinds her narrative to explain how Enrique ended up here. Enrique has now made six attempts to cross through Mexico towards the United States. His first attempt was explained in the previous section - he and his friend Jóse were apprehended by la migra (Mexican immigration authorities) after thirty-one days of travel and then deported on what they call the El Bus de Lágrimos (Bus of Tears). Over 100,000 migrants ride this bus annually when being returned to the border with Guatemala.

On his second attempt, Enrique was caught on the trains and deported. His third attempt was ceded after only two days in Mexico. On his fourth attempt, he was caught sleeping on top of a mausoleum in a graveyard.

His fifth attempt was also short lived - he was caught only a week into his journey. His sixth was almost successful. Enrique traveled 1,564 miles to reach the Rio Grande, which marks the border between Mexico and the U.S. He was eating alone next to the railroad tracks when la migra found him and sent him to a Mexican detention center called El Corralón.

Each time he is deported, Enrique knows he must quickly reenter Mexico to avoid the dangers of the lawless Guatemalan border towns. Enrique prefers to cross the river in El Carmen, which he does on his seventh attempt. He reaches the trains and begins to ride, but is soon attacked by six men at night. They rob him of his clothes and money, and savagely beat him.

One of the men strangles him with the sleeve of a jacket, while another beats him with a club. As he is being accosted, Enrique sees the slip of paper with his mother’s number flutter away. When the man strangling him slips, Enrique stands quickly and flees them, jumping from the top of the train to a lower level, and then off the train altogether. He crawls to the safety of a mango tree, where he sleeps for twelve hours.

Enrique is taken to a medical facility, where his injuries are treated. His left eye lid is damaged and may never recover. His back is bruised, and there are several lesions on his right leg. Three teeth are broken, and he has an open wound on his head. The doctor tells Enrique that he is lucky. Every month, ten migrants fall from the train or are beaten by gangsters and are then treated at this facility. Other migrants are mutilated by the train, losing their limbs in the process.

Enrique leaves the hospital after one day of care. As he hobbles down the street, headed back to the trains, men and women give him pesos out of pity. Enrique flags down a car and asks for a ride, but the driver proves to be an immigration officer and Enrique soon finds himself on the bus back to Guatemala. Although he has failed again, Enrique remains determined to reach the United States.

Back in Honduras, María Isabel waits for Enrique to return. She blames herself for his departure and grows thin and ill, wondering whether she is really pregnant. María Isabel quits her job and decides to also brave the journey north with a friend, in search of Enrique.


Cruelty and suffering are underlying motifs of the story, and are particularly notable in this chapter. The cruelty of the gangsters, the bandits, la migra, and others are recognized by the migrants, even though they discuss these issues in hushed tones. Not only do they need to fear these forces, but they also have to fear retaliation if they complain too loudly. Their bodies and spirits are battered by this journey, and ultimately, they are alone for its duration. Any friends made on the trip could betray them or get lost on the journey. And if injured, a migrant might fall by the wayside and not be found for days.

One might expect a work of this sort to focus on institutions, but Nazario gives equal focus to the bandits who exploit the migration trend for their own benefit. She uses great detail in describing the attack upon Enrique, and notes that the men would have killed him even after robbing him had he not escaped. Their violence and cruelty is unjustified, and reflects darker impulses than simply greed and poverty. Perhaps the most upsetting fact about Enrique's attack is what he learns in the clinic: he should consider himself lucky, since many would have died in his circumstances.

When Central American migrants are injured in Mexico, they have no recourse but charity. They recover at the mercy of the hospitals or the Red Cross, all of which is a problem because of limited resources. These institutions often lack necessary funds, medicine, or trained physicians to properly treat the extensive injury the migrants suffer. Some, even those who have lost limbs, are released from the hospital much too soon. Enrique is evidence of this. There are also private institutions - one example Nazario will later explore is The Shelter of Jesus the Good Shepherd, run by Olga Sánchez Martinez.

The suffering and deaths of these migrants are commemorated along the railways by a plethora of border art. A form of activism, the art usually includes images of the cross, which symbolize martyrdom and death. More political messages attacking immigration authorities and corrupt police are painted across coffins, along walls, and even on the trains. Border art murals extend as far inland as California. In many ways, the art also gives a voice to these many immigrant who die alone, and have little recourse to individuality while struggling through this journey. Their trek requires them to be alone for its duration, and so small gestures like this art attempt to remind them that their lives are being acknowledged.

Enrique continues to be a protagonist with which the reader can empathize. Certainly, he is not perfect, as his behavior in Honduras revealed, but he shows his heroic perseverance in this chapter. Despite his injuries and the daunting prospect of having to attempt the journey for the eighth time, Enrique maintains hope of his success. Hope, a dominant theme within the text, serves Enrique well. Even while aboard the Bus of Tears - a name with clear symbolic quality - he declares he will not give up. His last ride on the Bus of Tears serves as a type of a climax to this first act of the story - our protagonist has faced a severe beating, but recommits himself. Even tears cannot stop him. He must go it alone, but he is ready for that.

Despite his injuries, or perhaps because of them, he feels more determined than ever to get to the United States. Many migrants express their desire to persevere despite overwhelming odds, which characterizes the true extent of their suffering back home.