The Only Road
by Alexandra Diaz
Why does a family, or children, leave their home to make a perilous journey across borders to el norte. In The Only Road, Alexandra Diaz gives us a window into a world many may not know, and a mirror into our humanity as she tells the story of Jaime, 12, and his cousin Angela, 15, and their desperate journey to find refuge from the threats they faced in their Guatemalan village.
From the kitchen came a piercing scream. The green colored pencil slipped, streaking across the almost-finished portrait of a lizard that Jaime Rivera had been working on for the last half hour. As he jumped to his feet, a wave of dizziness hit him, left over from the fever that had kept him home from school that morning…He took a deep breath before bursting into the kitchen. The wailing only grew louder.
No, no, no, no please no, he thought. It couldn’t be, couldn’t. It had to be something else. Please!
“Que…” Jaime stopped short. Mama was lumped on the plastic table, crying into her arms. Papa stood behind her with a hand on her back. Despite his strong stance, his broad shoulders were hunched, making him look as distraught as Mama (1-2).
She took two deep breaths and stared into Jaime’s eyes. “It’s Miguel.”
“he was walking through the Parque de San Jose after school. And… Mama took a deep breath. The Alphas surrounded him (6).”
“Will I be next (9)?”
When Miguel, Jaime’s cousin is murdered by the Alpha Gang, his parents, aunts and uncles, and the whole family pool all their money to send him and cousin Angela to find safety with older brother Tomas who lives and works in the United States.
“How long do you think this trip is going to take?” Jaime focused on the tamale instead of his cousin. “I forgot to ask Papa.”
Angela shook her head. “I don’t know. Tina at school once mentioned her papa made it in four days, but Marisol’s took forever. Several months.
Jaime’s hand landed on his waistband. How had his family scraped up so much [money], so quickly, and without the Alphas finding out? The guilt that had started upon hearing of Miguel’s death twisted and burned in his stomach. It was his fault Miguel had died–Angela must have thought so too; his fault that he was still alive and that his parents sacrificed so much to make sure he remained that way.
“Do you know Tomas’s phone number?” Angela asked… Angela pulled a slip of paper from her pocket. “We should memorize it. In case something happens to the paper. Or one of us (47-48).”
It had been twenty-four hours and five hundred kilometers since Jaime’s parents had woken him up in the middle of the night. Now, as he lay next to his cousin on the hard, dirt floor in a rundown church run by a weird priest, he took a deep breath. Before he finished exhaling, he fell fast asleep (78).
Following their journey across the Guatemalan-Mexico border into a questionable refugee camp and then through the countryside of Mexico, Jaime and Angela encounter challenges, find inner strength, adopt a dog, navigate trust, and discover courage along this desperate journey. In Diaz’ story, which could be taken from today’s news, we are able to find empathy and humanize this global phenomena of young refugees seeking a future.
The safe house they were taken to was in El Paso, Texas. Had there been no border to cross, no wall, no security to avoid, they could have walked over the bridge and been at the house in twenty minutes. Instead the journey had taken most of the night. But what did it matter? After all this time (weeks, or even months?) since his parents had woken him up in the middle of the night, they had finally made it (267).
We are excited to share that Alexandra Diaz will speak to the middle school students following Morning Meeting on Wednesday, February 26. I encourage you to pre-order and/or purchase copies of The Only Road, and the sequel Crossroad through this Bookworks link.