Solito is a 2022 memoir chronicling author Javier Zamora’s journey from El Salvador to the United States at the age of nine.
- When Javier is nine years old, his parents, who have already moved to the United States, call on him to join them.
- Javier must leave his grandparents behind in El Salvador and embark on a long, dangerous journey to cross the Mexican–American border.
- Along the way, Javier becomes close to three of his fellow travelers, Patricia, Carla, and Chino, but he must ultimately part with them as well in order to reunite with his parents.
Last Updated on October 31, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 962
Solito is the memoir of Javier Zamora, who recounts his journey from El Salvador to the United States when he was nine years old.
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Traveling as an unaccompanied minor, Javier faces incredible and dangerous challenges in order to join his parents, who are already in California and have arranged for him to join them. Following the civil war in El Salvador, the country’s dire economic conditions prompted Javier’s father to leave the country to pursue greater financial opportunities for his family when Javier was only a year old. Consequently, Javier has no real memories of his father and is uncertain about how he will react when the two are reunited. When Javier was five, his mother left to join her husband, and though she regularly phones Javier, he misses her presence greatly.
With both parents living in America, Javier is left in the care of his grandparents and extended family; they offer him a sense of stability which allows Javier to become one of the brightest students in his school. When he is nine years old, the long-awaited phone call comes indicating that it is time for Javier to make the “trip,” which he has dreamed of for years. Don Dago, an experienced coyote (guide), is hired to organize Javier’s journey from El Salvador to the United States. Javier will travel with others who also hope to cross the American-Mexican border.
Javier’s grandfather is able to travel with Javier for the initial segment of the journey, which is a great source of comfort to the young boy. Soon, however, Grandpa is unable to continue because of traveling restrictions and leaves Javier in the care of Marcelo, who is from their hometown. Javier quickly determines that Marcelo has no particular interest in caring for him, and he gravitates toward other, more nurturing personalities. One of these is Patricia, a mother who is traveling with her daughter Carla; another is Chino, a nineteen-year-old who tells Javier that he reminds him of his own brother who died.
As Javier’s group travels, they join up with others who have paid different coyotes. These groups come and go at strategic points of travel, but Javier’s core group, led by Don Dago, sticks together. Eventually, however, Don Dago himself abandons the group, leaving them to the guidance of other coyotes and then polleros, a term used to describe people who are tasked specifically with getting people across the American border. Javier’s family has paid Don Dago for two attempts to successfully cross.
The group’s first attempt to cross the border is unsuccessful. After making it to the American side, they are waiting for vans to pick them up when they fall asleep from the exhaustion of the long walk through the desert. Javier is awakened by screams of “La migra!” which is a slang term used to refer to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The group frantically tries to escape, but Javier, Patricia, Carla, and Chino are captured.
After being detained for some time in what Javier refers to as a “cage,” he, Patricia, and Carla are taken back to the American-Mexican border and released to their “fake” home country. Although various polleros approach Patricia and offer to take them back across for a fee, she ignores their offers and instead insists on waiting there for Chino. Many hours later, Chino appears, and the group finds temporary shelter nearby.
They quickly make plans to arrange for the second trip which was covered in their initial payment to Don Dago. Within days, they are once again en route to meet a new pollero who promises to get them safely across the border. This journey is extremely long, and at one point the head pollero is injured and cannot continue. After leaving him alone in the desert, the large group is overcome with fatigue and dehydration and becomes scattered. Eventually, Javier cannot see anyone walking with them, and his little group of four continues walking alone. They eventually reach a house with an outdoor hose, and Chino quickly turns the water on and offers it to Javier, Carla, and Patricia. The homeowner, an American, comes outside with a gun and calls the authorities. Mister Gonzalez is kind to the travelers, and after providing food and drink, he tells them that this is their “lucky day” as he takes them back to the border instead of to a detainment center.
Overcome with relief, The Four, as Javier comes to think of them, rest for four days in Mexico before beginning their next attempt. They hire a different pollero, and this trip is much different than the previous attempts. Fewer people are in the traveling group, and they do not encounter the challenges which impeded their efforts the first two times. When they reach the appointed destination, the promised vans arrive, pick them up, and transport them to a house in the United States.
Javier’s parents are called and told to bring the money needed to release him. He is shocked to learn that Patricia, Carla, and Chino will be heading to Virginia and that they will not be experiencing the United States together. They promise to keep in touch and then leave the following morning; Javier is so exhausted that their final goodbyes seem like a dream.
At 9 a.m., there is a knock on the door, and Javier’s name is called. Javier looks toward the door, where two long-anticipated shadows await him. In the book’s final pages, he notes that although Chino and Patricia called him a few times, they all quickly lost touch with changing phone numbers. He hopes that the book will help him find these people whom he came to think of as his family.