Pulitzer winner tells harrowing tale
Social justice and immigration issues took center stage on Wednesday when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario visited Georgia College to talk about her book, “Enrique’s Journey.”
While living in Argentina as a young teen, Nazario bore witness to social devastation brought on by the country’s power-hungry army.
“A 16-year-old friend of mine was picked up (by the army) for (protesting) the army, and was killed,” Nazario said.
Young Nazario quickly learned that knowledge was power in Argentina, but it was also dangerous. Journalists were often ousted in the country for serving as watchdogs and exposing corruption.
“Journalists were killed for trying to tell the truth about the country,” Nazario, 52, recalled. “That’s when my 14-year-old self decided that I wanted to be a journalist – no democracy can flourish without a free press.”
Nazario’s unfailing drive to succeed as a journalist eventually landed her at the Wall Street Journal, where she was the youngest reporter ever hired by the publication. During her time there, Nazario worked at bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles.
She honed her skills by reporting on social issues pertaining to women, children and other minority groups that didn’t garner “enough ink in this country.”
Nazario’s writing took an unexpected turn after an impromptu chat with her housekeeper, who had immigrated from Guatemala. She shared with Nazario that she had left her four children in Guatemala in hopes of paving the promise of a better future for her children in this country.
“It was (the conversation) in my kitchen that morning that would launch me on a journey,” Nazario said.
Nazario soon learned that 48,000 children a year from Mexico and Central America embark on the journey of a lifetime – completing the trek into the U.S. to reunite with their parents.
After completing two three-month-long stints of following in the footsteps of these bold and courageous children, Nazario fully understood the horrors faced by the young immigrants. The children would traverse international borders by riding atop freight trains – a daunting and arduous task.
“The children faced dangerous conditions on a daily basis, and often dealt with bandits and corrupt cops,” Nazario said. “The cops would rob the children, and then deport them.”
“Enrique’s Journey” chronicles the harrowing and selfless journey of a Honduran named Enrique to find his mother in America.
“It was a different world up there, on the trains,” Nazario said of travelling with Enrique. “It was hard. I had to watch his misery play out so I could write about it.”
Chelsea Eadie, junior early childhood education major, was surprised by the means by which young immigrants had to enter the U.S.
“I didn’t know what the children had to go through, riding on top of trains just to get into America,” Eadie said.
Although Enrique’s journey ended successfully, not all immigrant children live to touch U.S. soil.
“There is a modern-day exodus out of Mexico and Central America,” Nazario said. “My hope through writing this is to humanize these individuals.
Instructor of Spanish Gael Guzman-Medrano is familiar with the harrowing conditions faced by Latin American immigrants, having come to the U.S. from Nicaragua.
“I know many people who have immigrated and have done something similar to Enrique’s journey,” Guzman-Medrano said. “Tonight reminded me of all of the stories I have heard over the years.”