Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del Otro Lado tells the tale of Prietita, a young Mexican-American girl living in a small town in Texas, and Joaquin, an undocumented Mexican boy living nextdoor. Throughout the story, children are given the opportunity to witness Prietita stand up for her new friend Joaquin when he faces taunts and threats from the neighborhood boys. Classmates call him names like mojado or wetback to mock the fact that he is an immigrant who speaks limited English, and they’re constantly teasing him for living in a small, shack-like house with limited food and appliances.
There are a multitude of sophisticated concepts incorporated in the pages of Anzaldua’s children’s novel, namely the presence of la migra (the Border Patrol). Nearing the conclusion of the story, an officer shows up at the house of Joaquin and his mother with the intent to question them about their citizenship and ultimately deport them back to Mexico. Joaquin hides with his mother at a neighbor's house and narrowly escape being discovered, and through this experience Anzaldua attempts to humanize the plight that many immigrant children experience crossing the border when they’re young and unaware of the decisions that their parents undertake, resulting in consequences that they never subscribed to. It’s also important to note that Anzaldua does not portray the Border Patrol agent as inherently evil or cruel in Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del Otro Lado, in fact, he is Chicano himself, opening up an interesting dialogue that questions power and authority, as well as highlighting the complicated topic of immigration enforcement.
Anzaldua also refuses to shy away from loaded language in her story, although her audience is primarily younger individuals. The use of gringo and mojado, while possibly surprising to some demographics, are unfortunately familiar to a large portion of Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del Otro Lado’s spanish speaking readers. Mentioned previously, the use of mojado to insult Joaquin illustrates the prejudices that exist between Mexican-Americans and immigrants crossing the river to find opportunities in the United States. Anzaldua, while ultimately condemning the school children for their use of mojado, first establishes that at one point Prietita “had known Teté [one of the tormentors] and his friends. Sometimes she even liked Teté, but now she was angry at him.” Similar to the Border Patrol character, Anzaldua attempts to portray the schoolboys as complex individuals, not innately hateful but rather a product of the society that dismisses the humanity of immigrants who crossed the border illegally. This advanced discussion of “good vs. evil,” and everything that lies in between, is illustrated by Anzaldua in a way that children can grasp, however, she refuses to gloss over the challenges that are extremely relevant to a large portion of those reading Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del Otro Lado.