Nueba Yol (Dominican slang for New York) is the ever-elusive goal of the eccentric Balbuena, whose attempts to legally emigrate have been denied for years. Under the dubious influence of his friend Fellito, Balbuena mortgages his tiny home to pay a corrupt American Embassy consul for an immigration visa. In New York, however, Balbuena's dream of instant riches is replaced by a cold and dreary landscape of poverty, bureaucracy and demeaning off-the-books labor. Matters grow worse as the unassimilated Balbuena becomes an embarrassment to the Americanized wife and teenage children of his cousin, in whose cramped apartment he is living. Balbuena's fortunes slowly begin to improve, however, in an unexpected romance with Nancy, a lonely immigrant planning to return to Santo Domingo, and with a janitorial job in a Mexican restaurant which blossoms into his becoming a chef and then part-owner. But Balbuena's happiness is threatened when Fellito targets him for a drug-related robbery.