By Logan Samuels
Hood students were recently treated to a talk and book signing with Pulitzer Prize winner and esteemed author, Sonia Nazario.
On Monday, Mar. 30, The Shirley Conner Hardinge Annual Global Studies Lecture featured Nazario, who spoke about her national bestseller, Enrique’s Journey. Nazario’s novel features a young boy named Enrique and his journey as a migrant to the United States to find his mother.
Sonia Nazario has worked for the LA Times and The Wallstreet Journal. Her books have been translated into eight different languages and are part of 77 college curriculums. Nazario has chosen to focus the bulk of her writing on unaccompanied minor immigrants and is an advocate for migrant children rights.
Dr. Michael Kuhn welcomed everyone to the talk and spoke of the “economics of migration.” He shared that he had never wondered why people aspired to come to America, but instead wondered why people would want to leave their homes instead.
Kuhn said, “I realized that people just want to make a better life for themselves.”
Dr. Kuhn went on to share that migration to the United States is increasing rapidly and that people need to become more aware of the situation.
Kuhn said, “You need someone who is a good storyteller; someone who can tell a story well…enough to make you feel it.”
Sonia Nazario thanked the college for having her and said that she was happy to be in Maryland since the state is pro-immigrants. There are currently 275,000 immigrants and this “explosive growth from 2,500 to 10,000” in Frederick alone has made this a “heated social issue.”
Nazario grew up as an athlete in Kansas to two immigrant parents, and when her father died when she was 13, Nazario’s family moved to Argentina. As a young child, various circumstances in Argentina inspired her to seek a career in journalism so that she may be the one to reveal the true story: “I wanted to be a truth teller.”
Nazario overcame her limited high school education and attended Williams College with no financial support. After graduating, she became the youngest person to be hired at The Wallstreet Journal at age 21, where she dabbled in “fly on the wall reporting.”
As an adult, Nazario was inspired to take action by her housekeeper, Caramen, who revealed that she had left four of her children in Guatemala so that she could make money in the United States to support them. While the United States is generous in taking in immigrants from all over, the danger lies in the minors who attempt to immigrate alone.
Nazario said, “What kind of desperation makes a mother walk away? Mothers have said, ‘I play with this child, I feed them, I love them, but I wasn’t there for my own child’s first words or Quinceañera.”
Many mothers leave their home country to come to the United States in order to send money home or to bring their children to the U.S., but when the process takes longer than expected, their children feel abandoned and upset, and decide to take matters into their own hands.
An abandoned child told Nazario, “If she’s not coming back to me or sending for me, I’m going to find her.”
Dozens of children, like Enrique, decide to migrate to the United States alone to find their mothers. These children typically travel by gripping to the tops and sides of trains while having to defend themselves against rape, murder, bandits and other dangers.
Chiapas patrol the roofs of trains and threaten to throw the children off of the trains if they do not pass over any money and valuables they have. Many of these children die from falling off the train, being thrown off, and are injured by snatchers and from being attacked at the borders.
Nazario wanted to make sure that these stories were shared and she followed Enrique’s adventure in particular. Nazario said, “I shadowed him like a good reporter to see his misery play out.”
Nazario learned that Enrique felt all the dangers and fears were nothing compared to the possibility of seeing his mother again. She was also terrified and in danger, but admitted that she was only feeling 1% of what those children were feeling.
“It was a high stakes ride,” Nazario said.
Nazario shared her political views on the situation as well and summarized that she was unhappy with the way these issues were being handled currently. In conclusion, she shared that the U.S. spends too much on border control, and instead should be focusing on providing guaranteed legal aid to those minors who have to fight to become citizens after going through these dangerous migration journeys.
Nazario said that 70% of these migrant children must stand alone before a judge and that no legal counsel or time to build a case is provided. She also said that this country should increase the amount of refugees allowed to remain in the U.S.
“Now is the time to push for this. [This is] a true test for my country and yours. Are we going to rise to a level of humanity above us? We can start to change conditions…so mothers never have to walk away from their children again,” Nazario said.