Prologue–Chapter 3

Enrique's mother left Honduras to find work in the United States; eleven years later, Enrique embarked on a dangerous journey to reunite with her. In this powerful nonfiction account, journalist Sonia Nazario recounts his experiences.
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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. relegate
    assign to a lower position
    Or I could stay by my children’s side, relegating another generation to the same misery and poverty I knew so well.
  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. mundane
    found in the ordinary course of events
    We kept the windows closed so neighbors could not hear any discussion that strayed from the mundane into anything vaguely political.
  5. traverse
    journey across or pass over
    To follow Enrique’s journey, I traversed thirteen of Mexico’s thirty-one states.
  6. 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.
  7. determination
    firmness of purpose
    With each step north, I became awed by the gritty determination these children possess in their struggle to get here.
  8. endure
    face and withstand with courage
    They are willing to endure misery and dangers for months on end.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. dote
    shower with love; show excessive affection for
    Enrique clings to his daddy, who dotes on him.
  12. careen
    move sideways or in an unsteady way
    Enrique’s uncles careen off the road.
  13. 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.
  14. sully
    place under suspicion or cast doubt upon
    Worse, he is sullying the only thing her family owns: its good name.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. corrupt
    dishonest or immoral or evasive
    Enrique has already had other run-ins with corrupt Mexican cops.
  19. 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.
  20. callow
    young and inexperienced
    Six months ago, the first time he set out to find her, he was still a callow kid.
  21. 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.
  22. mausoleum
    a large burial chamber, usually above ground
    After a day and twelve miles, police caught him sleeping on top of a mausoleum in a graveyard near the depot in Tapachula, Mexico...
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. frenzied
    excessively agitated
    Already, Enrique has four jagged scars on his shins from frenzied efforts to board trains.
  27. 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.
  28. callus
    form a thick or hard area of skin from pressure or friction
    His hands would turn numb and callous after hours of hanging on.
  29. derail
    run off or leave the tracks
    Enrique was once on a train that derailed.
  30. 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.
  31. elude
    escape, either physically or mentally
    Of the half-dozen checkpoints Enrique has eluded in southern Mexico, he fears La Arrocera most.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. resist
    express opposition through action or words
    Migrants who resist are beaten or killed.
  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. tourniquet
    a bandage that stops the flow of blood by applying pressure
    The medics applied two tourniquets.
  38. wallow
    devote oneself entirely to something
    She is impatient with those who wallow in pity.
  39. travail
    use of physical or mental energy; hard work
    She thanks God for giving her strength to get through the day’s travails.
  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.
Created on May 5, 2016 (updated August 30, 2018)

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