"Enrique's Journey," Vocabulary from Prologue-Chapter 3

The subtitle describes the story as "a boy's dangerous odyssey to reunite with his mother." Learn the words that helped the journalist Sonia Nazario earn the Pulitzer Prize for this touching work of nonfiction.

Here are links to our lists for the nonfiction narrative: Prologue-3, Chapters 4-6, Chapter 7-Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. venture
    proceed somewhere despite the risk of possible dangers
    She left them there when she ventured north as a single mother to work in the United States.
  2. poverty
    the state of having little or no money and possessions
    She hoped she could provide her children an escape from their grinding poverty, a chance to attend school beyond the sixth grade.
  3. desperation
    a state in which all hope is lost or absent
    What kind of desperation, I wondered, pushes children as young as seven years old to set out, alone, through such a hostile landscape with nothing but their wits?
  4. traverse
    travel across or pass over
    To follow Enrique’s journey, I traversed thirteen of Mexico’s thirty-one states.
  5. migrant
    traveler who moves from one region or country to another
    Until my journey with migrant children, I had no true understanding of what people are willing to do to get here.
  6. determination
    firmness of purpose
    With each step north, I became awed by the gritty determination these children possess in their struggle to get here.
  7. endure
    face and withstand with courage
    They are willing to endure misery and dangers for months on end.
  8. resolve
    the trait of being firm in purpose or belief
    They come armed with their faith, a resolve not to return to Central America defeated, and a deep desire to be at their mothers’ sides.
  9. deliverance
    recovery or preservation from loss or danger
    Although in the United States the women struggle to pay rent and eat, in the imaginations of their children back home they become deliverance itself, the answer to every problem.
  10. lucid
    having a clear mind
    He is lucid enough to tell Belky that he knows what he has to do: he has to go find his mother.
  11. salvation
    rescuing or protecting someone or something from harm
    But Enrique fears he will end up on the streets or dead. Only his mother can help him. She is his salvation.
  12. batter
    strike violently and repeatedly
    The day’s work is done at Las Anonas, a railside hamlet of thirty-six families in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, when a field hand, Sirenio Gomez Fuentes, sees a startling sight: a battered and bleeding boy, naked except for his undershorts.
  13. futile
    producing no result or effect
    Giving Enrique clothing will be futile, Carrasco thinks, if he can’t find someone with a car who can get the boy to medical help.
  14. mangle
    destroy or injure severely
    The migrants most badly mangled by the train run up bills of $1,000 to $1,500 each when they end up at a public hospital one and a half hours away.
  15. corrupt
    not straight; dishonest or immoral or evasive
    Enrique has already had other run-ins with corrupt Mexican cops.
  16. extort
    obtain by coercion or intimidation
    Four of five migrants who arrive at the Albergue Belen shelter in Tapachula have already been robbed, beaten, or extorted by police, says the shelter priest, Flor Maria Rigoni.
  17. perilous
    fraught with danger
    Now he is a veteran of a perilous pilgrimage by children, many of whom come looking for their mothers and travel any way they can.
  18. culvert
    a transverse and enclosed drain under a road or railway
    He has slept on the ground; in a sewage culvert, curled up with other migrants; on top of gravestones.
  19. cower
    show submission or fear
    Once he was deported at 2 A.M. and spent the night cowering, sleepless, near the border guard station, afraid for his life.
  20. attempt
    earnest and conscientious activity intended to do something
    This is his seventh try, and it is on this attempt that he suffers the injuries that leave him in the hands of the kind people of Las Anonas.
  21. bandit
    an outlaw who is (usually) a member of a group
    Arriaga’s Red Cross workers retrieve, on average, ten migrants per month who have fallen or been beaten up by bandits or gangsters.
  22. frenzied
    excessively agitated
    Already, Enrique has four jagged scars on his shins from frenzied efforts to board trains.
  23. summon
    make ready for action or use
    He grabs one of its ladders, summons all of his strength, and pulls himself up.
  24. cunning
    shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
    Enrique guesses there are more than two hundred migrants on board, a tiny army of them who charged out of the cemetery with nothing but their cunning.
  25. callous
    emotionally hardened
    His hands would turn numb and callous after hours of hanging on.
  26. derail
    run off or leave the tracks
    Enrique was once on a train that derailed.
  27. din
    a loud harsh or strident noise
    Migrants at the front of the train, nearest to the locomotive, call back a warning over the train’s deafening din.
  28. elude
    escape, either physically or mentally
    Of the half-dozen checkpoints Enrique has eluded in southern Mexico, he fears La Arrocera most.
  29. pelt
    attack and bombard with or as if with missiles
    As he runs, three agents follow on the ground, pelting him with rocks and sticks, an experience many migrants say they have here.
  30. flee
    run away quickly
    Enrique flees from car to car, more than twenty in all, struggling to keep his footing each time he leaps from a hopper to a fuel tanker, which is lower and has a rounded top.
  31. machete
    a large knife used as a weapon or for cutting vegetation
    In the scrub brush, though, Enrique worries less about agents than about madrinas with machetes.
  32. savage
    able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering
    The name for these men is a play on words: these civilians help the authorities, as a madrina, or godmother, would, and administer madrizas, or savage beatings.
  33. barbed
    having or covered with protective points, spines, or thorns
    He crawls under a barbed-wire fence, then under a double strand of smooth wire.
  34. resist
    express opposition through action or words
    Migrants who resist are beaten or killed.
  35. caution
    judiciousness in avoiding harm or danger
    Maybe it was his extra caution, maybe it was his decision to run, maybe it was his attempt to lie flat and hide atop the boxcar, which delayed his getting off the train and gave the bandits an opportunity to target migrants ahead of him.
  36. taunt
    harass with persistent criticism or carping
    Boys like Enrique are called “stinking undocumented.” They are cursed, taunted. Dogs are set upon them. Barefoot children throw rocks at them.
  37. victim
    a person who is tricked or swindled
    Migrants, who are often afraid to press charges, make ideal victims.
  38. huddle
    crowd or draw together
    Many of the migrants on Enrique’s train huddle together, hoping for safety in numbers.
  39. fate
    an event that will inevitably happen in the future
    Having avoided the fate of many other migrants, Enrique reaches Ixtepec, a southern crossroads in Oaxaca, the next state north, 285 miles into Mexico.
  40. critical
    urgently needed; absolutely necessary
    Blending in is critical. Migrants clip labels off clothes from Central America. Some buy Mexican clothes or ones sporting the name of a Mexican soccer team.

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