Blacamán the Good relates how he came to know and work for Blacamán the Bad, an itinerant confidence man who, dressed in flamboyant and preposterous garb, would sell all manner of things to the unsuspecting villagers in the north Colombian province of La Guajira. In the first scene the narrator describes in grotesque detail how Blacamán the Bad feigns a poisonous snakebite in order to sell a supposedly effective antidote. The curative illusion is so convincing that, in addition to selling out his entire stock to the naïve townspeople, Blacamán the Bad manages to deceive the admiral of the United States naval fleet, anchored offshore, into purchasing the elixir as well. Most noteworthy in this first encounter with the charlatan is his incessant, eerie laugh and his self-serving, demagogic rhetoric.
Blacamán the Bad offers to adopt Blacamán the Good as his protégé, ostensibly because of “the foolish look on my face.” After a flurry of wisecracks designed to impress his new master, Blacamán the Good confesses in earnest that his desire in life is to become a fortune-teller. At first, because he is an utter failure at knowing the present, much less the future, and because the two Blacamáns must flee the navy’s attempts at revenge for the credulous admiral’s death, they undergo considerable hardship. Later, for his role in their travails, Blacamán the Good is subjected to various forms of mental and physical torture. When Blacamán the Bad...
(The entire section is 441 words.)