Into the Beautiful North

Into the Beautiful North

by Luis Alberto Urrea


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Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who left the family to work in the United States. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village—they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men—her own "Siete Magnificos"—to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, Into the Beautiful North is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316025263
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/16/2010
Pages: 338
Sales rank: 64,475
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Luis Alberto Urrea, one of America's most critically acclaimed writers, is the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter, The Devil's Highway, and Across the Wire.

Susan Ericksen is a three-time Audie Award-winning narrator who has recorded over 500 books. The winner of multiple awards, including twenty-plus AudioFile Earphones Awards for both fiction and nonfiction, Susan is a classically trained actress who excels at multiple narrative styles and accents.

Read an Excerpt

Into the Beautiful North

A Novel
By Urrea, Luis Alberto

Back Bay Books

Copyright © 2010 Urrea, Luis Alberto
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316025263


Chapter One

The bandidos came to the village at the worst possible time. Of course, everyone in Mexico would agree that there is no particularly good time for bad men to come to town. But Tres Camarones was unguarded on that late summer’s day when so many things had already changed. And everything that remained was about to change forever.

Nobody in the village liked change. It had taken great civic upheaval to bring electricity to Tres Camarones, for example. Until 1936, ice came in big trucks, and fathers took their sons to observe it when it slid down the ramps in great clear blocks. It took the visionary mayor, García-García the First, to see the potential in electrical power, and he had lobbied for two years to have the wires strung from far Villaunión. Still, there were holdouts a good decade after Tres Camarones had begun to glow with yellow light. Such stalwarts relied on candles, kerosene lamps, and small bonfires in the street. These blazes, though festive, blocked the scant traffic and the trucks bearing beer and sides of beef, and García-García had to resort to the apocalyptic stratagem of banning street fires entirely. Denounced as an Antichrist, he was promptly defeated in the next election. Later, he was reelected: even if his policies had been too modernizing for some, the residents of Tres Camarones realized that a new mayor meant change, and change was the last thing they wanted. Progress might be inevitable, but there was no reason they should knuckle under without a fight.

True, the occasional hurricane devastated the low-lying forest and semitropical jungles and reformed the beaches. Often, parts of the town were washed away or carried out to sea. But the interior clock of evolution in Tres Camarones was set only to these cataclysms of nature.

And then, the peso dropped in value. Suddenly there was no work. All the shrimp were shipped north, tortillas became too expensive to eat, and people started to go hungry. We told you change was bad, the old-timers croaked.

Nobody had heard of the term immigration. Migration, to them, was when the tuna and the whales cruised up the coast, or when Guacamaya parrots flew up from the south. Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go to el norte. Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do. The modern era had somehow passed Tres Camarones by, but this new storm had found a way to siphon its men away, out of their beds and into the next century, into a land far away.

The bandidos came with the sunrise, rolling down the same eastern road that had once brought the ice trucks. There were two of them. They had to drive south from Mazatlán, which was at least an hour and forty minutes away, then creak off the highway and take the cutoff toward the coast. Explosions of parrots, butterflies, and hummingbirds parted before them. They didn’t notice.

One of them was an agent of the Policía Estatal, the dreaded Sinaloa State Police. He earned $150 a month as a cop. The drug cartel in the north of the state paid him $2,500 a month as an advisory fee. He got a $15,000 bonus each Christmas.

The other was a bottom-level narco who, nevertheless, was the state cop’s boss. What he needed to really get ahead in his game was a territory to call his own, but the cartel had the state sewn up, and there was no room for him in Baja California, Sonora, or Chihuahua. He had hit the drug gangster’s glass ceiling and it irked him, because he looked so damned good. The boys called him Scarface. He liked that. In spite of the awful heat and soggy air of the coastal swamplands, he wore a white sport jacket and regarded the world through mirrored sunglasses, sucking on a cinnamon toothpick.

Neither of the two bandidos enjoyed this bucolic trip to the bottomlands. But the one in the jacket had gotten a cell phone call from Culiacán that there were gringo surfos camping on the beach who were in need of some bud. He shook his head as he looked out at the stupid mango trees: all this trouble for marijuana. “It’s a job,” Scarface said. The cop snorted.

Scarface wore his irritating chrome .45 automatic in a shoulder rig. It made his armpit and ribs into a swamp of perspiration. It was against the law for a Mexican to carry an automatic weapon, though he didn’t even think about it. His partner wore a uniform and had a heavy Bulldog .44 in a Sam Browne holster—the narco could smell its leather and was irritated by its squeaking as the car bumped along the bad road.

