Pulitzer Prize winning author gives powerful presentation at WHS


Sonia Nazario used many photographs to describe the perilous journey that child migrants take when riding freight trains as they flee violence and poverty in Central America. PHOTO/ Adi Saligrama

By Heather Lee

Pulitzer-prize winning author Sonia Nazario captured her rapt audience on her visit to WHS to talk about her research on the waves of Central American child migrants on March 24 for the biannual Ben Sandall Presentation.

  Every year, hundreds of thousands of migrant children flee violence from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and their journey across the borders seeking refuge in the United States is one full of horror and violence. In order to thoroughly research this issue, Nazario had gone through the journey herself and faced significant danger as she rode on top of freight trains and dodged gang members.

  “I felt at my complete breaking point on that train,” Nazario said. “But I was going through only a fraction of what the children were going through.”

  Her personal stories were powerful as she described shocking scenes, many which are also described in her book Enrique’s Journey. She said that she witnessed children being beaten by the many criminals and corrupt authority officials during her research, as well as seeing them be thrown from the top of moving trains.

  She spoke in a clear and steady voice, never wavering despite the shocking and emotional content.

  The audience listened silently as she ended her speech with a simple but powerful statement.         

  “If a girl like me, who couldn’t even write an essay in Williams’ College, would win of all things the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing… [and] if we fight with the determination that I saw on those trains, we can get these kids the justice they deserve in this country,” Nazario concluded.

  Though Nazario spoke with passionate support for empathy of refugees, which she sees these children as, she did not solicit open borders. A significant part of her presentation was focused on sharing balanced data about public policy regarding these desperate migrants.    

  At the last block of the day, Nazario also participated in an open discussion with students. During the discussion, Nazario answered questions and discussed specific issues with the students regarding gang violence and child migration. Nazario recommended that students get to know an immigrant family.

  “Their world is completely separated from your word. Helping them penetrate and adjust to life here will be huge,” she said.

   Freshman Sadie Noone said that Nazario’s presentations as well as the symposium Displaced from Home were connected in educating her about migration.

  “The symposium expanded on some of [Nazario’s] ideas about the struggles refugees face after they go to a new country… and figure out how to live again,” she said.