Macho Camacho’s Beat is a fictional portrait of life in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at a time when the country is inundated with the sound of Macho Camacho’s guaracha, or dance tune, “Life Is a Phenomenal Thing.” Framed by a notice that reveals the subject of the novel and an appendix that provides the reader with the entire text of the guaracha, Macho Camacho’s Beat is a montage of fragmented narrative sections interrupted by a series of radio announcements that track the meteoric rise in popularity of the rhythmical and irrepressible Afro-Antillean tune.
The entire plot of Macho Camacho’s Beat occurs within the few minutes before, at, and just after five o’clock on a steamy Wednesday afternoon. As an immense traffic jam paralyzes San Juan, the novel’s characters are depicted in the act of waiting. With the accumulative fragments of sounds, images, thoughts, and experience, the reader is able to piece together a composite picture of Puerto Rican culture.
The Heathen Chinky (whose name is never mentioned) is introduced through the device of an omniscient third-person narrator whose relation with each of the characters in the novel is so intimate as to allow the narration to pass fluidly between the third-and first-person voices. As she awaits the arrival of her lover, the Old Man (Senator Vincente Reinosa), the Heathen Chinky indulges in sexual fantasies of her virile triplet cousins, Hughie, Louie, and Dewey and anesthetizes her body with a sea of alcohol and her mind with the incessant, insistent, and sensual salsa beat of Macho Camacho’s guaracha.
Senator Vincente Reinosa swelters in his Mercedes-Benz, stuck in the enormous traffic tie-up, impatient to meet his sultry and accommodating dark-skinned mistress (the Heathen Chinky), who waits for him every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon in a studio apartment rented specifically for convenient fornication. The news of a bombing at...
(The entire section is 814 words.)