Also available in Spanish as Alfredito regresa volando a su casa, Argueta’s new book, Alfredito Flies Home, describes a much-anticipated event in the life of a family of immigrants living in the Mission district, in San Francisco, California.
Having arrived as refugees from El Salvador, young Alfredito, his father, mother and grandmother are getting ready to fly “back home” for the first time, after four years.
They had faced many dangers on the long journey from El Salvador to the United States – “But this time,” Alfredito says of their upcoming new journey, “it will be different. We don’t have to go with any Señor Coyote, or run through the mountains, or hide in the trunks of cars the way we did when we first came.”
After weeks of preparation, which has involved shopping for countless gifts, checking and rechecking tickets and passports and worrying about flying (which none of them has ever experienced before), the day finally arrives. They carry letters from all the relatives who can’t make the journey, the volume of their luggage a symbol of the memories and expectations they carry within.
When they land in El Salvador, much excitement follows: “The airport fills with hugs, shrieks and happiness.” Garay’s (Cousins) spot-on illustrations of the family’s excitement about being reunited help bring the story alive.
Many things mark Alfredito’s awareness of the passing of time: there are cousins he’s never met; others he doesn’t quite remember. Arriving at his old house he learns his dog has had puppies… And, after much rejoicing, a visit to the cemetery brings home a harsh reality: his mother had not been there when her own mother passed away.
A 2008 Américas Award commended title, Alfredito Flies Home speaks of the emotional challenges immigrants face, being separated from their family and land, often unable to come and go. It also speaks, even if subtly, of visiting one’s native country after being away for many years as a catalyst for renewed engagement with one’s new land. And as with his other books, Argueta’s signature light-hearted style does not hide the weight of his theme.
A glossary of words in Spanish is provide at the end.