Within the novels Lupita Mañana by Patricia Beatty and The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez, the experiences of the lives of two different families immigrating from Mexico and El Salvador to the United States are shared and explored. The plights of the main characters within the two works, Lupita and Panchito, are reminiscent of each other. They are both forced to contend with the hardships of trying to live and prosper within a society that rejects them because they are different. Struggling to find a place within this world of competing ideologies, language barriers, and economic hardships, the characters find varying amounts of success and failures. Although there exists no true happy ending at the conclusion of these novels, the protagonists find their own unique solutions in order to keep their identity and personality throughout their assimilation.
The narratives begin through the eyes of two young protagonists who begin a journey from parts of Latin America to California. They know very little about the harsh realities of their situation and the world that they live in. The little that they do know about the United States has been built upon the notion that it is a golden land of opportunity which is easily attained and sustainable with only a hard work ethic and the support of family. Contrary to these beliefs, reality is tragically cruel to the protagonists and their families. Instead of a land of milk and honey, they are greeted by a world that is more interested in rewarding their moral and ethical values with meager wages in exchange for menial or backbreaking labor. The journey that began in a foreign country does not end when they arrive in the United States. It constantly evolves and changes, threatening the survival of their cultural heritage, personal identities, and sometimes, their very lives.
Of the different voyages, the circumstances surrounding those of Lupita and Salvador are much more violent and aggressive. During their almost 400-mile journey, the pair are constantly confronted by other people that wish to exploit them and wish to challenge their personal safety. Even before the siblings decide to make the long trek north, they recognize the danger and realization that they will not be welcomed as illegal immigrants in America. Preparing for the worse, they smuggle food and money within their clothes and disguise Lupita as a male. Arriving at the border, they are almost fleeced out of their money by a guide that offers to take them to America and instead are abandoned at the border and attacked by bandits that force them and a group to return to Mexico and kill an old man in the process. Upon finally making it into the United States, they are harassed by border police that almost apprehend and deport them and also stalked by a group of gun wielding Americans in a truck for the sole purpose of horribly scaring and threatening the two children for no reason at all. Within this world, the only people that they can truly trust are themselves, having little or no support system outside of each other.
In stark contrast to the mistrust and disillusionment that is experienced through the personal relationships and interactions with other characters experienced in Lupita Mañana, Panchito of The Circuit possesses a much stronger and closely developed relationship with his own family that acts as a refuge and foundation through his hardships. Beginning his journey to America as the youngest member of a family of four, in the nine years that take place within the novel, his family ultimately grows to eleven. Through a series of twelve short stories, the novel describes a world where the only thing that could ever be permanent is family. People, home, friendships, school, and even pets can be suddenly taken away as the family is forced to move to different parts of Northern California to follow other migrant workers who collect the harvest from many different farms throughout the year....
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