Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

In the small town of Tres Camones in southern Mexico, the women look around one day and realize there are no men left. They have all gone north to find jobs in the United States. Nayeli, a young woman just out of school, is depressed because this means there is no future for her and her friends. No dating, no boyfriends, and no babies. On top of this, the bandidos have begun to move in because there is no one to police the town. After watching a screening of the Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides that they must go on a mission to the north to bring back seven heroes to protect and repopulate their town. So Nayeli, her two friends, and Tacho, the gay owner of the local café, head north to try and cross the border. The book takes place in stages as they travel north. First is the bus to Tijuana, then the crossing, then the time in the United States. There are difficulties and dangers at all stages of the trip, but also unexpected friendships.

I really enjoyed Urrea’s light hearted approach to the story. The reason they were watching the film was that Nayeli’s aunt is convinced that Yul Brenner is Mexico’s greatest actor. He speaks perfect Spanish in the films, she says, and will not listen when they tell her it’s dubbed. Her aunt is encouraging the trip not just to bring back men for the village, but also so that Nayeli can find her long lost lover. Her friends want to go so they can fine the cute missionary boy who visited their town the past year. Nayeli, for her part, is hoping to find her father who went north years ago.

I don’t want to spoil the book by revealing too many of my favorite parts. This is a book that is unique and part of the joy of it is the unexpected turns in the story. It is not a political statement about immigrants coming to the US, although the subject is certainly discussed. The author does a wonderful job of showing both sides of the issue. It is more a personal story about a few people’s experiences.  I also found it interesting to see the United States from this different viewpoint. What Nayeli and her friends find as compared to what they were expecting was fascinating. One thing they discover is there are hateful and dangerous people everywhere, but more importantly, there are also kind people everywhere.

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.


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