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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 395

Caramelo is a powerful narrative about the personal journey of self-discovery and understanding one's roots. The story follows Celaya, the only girl of a large Mexican-American family, who annually travels from her home in Chicago to relatives in Mexico City, as she learns more about her family's heritage, beliefs, and...

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Caramelo is a powerful narrative about the personal journey of self-discovery and understanding one's roots. The story follows Celaya, the only girl of a large Mexican-American family, who annually travels from her home in Chicago to relatives in Mexico City, as she learns more about her family's heritage, beliefs, and relationships.

In the beginning of the novel, there is one poignant line which depicts a major theme throughout the book.

Tell me a story, even it it’s a lie.

Celaya must constantly navigate relatives' accounts and determine if they are stories, history, lies, or the truth.

Because a life contains a multitude of stories and not a single strand explains precisely the who of who one is.

Celaya shares that, "The same story becomes a different story depending on who is telling it.” She learns to assess relatives' opinions. For instance, at one point her mother, Zoila, states that “...all people from Mexico City are liars.”

As Celaya grows up, she must determine her own beliefs and perspectives, including how she feels about family members. She struggles with her father's mother, whom her mother calls "Awful Grandmother." After her grandmother's death, Celaya shares that she "can’t think of anything to say for my grandmother who is simply my father’s mother and nothing to me." However, over time, Celaya grows to cherish the stories her grandmother told her and appreciates different aspects about her.

Through dialogue and time with relatives, Celaya gains personal, historical, political, and social insights from family members about the immigrant experience and their present lives.

"It is no disgrace to be poor," Uncle says, citing the Mexican saying—"but it is very inconvenient."

As the only daughter in her immediate family, she grows to understand the complexities of relationships, especially between mothers and sons.

There is nothing Mexican men revere more than their mamas; they are the most devoted of sons perhaps because their mamas are the most devoted of mamas . . . when it comes to their boys.

Additionally, Celaya struggles with the cultural and religious differences for Mexicans living in America. She understands her family's strict Catholic roots but does not fully embrace them. She states,

On Sunday mornings other families go to church. We go to Maxwell Street.

Through it all, Celaya remembers what her father Inocencio told her, “Always remember, Lala, the family comes first—la familia."

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