Award-winning journalist speaks with Metro students and faculty

By

Posted Tue, Nov 1, 2011

Paperback Writer: Author/journalist Sonia Nazario tells spellbound Auraria students and faculty about the many social issues and injustices she's seen in Argentina.

DENVER — Sonia Nazario spoke with a crowd of rapt students and faculty on Wednesday Oct. 19, about the struggles she went through to get the information for her award winning story “Enrique’s Journey.”

Nazario wrote the article for the LA Times and later expanded the story into a book. Onlookers sat in a semicircle drinking coffee and eating the refreshments that were provided for the Coffee and Chat portion of her visit.

The attitude in Tivoli’s Robert Braun lounge was laid back as students and faculty interacted with the award-winning journalist, asking questions mostly about her book.

Nazario ,who now works full-time as an author, provided some background on herself before she took questions from the students. Her father died of a heart attack when she was 13, and after that her family moved from Kansas to Argentina.

Nazario decided she wanted to write about social issues shortly after the move because she saw so much injustice in Argentina. She likes to focus on issues that she thinks don’t get enough publicity.

“People who I feel don’t get enough attention,” she said. Nazario has always been drawn to writing about immigration because all of her siblings were born in Argentina.

When she was first planning to write a story about a child attempting to find his mother in America after being left behind, she wanted to follow one 15-year-old boy. She would follow him on his journey through Latin America and Mexico to the united state to find his mother. Nazario soon realized there were some problems with that idea. “I can’t run as fast as a 15-year-old boy,” she said.

Nazario revised plan was to find a boy and convince him to tell her about his journey. She would then retrace his steps herself. Nazario started calling churches and shelters on the Mexican side of the border asking if they had a 15-year-old boy that had come in search of his mother and was willing to talk. Finally, she was put in touch with Enrique.

“I liked Enrique because he was very honest,” she told the gathered students.

Nazario was vary candid about her journey through Mexico and the dangers she faced riding on the top of freight trains, just like Enrique did.

“I almost got swiped off the train by a branch,” she said. “My greatest fear was losing a leg or an arm to the train.” Nazario saw many people on her journey that had lost limbs falling from the train because they fell asleep, were pushed off by gangsters, or got sucked underneath trying to catch up with the train while it was moving. Her own rule was that she wouldn’t get on or off the train while it was moving because it was too dangerous.

She took the exact same route as Enrique. Nazario shared how she bused through South America, rode seven different trains through Mexico and spent a portion of her trip hitchhiking.

Nazario lamented that Enrique was not her perfect subject. He was a glue sniffer and he was older than the average age of most child immigrants.

“I’d say the toughest interview for a journalist is a teenage boy,” said Nazario. “They’re not nearly as verbal as one would hope.”

During the discussion an audience member brought up ethics in journalism and asked Sonia how she deals with seeing horrible things without being able to help the suffering people. Sonia admitted that she saw severe child neglect when she was writing about children of drug and alcohol addicts. She also saw people in various dangerous situations when she was in Mexico.

Nazario always informs the subjects of her reporting that she will not be able to help them in any way while she is following them. She discussed being with Enrique for two weeks while he was trying to get a $10 phone card, and how miserable he was. There was a cell phone in her purse the whole time, but Nazario knew she couldn’t help him.

“First of all, my duty to you as a writer, to my readers, is to write the truth and if I change that truth and then write about it I am altering reality and conveying something that I have changed,” she said.

She believes that it isn’t ethical to change a situation that she is reporting on and then write about it. Nazario only intervenes when she believes the person she’s reporting on is in imminent danger.

Nazario expressed little hope for the passage of the dream act during the discussion. She also expressed desire for immigrants to learn English as quickly as possible when they move to the United States. She believes that this will lead immigrants down the road to success. All immigrants were forced to assimilate in the past, and Nazario doesn’t believe that things should be any different now. Some students disagree.

“I was a little surprised,” said metro student Aurora Martinez. Her grandparents came to the US and assimilated year ago.

“”I lost my culture,” she said.

The proposed border fence with Mexico, Nazario’s philanthropic endeavors, and the fate of Enrique and his family were also discussed.

Nazario stayed after the discussion to chat with students individually. She was speaking as part of the Richard T. Castro distinguished visiting professorship program and was on campus for multiple events starting Oct. 18, through the 20, according to the Metro State website.

Sidebar:

– The article “Enrique’s Journey” has won many awards including a Pulitzer Prize

-The expanded version of “Enrique’s Journey” won two book awards

– Nazario was previously a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a series she wrote on children of addicts

– She recieved a George Polk award for a series she wrote on hungry school children in California according to the MSCD website.

One Response to “Award-winning journalist speaks with Metro students and faculty”

  1. Nikki Says:

    Really interesting story! Great topic, sounds like this woman would be very interesting and inspiring to talk with.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

*