Héctor and Lilia are a happily married young couple living in a quiet seaside Mexican village, but Héctor has always been restless for more. He envisions himself making the dangerous journey into the United States, working hard to save up money, then sending for his wife and infant daughter when he can secure their safe passage. When the opportunity arises, Héctor impetuously jumps at the chance to seize his dream. He leaves behind his wife and child, promising them that he’ll send for them as soon as possible.
Michel Stone’s The Iguana Tree is an emotional roller coaster that illuminates the some of the harsh realities faced by undocumented immigrants. Though Héctor lucks out and manages to find a close-knit community that supports him once he’s in the United States, it is the journey into the United States that truly sheds light on the darker aspects of of immigration. As Héctor witnesses during his own harrowing crossing, the trip across the border can be fatal. Immigrants are in the hands of the coyotes they pay to take them across the border, and since trafficking people across borders is a lucrative business, coyotes can be manipulative and cruel towards the unsuspecting people who pay them. Rape, physical assault, and theft are common, and there is little anyone can do about it.
Back in Mexico, Lilia anxiously waits for updates from Héctor, whom many believe will never come back. A family friend encourages her to move on with life, reminding her that many who leave for the United States die along the way and are never heard from again. When Lilia finally gets the message from Héctor that he is alive and well, she stubbornly decides to join him, even though everyone urges her to be patient and wait for Héctor to save money and make proper arrangements with a trustworthy coyote. She quickly realizes how foolish her decision to leave was, and their family pays a painfully high price as a result.