The novel Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande is a story about two young girls and their struggling journey to find happiness between two conflicting and distinct worlds: the United States and Mexico. Juana on one side wants to get to the United States, or “el otro lado” as mentioned in the novel, to find her father who abandoned her and her mother after leaving to find work in the US. On the other hand Adelina escapes from her house in California to follow her lover to Mexico.
The girls form a bond in the most unexpected of places, a Tijuana jail, and quickly form a friendship that will connect them for the rest of their lives. Through Juana’s story, Reyna, impersonates the journey and struggles that many people have to endure to get to the United States so they can have a better life for them and their families. Juana’s main motivation to cross over to the other side is to find her father that “abandoned” her and her mother when she was still a little girl, but she is also driven by harsh living conditions, oppression by a corrupt government, and hunger.
Throughout her youth in Mexico Juana encounters many problems, both emotional and physical and these later encourage her to look for a better life in the United States. When she is twelve she is left in charge taking care of her baby sister in a flooded house while her mother goes out and looks for her father who still hasn’t returned from work. The next day as her father wakes her, she sees that her sister is missing and the baby is found drowned in the depths of the water of her flooded house. Juana has to deal with the guilt of her sister’s death, causing her great emotional and physical pain.
As if things were not bad enough, this is not the only thing that Juana has to endure throughout her youth. After her sister’s death, her father leaves for “el otro lado” in search of work, leaving behind the debt of her sister’s funeral. No money is sent from the United States to pay the debt, so Juana has to sustain seeing her mother become a prostitute for Don Elias, the man her father owes money to. In Mexico all Juana finds are harsh living conditions and oppression that later give her strength to start her journey to the United States.
Over time Juana has a more pleasant experience in the United States due to the kindness of strangers such as Don Ernesto but finds no peace until she recovers her father’s ashes and releases them where they belong. In the state of Guerrero, Mexico. The other main character of the story is Adelina a girl who leaves her home in California to go to Mexico. Adelina is driven out of the United States because her family won’t accept her relationship with her lover, so they both decide to go to Tijuana, a city in Mexico.
Not much is said about Adelina’s experienced in the United States. What we do know is that she had a family that loved her, but she decided to leave it all behind to be together with her boyfriend Gerardo. In Mexico she finds nothing but shame and misery because Gerardo could not find a job and the only way for them to make money was for her to be a prostitute. Besides having to expose her body, Adelina, is physically and emotionally mistreated by her boyfriend until it finally leads to her death when she tells him that she is going back to the United States with Juana.
My Personal Experience Juana’s and Adelina’s stories are slightly similar to mine but overall they are quite different. Me and my sister were born here in the United States. I was born in San Diego, California and she was born in Phoenix, Arizona. When I was little I lived in Tijuana for eight years and we had a nice house, but my father decided that me and my sister needed to get a better education so we moved to San Diego in 2002. I have lived there ever since.
My father was born in the city of Torreon in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, but he applied for his US citizenship at a young age and they granted it to him so when we moved to San Diego all of us where US citizens except my mother but she recently obtained it too. To some extent you could say that both Juana and I were looking for a better life here in the United States, but my journey here was much smoother because we did not have to cross over to “el otro lado” illegally and we were not oppressed by harsh living conditions like Juana.
Even today I still visit Tijuana almost every weekend because most of my family is over there. I know my way around there almost the same as I know my way around San Diego. I can definitely say that Mexico has a corrupt government and many poor colonies, but there is much beauty to be seen there and not just in Tijuana city but all 32 of Mexico’s states. Beauty that surpasses that of any of the 50 states of the United States.