The holster squeak was the closest they could get to a theme song. There was nothing on the radio out here except the crappy Mexican music on AM.

“Me gusta Kanye West,” the narco said, snapping off the radio.

The state cop said, “Diddy es mejor.”

“¡Diddy!” cried Scarface.

They argued for a few moments.

Soon, they reverted to silence. The cop turned up the AC. His gun belt squealed.

“Dios mío,” Scarface sighed. “I hate the country.”

The men kept their windows rolled up, but they could still smell the ripe effluent of mud and clams and pigsties and spawning fish in green water. They wrinkled their noses. “What is that?” the cop asked. “Boiling mangos?” They shook their heads, greatly offended. The other one pointed.

“Outhouses!” he scoffed.

They couldn’t believe it! These towns were so backward, Emiliano Zapata and a bunch of revolutionaries could ride through at any moment and fit right in. The bandidos, a generation removed from outhouses, sneered at the skinny dogs and the absurd starving roosters that panicked as the car rolled over oyster shells and brushed aside sugarcane and morning glory vines. The rubes down here had apparently never heard of blacktop. It was all dirt roads and cobblestones. No tourists.

They were slightly pleased, yet jealous, when they noted one of the small houses had a satellite dish.

As in most neighborhoods of most tropical Mexican villages, the walls of the homes in town went right to the edge of the street. Walls were wavery and one block long, and several doors could be found in each. Each door denoted another address. The windows had big iron railings and wooden shutters. Bougainvillea cascaded from several rooflines. Trumpet flowers. Lantana. The bandidos knew that the back of each house was a courtyard with a tree and an open kitchen and some chickens and an iguana or two. Laundry. On the street side, the walls were great splashes of color. One address might be white, and the next might be pale blue and the next vivid red with a purple door. Sometimes, two primary colors were divided by a bright green drainpipe or a vibrating line where the colors clashed and the human eye began to rattle in its socket.

The big police LTD rolled down the streets like a jaguar sniffing for its prey. The two visitors came out of the narrow alleys into the open space of the town plazuela, a tawdry gazebo and a bunch of trees with their trunks whitewashed. On the other side of the square, they spied a restaurant: TAQUERIA E INTERNET “LA MANO CAIDA.”

“The Fallen Hand Taco Shop? What kind of name is that?” the cop asked.

“It’s an Internet café, too,” the narco reminded him.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Let’s get out of here quick,” his partner said. “I want to catch the beisbol game in Mazatlán tonight.” He spit out his toothpick.

They creaked to a halt and could hear the music blasting out of the Fallen Hand before they even opened the car’s doors.


Excerpted from Into the Beautiful North by Urrea, Luis Alberto Copyright © 2010 by Urrea, Luis Alberto. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Roberto Ontiveros

Awash in a subtle kind of satire...Aa funny and poignant impossible journey...Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico.

Dallas Morning News

From the Publisher

"[A] lush, rollicking novel of quests, self-discovery, and romance." —-Booklist Starred Review

