Monday, February 20, 2006

"Enrique's Journey"

Los Angeles Times projects reporter Sonia Nazario spoke to Terry Gross today on NPR's "Fresh Air" about her new book "Enrique's Journey," which tells the story of a young Honduran boy who risked his life to travel to the United States in search of his mother.

Enrique's mother, Lourdes, left Enrique and his sister, Belky, in order to go to the United States. Her goal was to find work and either earn money to send back home to her children or enough to enable her to bring her children to live with her.

Nazario says that thousands of children, some as young as 7-years-old, travel to the U.S. each year in search of their families. Along the way, the children deal with a multitude of dangerous situations, including bandits, smugglers and corrupt immigration officials.

Enrique, whose mother left for America when he was 5, made it to the United States 11 years later, at the age of 16, on his seventh attempt. All he had of his mother was a North Carolina phone number.

The book had its beginnings in a series of articles Nazario wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 2003. Her efforts won her the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and the photos from the series, shot by photographer Don Bartletti, won the Pulitzer for feature photography.

Mother and son went through some difficult times following their reunion. Enrique blames his mother for leaving him and begins to abuse drugs and alcohol. Lourdes feels guilty, wondering if things would have been different if she had remained with her children in Honduras. Eventually she tells Enrique that he needs to stop acting the way he is or he must get out of her home.

Enrique is now living in North Carolina near his mother and works as a house painter. He has a daughter of his own, Jasmin, who lives in Honduras. Host Terry Gross told Navario she was surprised that Enrique had left his own daughter back in Honduras, just as his mother had done.

Navario says that Enrique is determined not to make the same mistake he believes his mother made, that either he will return to Honduras or bring his daughter to live with him shortly. He contends he will never leave his child for several years as his mother did.

Navario tells a heartbreaking, yet fascinating story.


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