The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Don Goyo Quimi

Don Goyo Quimi (GOY-oh KEE-mee), the first inhabitant of the islands and founder of the town of Cerrito de Morrenos. He is a 150-year-old patriarch who commands the respect and obedience of all thecholos (part-Indians). Although he has heard unfavorable reports about the conduct of white men, he recruits cholos to help Don Carlos. When he sees that the cholos are being exploited, he convinces them to abandon Don Carlos to work for themselves again. The oldest mangrove tree warns him that white men have come to corrupt and rob the cholos. Don Goyo gives the cholos the message of the mangrove tree and tells them to stop harvesting mangrove trees. By cutting down mangrove trees, the cholos are cutting themselves down because they are made of mangrove. After the cholos indicate that they are going to resume cutting down mangrove trees anyway, Don Goyo disappears, then dies with the oldest mangrove tree. The cholos find him tangled in its fallen branches.


Cusumbo (kew-SEWM-boh), a young highlander who comes to the islands to escape prosecution for murdering his boss and his wife when he had caught them making love. As a highlander, he had worked for the landowner by cultivating rice, fishing, and caring for dairy cattle. After he comes to...

(The entire section is 485 words.)