Sonia Nazario

October 14, 2009 at 1:44 am 1 comment

In keeping with my intention to take advantage of all college’s opportunities, I woke up this morning at 7:30.  Half-asleep, I yanked on jeans and a sweater and went down to the offices a few floors below my room.

I didn’t think there would be anyone else there. 

“You’re number fourteen,” I was told, upon noticing several sleepy sweatshirt-clad kids slumped against the wall.  One guy had claimed an armchair and was cuddling his pillow. 

And I was okay with that.  There were twenty-three tickets.  For what, you ask?  Well, eighteen of us woke up insanely early to claim VIP tickets to a debate between Karl Rove and Howard Dean on healthcare.  Naturally, it’s a topic that I know absolutely nothing about, but it should be fascinating.  And the VIP ticket lets me sit in the front row and meet them afterwards.  Pretty cool, if you ask me!  I don’t know what everyone else did, but I clutched my ticket, went back upstairs, changed into my pajamas, and went back to bed.  I also hit the snooze button about three times, and barely made it to breakfast before it closed. 

But the real point of this entry is to talk about the lecture I just attended, by Sonia Nazario of the LA Times.  A friend in a journalism class told me about it, and asked what I thought I’d learn/she’d talk about. 

Ummm – the usual?  Tips on writing, the future of journalism and newspapers?

Not really.  She talked about her story, her passion, and her work.  And if you want an example of a real journalist, with a capital J, look no farther.  This is a woman who digs into the real and the ugly to find the truth and bring change.  This is a woman who has actually risked her life to make people see and understand and help.  Her Pulitzer Prize is well deserved.

I will have to look her up and discover all of her other work, but we spent much of the time discussing her work Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother.

It’s a story of immigrants.  The much, much too common story of a mother who is driven to desperation and must weight the costs: should she stay with her children so they can be together, and watch them eat only one a day – if that – and never progress past third grade?  They’ll never better themselves or live a very good life.  So, heart breaking, Lourdes chooses to make the dangerous journey to America, in hopes that she’ll be able to send money home so her kids can at least eat and learn. 

But Enrique doesn’t understand.  He’s five when she leaves.  And she never comes back.  At sixteen, he decides to embark on the most dangerous trip of his life: clinging to the bandit-controlled tops of freight trains through the border of Mexico, then slipping into America to find her and find out if she still loves him.  As Nazario writes, “Many, including Enrique, begin to idealize their mothers.  In their absence, these mothers become larger than life.  Although these women struggle ot pay rent and eat in the United States, in the imaginations of their children back home they become deliverance itself, the answer to every problem.  Finding them becomes the quest for the Holy Grail.” 

There is a very good chance Enrique won’t survive; he gets beaten and robbed and stripped of the precious piece of paper with his mother’s phone number.  He is half-starved.  And I only read an excerpt; I don’t know what else this poor kid goes through to find his mother. 

Happily, he eventually does.  But after the joyous reunion, he still has to live with eleven years of resentment wondering why she never came back.  He’s struggling now with his drug addiction that he began in Honduras.

The problems are real.  The problems of little ones clinging to trains and trying to dodge corrupt police, bandits, and robbers are horrible.  And Nazario herself decided to spend three months clinging to trains, retracing the exact route, researching and getting details so she could craft a story that would bring awareness to this problem. 

I don’t think I could ever put myself in that kind of dangerous position.  (She actually retraced the journey twice – once for the newspaper series, and again when it was being turned into a book.  But she didn’t ride the trains the second time – her husband told her she wouldn’t have to worry about being killed by bandits again.  “I’ll finish you off first.”  She compromised; no more train-riding or walking through snake-infested deserts in the dark).  But that passion to do your best, to find the truth, even if it’s ugly, to help and to change – that is what I find so amazing and so inspiring.  It was a fascinating talk.

And now, this blog post has taken about an hour and a half to write.  Kelly and I were watching Aladdin most of the time, because it was on the Disney Channel and we don’t have it and have been wanting to watch it for quite a while.  It was so good.

We regret nothing.


Entry filed under: college.

The wheels on the bus Baby, it’s cold outside

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Savannah  |  October 17, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.


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