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Student Responses: Lynnette Adabele Quiles

Sonia Nazario writer of Enrique’s Journey attempts to start a dialogue about immigration specifically exposing the horrors of children crossing South American borders up through Mexico into the United States in search for their mothers. Nazario exposes mothers crossing the border to where they believe success lies and opportunity for their families is possible. Enrique’s Journey is nothing more than a book of exposure. It graphically details the horrors of those trying to make a living on nothing in South America and Nazario also documents the lost limbs, drug abuse, sexual abuse, battery, beatings, murder, starvation, and the list goes on. The problem is Nazario stops at these exposures and does not offer anything else to her audience leaving them angry or just sad about the situation and not able to grasp an understanding of the problem and how we as people play a significant role.

Enrique’s Journey along with Nazario’s lecture series at the University of Madison-Wisconsin encompassed the idea of “pornography of the real” which involves the viewing of images or reading of real suffering, death and destruction of people who are generally casted as ‘other’ and being left with some sort of pleasure from the experience. That pleasure being sadness from seeing graphic images of children’s limbs missing from falling off the tops of train carts or witnessing Enrique almost beaten to death by gang members on the tops of trains, and anger from witnessing mothers leave their children behind to search for money to send to their children or bring back so they will live a better life and not starve. Nazario fails to bring her audience to think about immigration and their role within this system in the United States or else where. She makes no connection or understanding of the implications of the immigration system.

Being a student who has studied immigration and the connections of sexuality and immigration, I can see Nazario’s very small beginning attempts to open up that conversation but without a background in such studies it makes it very hard to see such exposures as an opening to the conversation. Viewing immigration from that of a queer migrant, and by queer migrant I mean those in society who are marginalized and cast as ‘other’, raises critical questions regarding sexual identity in a cross-cultural setting. It appears to be a common theme of migrating for reasons concerning discrimination, finding success financially, finding others who are like them somewhere else. Many writers such as Cantu and Luibeid have raised the idea of there being a construction and regulation of immigrants’ sexual identities within U.S. policies and rhetoric. Nazario just gives her audience the graphics and not the meaning.

The border is seen as a constant state of transition and creates a stronger idea of “Us” vs. “them”. I have learned that sexuality is a power that shapes the process of migration. Nazario loses the conversation of immigration within the graphic images written in detail throughout the book. If Sonia Nazario has been working with the concept of immigration for 20 plus years, as she stated in her lecture, she needs to be writing works that spark her audience to raise questions such as how do we get a nation to broaden its understandings of words such as sexuality and citizenship? How do we eliminate these binaries that have been in the U.S. dominant logic for so long and how do we reconstruct the U.S. dominant logic? These questions are important to look into and find solutions. If Nazario is going to use Enrique’s narrative she must expose the corruption within U.S. immigration policies and their construction or regulation of identity at the border. The border is not only being that dividing line between states but within the work force and other social settings that creates binaries.

Lynnette Adabele Quiles