Antonio Márez y Luna
Antonio Márez y Luna (MAH-rehs ee LEW-nah), a child at the threshold of a larger world. Although he is only seven, Antonio’s brothers are already fighting in World War II. Before his first day of school, Antonio sees a traumatized veteran killed by an enraged mob. In school, Antonio must master a new language because classes are taught in English. At the end of the year, he is promoted an extra grade. The larger world proves more difficult to master, however. Antonio witnesses the deaths of several people he loves, endures the nauseating fears that beset local children in response to nearby atomic testing, and shares his father’s anguish when his brothers return from the war only to wander away again, their cultural roots severed. Finally, he watches as Ultima, his spiritual mentor, dies, defeated by an opponent who hates her healing powers.
Ultima (EWL-tee-mah), an agedcurandera (healer), trained by el Volaré, the flying man from las Pasturas. Ultima is a friend of Antonio’s mother, Maria Luna. In her old age, she is left behind in a village that has lost many members through the war and economic migration. The Márez y Luna family invites Ultima to stay with them. Ultima is loved by a faithful few whom she helped in the past, especially Maria and Narcisco. She is also the object of community mistrust. Even many of those she once healed, including Maria’s brothers, the Lunas, refuse to oppose those who seek to harm her. Through Ultima, Antonio finds a path through the morass of injustice, chaos, and dogma that surrounds him. Ultima accepts her death because she has devoted her life’s energies to life itself. Ultima shows Antonio that even amid the catastrophic social and economic upheavals that have rent their region since the onset of Spanish colonization, one can contribute to healing within one’s community.
Tenorio Trementina (teh-NOH-ree-oh treh-mehn-TEE-nah), an evil brujo (witch) who seeks to destroy Ultima. Tenorio first comes into conflict with Ultima when his daughters place a curse on Lucas, Maria’s brother. Although Ultima tells Tenorio that she plans to lift the curse and warns that his daughters will be endangered if he does not order them to lift it, Tenorio remains intransigent, denying that his daughters have caused Lucas’ ailment. Tenorio’s pride blinds him to his daughters’ peril. In refusing to acknowledge his daughters’ involvement, Tenorio, in effect, signs their death warrant. When Ultima lifts the curse, the malevolent energies of the Trementina sisters are released, and the sisters are, one by one, consumed by the forces with which they trafficked. As his three daughters sicken and die, Tenorio’s chief concern is for his honor. He organizes three initiatives against Ultima, claiming that she has cursed his daughters. In his first attack, Tenorio’s eye is gouged out by Ultima’s owl. In the second, he kills Narcisco but nearly stands trial for murder. In his third attack, he kills Ultima’s owl, and hence Ultima. In attempting to finish his work against the life force Ultima represents, however, he seeks to kill Antonio, and he is shot dead.
Narcisco (nahr-SEES-koh), the town drunk. He is one of a circle of visionary characters who are conscious of a spiritual realm in which the forces of life struggle against the forces of death. Like the other major characters. Narcisco undergoes a sequence of three transformative events. In a series of confrontations, Narcisco argues for calm in the face of riotous passions. In the first of these, Narcisco is ignored, and the demented veteran Lupito is killed. In the second, a confrontation with drunken witch hunters, Narcisco reasons with an angry mob and exorcises the ugly passions that Tenorio has aroused. In the third confrontation, in which Narcisco is caught between two irrational obsessions—Tenorio’s passion for vengeance and domination and the addiction of Antonio’s brother Andrew to prostitutes—Narcisco gives his life in Ultima’s defense.