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and dabbles in drugs. Feeling lost and abandoned, he clings to his girlfriend. He wants her to become pregnant, believing that way she won’t abandon him. But even more fiercely, he clings to his memories of Lourdes; endless memories of Lourdes. If he can somehow find his mother, he is sure that life will be better. When he finally gets to Nuevo Laredo on that eighth attempt, he has his chest tattooed: “EnriqueLourdes.” Unfortunately, he has romanticized Lourdes so much that reality can never match up to his expectations. “The Odyssey,” writes Nazario, ” an epic poem about a hero’s journey home from war, ends with reunion and peace. The Grapes of Wrath, the classic novel about the Dust Bowl and the migration of Oklahoma farmers to California ends with death and a glimmer of renewed life Enrique’s journey “is more complex and less dramaticf To retrace his story, Nazario rode the same buses and freight trains Enrique did, and hitchhiked across northern Mexico, just as he did. Her narrative blends Enrique’s story, scrupulously corroborated \(she finds the doctor who treated him after his near fatal beating, as well as the man her own observations. Nazario discovers, for example, that what Enrique has told her about Chiapas is all too true. The southern Mexican state is a special kind of hell referred to as “the Beast.” \(The freight train is el tren de la muerte, the death train, because of the number of migrants who lose their lives or are While riding through the most dangerous parts of the journey, Nazario was accompanied by what she describes as “an armed Mexican migrant rights group, Grupo Beta:’ Untangling the mix of cops, gangsters, bandits, madrinas or freelance cops, who appear throughout the book can be confusing. Grupo Beta is indeed an official organization charged with assisting migrants and curbing the abuse posed by other cops as well as gangs. But as Nazario makes clear, that protection was limited; the journey clearly took its toll: For months, as I traveled in Enrique’s footsteps, I lived with the near-constant danger of being beaten, robbed, or raped. Once, as I rode on top of a fuel car on a rainy night with lightning, a tree branch hit me squarely in the face. It sent me sprawling backward. I was able to grab a guardrail and keep from stumbling off the top of the train. On that same ride, I later learned, a child had been plucked off the fuel tanker car behind mine by a branch. His train companions did not know if he was dead or alive. Four of five migrants who arrive at the Albergue Belen shelter in Tapathula have already been robbed, beaten or extorted by the police, says the shelter priest, Flor Maria Rigioni. At the Tapachula train station, fights break out between municipal and state police officers over who gets to rob a group. of migrants. Migrants describe being locked up by police until a relative in the United States can wire the kidnapper’s fee and buy their freedom. There are also amazing acts of kindness along the way. In Tapachula, on the Mexican-Guatemalan border, Olga Sanchez Martinez, a middle-aged woman, has organized a shelter for migrants injured by the train. In a rural hamlet in the state of Veracruz, Maria Luisa Mora Martin, “more than a hundred years old, who was reduced to eating the bark of her plantain tree during the Mexican revolution,” fills bags with tortillas, beans, and salsa so that her 70year-old daughter can throw them up to the migrants as the freight train passes by. Baltasar Breniz Avil, whose two sons walked through the desert and now wash cars in California, does the same. “When I help someone here, I feel like I’m giving food to my children,” he says. “I bet people help them too:’ As brilliant as the book is, Enrique’s Journey is not without its flaws. Before the Times series was published, it went through 12 drafts. The book, we can assume, received far less attention. The kind of repetition necessary for a newspaper series, where there are no guarantees that a reader on one day has actually read the previous stories, unfortunately makes its ways into the book, detracting from the narrative. Nazario’s final chapter, which zips through a mountain of statistics and studies, reads as if it were tacked on at the last minute. More importantly, though, is a lack of context. The larger political and economic picture goes ignored, except for an occasional detail. We learn, for example, that Enrique’s uncle’s professionhe was a money-changerbecame extremely lucrative a result of the U.S. sponsored contras. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 5, 2006