Customer Reviews

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Into the Beautiful North 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
choochee More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I wasn't bothered at all by the Spanish, as some reviewers were, as the story carried me along without the need to understand every word of dialogue. Living in San Diego, it was fun to read about my city from the point of view of these wonderful characters. Great story, colorful characters, and beautiful writing. By the way, I am middle aged and did not consider this a young adult novel; it has appeal for all ages.
Chris-An More than 1 year ago
I first heard about this book a few months ago driving in my car. The book was being reviewed and the author interviewed. I really enjoyed the whole premise and the well written selections the author shared. I thought I would remember the title. Painfully not. Then a couple of weeks ago, I ran across it just browsing the bookshelves at my local B&N. Wow! I loved this book. The characters are so richly developed and the plot so different. There is a great deal of humor to a very complex story which at times becomes tense and at other times so sad. Nayelli and her girls (plus one delightful guy) and the wonderful people they meet on their journey "into the beautiful north" are characters who will not easily be forgotten. P.S. Spanish phrases are sprinkled throughout, but it isn't distracting if you don't know Spanish.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book and immediately connected with the main character and the storyline. I found author Luis Alberto Urrea's writing style very easy and engaging-- something really necessary for me. I've said before that I am not a "book club" kind of girl. I don't want reading to be a challenge. I don't want to spend my time trying to interpret a bunch of symbolism. I simply want to be engaged and entertained, and perhaps have my eyes opened a little wider (in either enlightenment or surprise). I slipped into this book like a comfortable pair of old slippers. It just felt good. This is the story of a Mexican girl named Nayeli, who lives in the town of Los Camerones. The men have left her town for the US in search of work and fortunes, and the inhabitants of town have been left vulnerable. Nayeli gets the idea to go to the US to recruit Mexican men to come back to Los Camerones, and also in search of her own father who went to the US and quit writing to the family. This story captures the complexities of illegal immigration and the highly-charged emotions surrounding it-- not only in our own country, but in Mexico as well. I enjoyed the characters of Nayeli and Tacho and the nutty Atomiko. I held on until the end, waiting to find out whether Nayeli would ever find her father. One negative is the excessive use of spanish without translation. I often found myself feeling like an outsider looking in-- as if only I knew what they just said, I could join in on the joke and find it all very clever! I found this to be a very enjoyable read. It wasn't deeply thought-provoking or emotionally stirring, but it was an interesting story with engaging characters and a beautiful writing style. I give it two thumbs up-- and maybe I'll throw in a pinky-toe, too!
Two2dogs 12 months ago
I really enjoyed this book, funny and sad, my cousin recommended the book, I am Mexican American raised in Southern California so can relate and understood the Spanish slang, fun book to read but also has a message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a fun read that has many wonderful characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, being of Mexican descent there were things I have experience as Nayeli did while being in El Norte. I must admit the beginning was not great with all the detail about actors and hair and nonsense but I guess it was Urrea's way of developing the characters. However, the moment they start their journey I could not put the book down. It was also very easy to create the imagery in my head as if I were right there experiencing the long, dangerous journey into our beautiful country. It makes you realize how we take our country for granted. I definitely recommend!
Sparkle47 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book.
Joesmar More than 1 year ago
I found the book interesting and the the overall storyline was good, but I personally did not like the author's writing style. I also did not feel the characters were very well defined and wanted to understand more about the thoughts of feelings of the characters.
Lynnejeanne More than 1 year ago
Okay story -
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ionestjames More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I'm usually not too fond of Young Adult fiction or books whose main characters are teenagers. I can honestly say that this book surprised me. I got it because I needed a "U" for my A-Z Challenge and when I checked it out from the library I didn't think I was going to enjoy it. I thought, upon reading the synopsis, that this was going to be another book that centered on the pain and suffering of immigrants (both legal and illegal) from Mexico to America. Not that I think they deserve their pain and misfortune, I've just heard about it and read about it in the news and it is something that doesn't really peek my interests. After reading it, I pushed all of those thoughts away and I found a new respect for Young Adult fiction (I had lost it after reading the Twilight series). All I see around me at the library and in the bookstore is shelf after shelf of Young Adult vampire romances. It was nice to find something different and refreshing on the shelf. This book is something I could see many young girls around my age (I'm nineteen if some of you have forgotten) identifying with Nayeli, the main character. She's strong, funny, and has a posse of friends that remind me of my own. This book has a lot to teach young girls about being strong and not letting the fact you have a vagina ruin your life. A girl can be just as strong, maybe even stronger, than a guy can and they shouldn't be ashamed if they are. The one and only aspect of this book that irked me slightly was the parts of dialogue where the author, obviously of Spanish origins, had his characters speak full sentences in only Spanish. Usually this is okay if the next line of dialogue (from another character) replies to the Spanish statement in English (or whatever language the book is printed in) and in a way that helps the reader understand what is being said without needing a Spanish-English (or whatever language the book is printed in) Dictionary. Urrea does not do this. I actually had to use an online translator in parts of the book because I had no idea what was going on and what the characters were saying. Other than that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult fiction and enjoys relating to characters in books. Just remember to keep that Spanish Dictionary on hand.
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ChelseaManchester More than 1 year ago
Into the Beautiful North, a Magnificent Seven for the 21st century is a beautiful book. In turn funny, adventurous, touching, and enlightening, this novel would be a great choice for any teen or adult reader. The language Urrea uses and the images he creates are masterful. As three unlikely characters illegally enter the United States from Mexico to find their own Magnificent Seven to save their village, their adventures and problems become fodder enticing readers to turn at least just one more page before putting the book down. This novel has not received the public attention that is due it. I hope it will and soon, but until then, it becomes the perfect gift to give--a book that most will cherish and think the gift-giver so clever for having found it.
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moller More than 1 year ago
I particularly enjoy Mr. Urrea 's writing. I've read Hummingbird's Daughter, The Devil's Highway and now this jewel of a book. The characters are colorful and real. Makes me want to get to know them better. The journey the group takes is amazing and it felt true. Thank you Luis Alberto Urrea!!