Abrán has always been an outsider in the Mexican community in which he was reared. Because his skin was lighter, he was teased and harassed by his classmates. He began fighting, first on the playground and later in the ring, to prove that he was as good a Mexican as any of the other boys in the barrio. When he discovers that his mother is an Anglo, his sense of identity is shaken, and he is driven to find his father. Uncomfortable in the world of power, wealth, and glamour, Abrán instinctively recognizes his proper place in the mountains of northern New Mexico. He is drawn to their “pure light” and their traditional Mexican culture, and it is here that he and Lucinda plan to settle down, rear a family, and open a much-needed health clinic.
Ben Chávez, the writer and teacher, is a partly autobiographical version of the author and is the most fully realized of the novel’s characters. While still in high school, Chávez was injured in a street fight and thus was hospitalized when Cynthia Johnson gave birth to his son. More comfortable with his fictional characters than with Abrán, the son he has fathered, Ben is working on a novel, which he feels compelled to write, about his love for Cynthia. He is an observer rather than a man of action, and it is largely through his consciousness that the reader understands and evaluates the other characters.
Frank Dominic, the son of a hardworking shoemaker of indefinite ethnic background, is one of the two thoroughly unsympathetic characters and the focus of the novel’s pointed and often personal political satire. He is interested only in gaining power and in self-aggrandizement. An expert on image-building, Dominic has tried to link himself with the old Spanish blood in New Mexico; he married a...
(The entire section is 723 words.)