Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 547
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros is a semi-autobiographical novel, meaning characters and situations are based on experiences from her real life growing up in Chicago, Illinois. The novel focuses on the various people in Celaya's, or Lala's, family and the way they relate to one another, so there are many characters. The main characters of the text are as follows:
Celaya or "Lala" is the main character and principal (though not only) narrator of the novel, the only girl in a Mexican family with seven children. She often feels she does not fit in. The novel mainly follows her life as she grows from a girl to a woman, learning the stories of her family members and dealing with her relationships with her family, the peers who dislike and pick on her, and men.
Norma or "Aunty Light Skin" is Lala's father's sister. She also narrates part of the novel. Her daughter's father, a movie star, left her after the child was born, and she suffers from serious depression due to this.
Soledad or "Awful Grandmother" is Lala's grandmother, who is frequently unpleasant and mean but has a good relationship with Lala and loves Lala's father the best out of all her children. She has had a difficult life, having been given up by her father when her mother died and largely treated poorly by her husband.
Inocencio is Lala's father and the favorite of Soledad/Awful Grandmother, who was heartbroken until he arrived in her life. Lala seems to be his favorite of his children. He works as an upholsterer and is not well paid for this, and he has an illegitimate child named Candelaria.
Zoila is Lala's mother, with whom she does not have a very close relationship. She is very frugal and shops at secondhand stores with Lala despite Inocencio's disapproval, and she is not at all happy when Soledad/Awful Grandmother reveals Inocencio has an illegitimate child.
Narcisoor "Little Grandfather" is Lala's grandfather and Soledad's husband. He is not good to his wife, but his grandchildren like him. He deserted the Mexican army after joining young. At the end of the novel, he passes away.
Ernesto "Ernie" Calderon is a friend of Lala's brothers who falls in love with Lala, running away to Mexico City with her. He abandons her when his mother does not approve of her.
Eleuterio and Regina are Narciso's parents, who love him and convince him to marry Soledad after he gets her pregnant. Eleuterio initially fled back to Spain from Mexico after Regina became pregnant, but he returned to marry her.
Additionally, there are Inocencio's brothers, Uncle Fat-Face or Federico and Uncle Baby or Armando, who also work as upholsterers, live in Chicago, and travel with Lala and her parents and siblings to Mexico City every summer; Uncle Baby's wife Aunty Ninfa and their children Amor and Paz; Uncle Fat-Face's wife Aunty Licha and their children Elvis, Aristotle, and Byron, named from horoscopes; Antonieta Aracelli, Aunty Light-Skin's daughter by a movie star; Candelaria, Inocencio's illegitimate child; Lala's brothers Rafael/Rafa, Refugio/Ito, Gustavo/Tikis, Alberto/Toto, Lorenzo/Lolo, and Guillermo/Memo; and Exaltacion Henestrosa, a woman who Narciso falls in love with despite his marriage to Soledad—she eventually leaves him for a female singer in a traveling circus.
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