In any event, she has not saved enough. The cheapest coyote, immigrant advocates say, charges $3,000 per child. Female coyotes want up to $6,000. A top smuggler will bring a child by commercial flight for $10,000.
Enrique despairs. He will simply have to do it himself. He will go find her. He will ride the trains.
"I want to come," he tells her.
Don't even joke about it, she says. It is too dangerous. Be patient.
Now Enrique's anger boils over. He refuses to make his Mother's Day card at school. He begins hitting other kids. He lifts the teacher's skirt.
He stands on top of the teacher's desk and bellows, "Who is Enrique?"
"You!" the class replies.
Three times, he is suspended. Twice he repeats a grade. But Enrique never abandons his promise to study. Unlike half the children from his neighborhood, he completes elementary school. There is a small ceremony. A teacher hugs him and mutters, "Thank God, Enrique's out of here."
He stands proud in a blue gown and mortarboard. But nobody from his mother's family comes to the graduation.
Now he is 14, a teenager. He spends more time on the streets of Carrizal, which is quickly becoming one of Tegucigalpa's toughest neighborhoods. His grandmother tells him to come home early. But he plays soccer until midnight. He refuses to sell spices. It is embarrassing when girls see him peddle fruit cups or when they hear someone call him "the tamale man."
He stops going to church.
"Don't hang out with bad boys," Grandmother Maria says.
"You can't pick my friends!" Enrique replies. She is not his mother, he tells her, and she has no right to tell him what to do.
He stays out all night.
His grandmother waits up for him, crying. "Why are you doing this to me?" she asks. "Don't you love me? I am going to send you away."
"Send me! No one loves me."
But she says she does love him. She only wants him to work and to be honorable, so that he can hold his head up high.
He replies that he will do what he wants.
Enrique has become her youngest child. "Please bury me," she says. "Stay with me. If you do, all this is yours." She prays that she can hold on to him until his mother sends for him. But her own children say Enrique has to go: She is 70, and he will bury her, all right, by sending her to the grave.
Sadly, she writes to Lourdes: You must find him another home.
To Enrique, it is another rejection. First his mother, then his father and now his grandmother.
Lourdes arranges for a brother, Marco Antonio Zablah, to take him in.
Her gifts arrive steadily. She is proud that her money pays Belky's tuition at a private high school and eventually a college, to study accounting. Kids from poor neighborhoods almost never go to college.
Money from Lourdes helps Enrique too, and he realizes it. If she were here, he knows where he might well be: scavenging in the trash dump across town. Lourdes knows it too; as a girl, she herself worked the dump. Enrique knows children as young as 6 or 7 whose single mothers have stayed at home and who have had to root through the waste in order to eat.
Truck after truck rumbles onto the hilltop. Dozens of adults and children fight for position. Each truck dumps its load. Feverishly, the scavengers reach up into the sliding ooze to pluck out bits of plastic, wood and tin. The trash squishes beneath their feet, moistened by loads from hospitals, full of blood and placentas. Occasionally a child, with hands blackened by garbage, picks up a piece of stale bread and eats it. As the youngsters sort through the stinking stew, thousands of sleek, black buzzards soar in a dark, swirling cloud.
A year after Enrique goes to live with his uncle, Lourdes calls--this time from North Carolina. "California is too hard," she says. "There are too many immigrants." Employers pay poorly and treat them badly. Here people are less hostile. Work is plentiful. She works on an assembly line for $9.05 an hour--$13.50 when she works overtime--and waits tables. She has met someone, a house painter from Honduras, and they are moving in together.
Enrique misses her enormously. But Uncle Marco and his girlfriend treat him well. Marco is a money changer on the Honduran border, and his family, including a son, lives in a five-bedroom house in a middle-class neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. Uncle Marco gives Enrique a daily allowance, buys him clothes and sends him to a private military school.
Enrique runs errands for his uncle, washes his five cars, follows him everywhere. His uncle pays as much attention to him as he does his own son, if not more. "Negrito," he calls him fondly, because of his dark skin. Although he is in his teens, Enrique is small, just shy of 5 feet, even when he straightens up from a slight stoop. He has a big smile and perfect teeth.
His uncle trusts him, even to make bank deposits. He tells Enrique, "I want you to work with me forever."