The novel is an interplay of the two main characters, Don Goyo and Cusumbo. The old man, besides being a mixture of fantasy and reality, represents all the qualities of the Latin American myth of the natural man. Don Goyo, who fears no man and stands up to the white man to defend his people, is humbled before nature. When the mangrove tree speaks to him in a vision, he immediately proceeds to take action. The men’s defiance and refusal to defer to his vision for the future of the land makes him an alien to the things he has always known how to control. His death, it appears, comes from this alienation, since nature becomes vengeful and tears at his flesh.
Although Don Goyo is portrayed as a flesh-and-blood man, lusty and virile, solitary and taciturn, he is elusive and difficult to visualize. At the beginning of the novel, he is seen almost as an apparition who emerges from the lush, tropical settings at odd times. It is not until the last chapter that he is described fully as a man, with flashbacks depicting his arrival and the founding of Cerrito. The significance of this late introduction is that Aguilera Malta very clearly wanted to establish Don Goyo’s mythic status before portraying the man himself. As an impressionistic force who permeated the life of the region, Don Goyo is as vital to its inhabitants as the natural elements that surround them.
Cusumbo, in contrast, is developed from the beginning as a hot-blooded, physical, young...
(The entire section is 579 words.)