Study Guide

Macho Camacho's Beat

by Luis Rafael Sánchez

Macho Camacho's Beat Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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.)

Macho Camacho's Beat Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Agüra, Helen Calaf. “Luis Rafael Sánchez Speaks About Macho Camacho’s Beat.” Translated by Jo Anne Englebert. Review 28 (January-April, 1981): 39-41. An interview with the author in which Sánchez speaks about the critical reception of his work and his own intentions in writing the novel. Sánchez gives insight into his use of street language and his attempt to “portray the spiritual decomposition of Puerto Rico.” He also discusses his novel as the expression of “a need to transform colonial reality in all spheres—political, moral, even in the realm of the physical.”

Cruz, Arnaldo. “Repetition and the Language of the Mass Media in Luis Rafael Sánchez’s La guaracha del Macho Camacho.” Latin American Literary Review 13 (July-December, 1985): 35-48. This well-written and interesting article explores the ways in which the techniques of repetition and language act as distancing techniques, enabling the reader to approach the work with a critical eye. Interesting in its assessment of Sánchez’s use of language as social analysis. Cruz has some interesting insights into the aesthetic effects of Sánchez’s prose.

Guinness, Gerald. “Is Macho Camacho’s Beat a Good Translation of La guaracha del Macho Camacho?” In Images and Identities: The Puerto Rican in Two World Contexts,...

(The entire section is 434 words.)