An Allegorical Tale Of Refuge, Integration, and Liberation


The Capybaras [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Alfredo Soderguit Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Greystone Kids (2021)
ISBN: 9781771647823 (ISBN10: 1771647825) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Written in the same vein as Chris Naylor Ballesteros’ The Suitcase (Amazon | Book Depository) and Issa Watanabe’s Migrants (Amazon | Book Depository) (see my review of both books here) – The Capybaras is an allegorical, sparsely-written story about what it is like to seek refuge, what it means to be treated with suspicion (not to mention derision), and the realities of inter-species cohabitation.

Screenshot 2021-05-13 at 2.43.49 PM

As I was writing this piece, I discovered more information from the National Geographic website about the capybaras:

These impressive semi-aquatic mammals are found throughout much of northern and central South America, though a small invasive population has been seen in Florida. They’re closely related to guinea pigs and rock cavies, and more distantly related to chinchillas and agouti. Like beavers, capybaras are strong swimmers.

Apparently, they are real – not mythical/make-believe creatures. In this narrative, the capybaras are being hunted and sought refuge in this backwater farm with chickens who regarded them as hairy, oversized animals. There is simply no room for them, as declared by the chickens, given their carefully-maintained, orderly existence.

Screenshot 2021-05-13 at 2.44.11 PM

The chickens eventually relented – but with very detailed stipulations listed. This is very reminiscent of everything that im/migrants have to go through – an exercise that I already know by heart.

Screenshot 2021-05-13 at 2.45.53 PM

I love the gradual and credible build-up of the narrative: how the capybaras transformed from being objects of pity/derision, to something regarded as a threat, then as potentially useful – gradually redefining the relationship dynamics among these widely different species. It is a testament to how diversity necessarily transforms – and ultimately liberates both the ones seeking refuge and the so-called “natives” of a particular place.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 56 out of target 100

June 3, 2021 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal