The Girl Left Behind
Tensions between Enrique and Lourdes begin to rise. Enrique resents his mother for having left him, and says that “money does not solve anything” (197). He accuses her of loving Belky more than she did him, arguing Belky got a good home while he was left with an irresponsible father. He tells Lourdes that he considers his grandmother, Maria, to be his real mother. Lourdes tells Enrique that he should blame his father for leaving, and his grandmother for making him sell spices on the streets when he was a child. Lastly, she says he should blame himself for spending the money she sent him on drugs.
Mother and son become estranged. Enrique drinks more, and spends most of his money at topless bars. He does not send enough money to Jasmín. María Isabel waits for his phone call each Sunday, and is sometimes too emotional to speak over the phone. Enrique’s family in Honduras, including his grandmother, sister, and three aunts, constantly criticize María Isabel's mothering. They say the baby is dirty, badly dressed, and too thin. They accuse María Isabel of misspending the money Enrique sends by buying her mother heart and asthma medicine, and by buying herself hair dye. María Isabel, having lived most of her life in complete poverty, feels justified in spending a bit of money on herself and her mother. She begins to deeply resent the interference of Enrique’s family.
In the meantime, Enrique drinks more, and begins smoking marijuana again. He is caught speeding, and spends over a thousand dollars in court fines. He is not saving his money, although he wants to bring María Isabel north. Feeling desperate and depressed, Enrique begins to huff paint thinner. When Lourdes catches him in the act, she threatens to kick him out of the house. Enrique stops huffing paint thinner because it brings him extreme headaches - probably by exacerbating his injuries from the train beating - and not because his mother insists on it.
Back in Honduras, to escape the scrutiny of Enrique's family, María Isabel moves from her aunt Gloria’s home to the home where her mother, Eva, lives. Eva's house is a hut on the side of a mountain in the small town of Los Tubos, but it has some conveniences that Gloria's did not. María Isabel gets a new job at a children’s clothing store at the Mall Multiplaza, through which she earns $120 a month. Jasmín begins to put on more weight, and she speaks to her father over the phone for the first time on her second birthday.
Enrique has been in the United States for over two and half years. He resolves to do better, and wants to stop drinking. He does not want his daughter to grow up the way he did, always worried about money. He begins to work seven days a week, hoping to quickly earn enough money for a smuggler to bring María Isabel to the Untied States. His ultimate plan is they could raise money faster together in order to bring their daughter to them.
Lourdes' sister, Mirian, soon comes to the United States to live with them. She leaves her own three children behind in Honduras, but insists she will return as soon as she saves some money. Upset by the cramped conditions of his mother’s apartment, Enrique moves out. Now, most of his money is budgeted for rent, car insurance, cell phone bills, and food.
Enrique sends less money to Honduras, but does not level with María Isabel about his difficulties. Her family encourages her to move on, to find someone else. Others tell her to go to the United States, while she is still young. In Honduras, middle-aged women have a hard time finding work that pays well, often settling for jobs that pay $50 to $90 a month. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused great devastation in Honduras, and caused an increase in unemployment that has only worsened. María Isabel understands both the benefits and dangers of leaving her native country, but most of all fears losing the love of her child.
Lourdes and her family, including Enrique, move to Florida to find better jobs. Enrique works as a painter, Lourdes as a maid. The arrangement does not work out for Enrique, and he soon returns to North Carolina to work with his friends. Lourdes is now able to afford an apartment alone with her boyfriend and Diana. While away from his mother, Enrique learns to empathize with her difficulties. He misses her, and returns to Florida to be with her. Although he does not entirely forgive Lourdes, Enrique has decided to stop living in the past, and to move on with his life.
Now, he saves in earnest for María Isabel to join him in the United States. In the spring of 2004, after four years in the United States, Enrique calls María Isabel and asks her to come north. He has saved enough money for a smuggler. Although María Isabel hesitates with her decision, she eventually leaves Honduras. She and Enrique will work together to create a better life for their daughter. The day María Isabel leaves with her smuggler, Jasmín cries “Adiós mami”, but has no idea that her mother will not be coming home (240).
María Isabel travels through Mexico by bus with the help of her smugglers, who bribe Mexican law enforcement officers to let them pass. She safely arrives in Florida after a few weeks of travel. Jasmín has been left with Enrique’s sister, Belky, who tells her plainly that her parents are not coming back, but hope to bring her to the United States one day. Enrique and María Isabel call their daughter once or twice a week, but Jasmín thinks of Belky’s common-law husband as her father. Belky gives birth to a baby boy on July 31, 2006. She names him Alexander Jafeth.
The popular TV show Don Francisco Presenta features Enrique, Lourdes, and Sonia Nazario in one episode. Don Francisco surprises Lourdes by reuniting her with Belky, who has come to the United States on a temporary visa. It is the first time in eighteen years that Lourdes, Enrique, and Belky are together. It is also the first time that all three of Lourdes’ children are in the same room, as Diana is in the audience. Belky leaves the United States eight days later to return to Honduras and her son.
The theme of family drives this chapter, particularly in terms of the many miscommunications that occur between mother and son. Lourdes and Enrique cannot reach common ground, because neither can truly understand the other one's perspective. Lourdes will not apologize for her decision, because it was hard for her and was made for her children. Enrique will not appreciate her decision, because he feels betrayed. Enrique has successfully created a new life for himself in the United States but is it the life he has always wanted?
Enrique’s new journey is one of self reflection. His drug use, harsh attitude, and resentments have created a divide in their relationship. Cramped living situations do not make it easier for him to gain any perspective. It is not until he is again separated from her, when he returns to North Carolina, that he can see outside himself. He remembers the years of separation, and feels the lonely side of independence. In coming to this realization, he not only chooses to return to Lourdes, but also commits fully to earning money for his own family. Ironically, by coming to this realization, he risks hurting Jasmìn the way he was hurt. Because he has grown more mature, he brings Marìa Isabel to the United States so they can help their daughter, but the circle will potentially repeat itself for her.
Sonia Nazario has kept in touch with Enrique, and updates the website dedicated to Enrique’s Journey with information on his family. Since the publication of the book, Enrique, Marìa Isabel, and Jasmìn have been reunited in the United States. Jasmìn was smuggled north for the price of $5,000. She is very close to her grandmother, and follows Lourdes to work. Fluent in English, Jasmìn enjoys school and her favorite subject is math. She loves Justin Bieber and watches SpongeBob Squarepants and iCarly with her father.
Lourdes married her longtime boyfriend in May 2010. She became an Evangelical Christian, and hopes to become certified as a nursing assistant. She wants to own her own home, and dreams of Diana going to college.
Marìa Isabel works as a hotel maid making $7.50 an hour. At one point, she and Jasmìn moved in with Lourdes during a difficult period of her relationship with Enrique.
Enrique has had trouble maintaining a job, and continues to struggle with drug use. Both issues have been a source of contention with Marìa Isabel and his mother. Lourdes allowed Enrique to move in with her on the condition that he not use drugs in her home. Lourdes has faith that her son will one day change for the better.
For more information about Enrique and his family visit the author’s website at www.enriquesjourney.com