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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Student Responses: Michelle Ruse

As I was sitting in the lecture hall of Union South, about 6 rows back from the front of the stage, I quietly listened as Sonia Nazario gave her speech on her book Enrique’s Journey. I looked around at the audience made up of students, professors, and other middle-class Wisconsinites and watched how they nodded in agreement with Nazario’s seemingly factual arguments and shook their heads in disgust at the gruesome details of her journey on the trains in Mexico. At the beginning of her speech Nazario said to the audience, “My goal is to grab you by the throat and take you on a ride and hopefully educate you about an issue along the way.” True to her word I think that this is exactly what Nazario accomplished—she wove a story of emotion and pain and churned out compassion toward immigrants within the audience. But that was it. Nazario’s lecture was basically a summary of her book Enrique’s Journey. Although it would have been interesting and simulating to those people who did not read the book, I’m assuming that the majority of the audience would have read the book and then came to see her speak, so I’m not quite sure why she just summarized her book that everyone had already read. Yet, everyone seemed to be captivated by the heartbreaking stories Nazario was telling during her speech, even though they had already read the same stories in the book just days before.

Yes, okay, I know this might be exaggerating the situation just a bit, but Nazario’s lecture was really a let down for me. I wanted her to go into detail on how she made her arguments, why she did this “reporting” on immigrant children, what the outcome of Enrique’s Journey was, and what would be some plausible solutions to this large issue at hand. Yet she seemed to just talk about her experience on the trains and such (basically what was in the book) and then started to talk about how the United States needs to help Central America with their own economy so immigrants will want to go back to their own countries and they will not want to come to America. Apparently these were some of her solutions to the issue and she did not really elaborate very much on them.

For the majority of her lecture Nazario talked about her journey on the trains. She states, “I really wanted to show people all the dangers these kids face, and what this is like for children to make the journey… So I decided to do the journey myself.” Yes it is true that she made this journey, but she never states the outcomes of her journey and what it has done to help these children. She says that, “I have written about this issue for more than two decades now, but honestly there were things that I did not get about this issue until I made this journey.” If she has written about this issue of immigration in the United States for more than 20 years, then why has she not researched more on the issue and used scholarly sources in her books and lectures? Her writing seems to be more stories then facts. I would agree that she is a great storyteller and it is great research to have done the journey in general, but I wanted to know what else she had done on this issue. Is the book Enrique’s Journey the only thing that has come out of the reporting she has done in Central America and Mexico?

I believe that Nazario’s lecture and her book Enrique’s Journey sheds some light on a very serious issue of immigration to the U.S., but I think that that is all that it does. Nazario writes this book, tells the story and then spreads the word to American citizens all over the U.S. and then she starts all over again. There seems to be no solution to her story, she just spreads the word about an issue and leaves it at that. It is because of this that I did not quite enjoy Nazario lecture as much as I wish I would have.

Michelle Ruse

Sources: (Transcript)