Horrible stories about people falling under trains and losing limbs are not usually my mug of hot chocolate. I used to be addicted to nothing but feel-good, heart-racing, skin-tingling, he-held-my-hand, young adult fiction. Some say that reading should be an escape, and therefore, a book should transport us to good, happy places. But then I discovered that, sometimes, escaping INTO the danger, sadness, tragedy and other realities of someone else's shoes is immensely more satisfying and valuable to me when I come to the last page, than something fluffy and frilly that makes me feel that my own life is somehow less.
I have led a blessed existence in countless ways, beginning with the fact that I was born in this country of seemingly endless freedoms. So, when I open a book like Enrique's Journey, and close it two days later with tears streaming down my cheeks, and the desire to hug the stuffing out of my dad for coming to this country, I know that I won't take that gift of my birth lightly. That gift is why I started writing my own book, and worked at it until it was finished, eight years later.
Did you know that there are thousands of children, some as young as seven, but mostly teenagers, leaving Central America every day with the goal of finding their mothers in the U.S.? Mothers who left their young children as infants, with family members, in order to work in the U.S. so that those children wouldn't go to sleep hungry night after night. In most instances, the mothers only intend to be gone a year, maybe two. But the months stretch on into years. The money arrives, but their mothers don't. Decades pass and they are unable to fulfill their promises, hurriedly made through miles of phone lines, while a calling card ticks down the remaining seconds, to come home for a birthday, for Christmas, for a first communion. These kids decide that if their mothers aren't going to come home, they will go find their mothers.
A thirteen-year-old boy crosses the border into Mexico, and then has to find a way to get to the U.S. border without getting killed first. He'll try to accomplish this by riding north on the tops of speeding trains. And he won't succeed the first time. If his life is spared, by simply getting sent back, he'll try again. He may end up bruised, broken, and robbed by Mexican police within mere minutes of his second attempt. And that's on a good day. On the third attempt he may face worse things, including losing a limb while trying to board a train, or being raped by groups of gangsters who monitor the train tops.
Yes, I know. You closed your eyes for a second, trying to rid yourself of that image, right? Now you want to close this window and try to forget that what you just read actually happens. I feel it too. We don't want to know the realities of what happens out there, when we don't have to see it or deal with it wherever we live. But it happens, and it's better to know. Because only by knowing can we start to become like the woman in Chiapas who dedicates her life to rehabilitating people who are injured when they fall under the trains. Or like the priest in Nuevo Laredo who spends every day of his life feeding and sheltering immigrants who have nowhere else to turn. By knowing, we have the power to change who we are inside. We can become people who care, instead of people who keep our eyes closed and carry on as though everyone in the world lives as we do. This isn't about laws and walls and politics. It's about people.
Read this book and let it change your life. Let it change your heart so that you can become a person who cares instead of a person who ignores.