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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 399

The President is the dictator of the country where the story takes place. He is cruel, demanding, and able to manipulate events to keep himself in power. Not much is directly known about him in the novel because he's a creature of rumor and shadow.

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Miguel Angel Face is one of the President's advisors. He's handsome, charming, and able to get results no matter what it takes to get them. While carrying out his duties for the President and helping the President frame a man for murder, he falls in love with the man's daughter. They eventually marry, and Angel Face is branded a traitor, eventually dying in prison. He's torn between wanting to please the President and wanting to be a better person who does right in the world.

General Canales is the man who is accused of the murder at the beginning of the story. The President has Angel Face convince Canales to escape so that he looks guilty. Canales meets villagers hurt by the President's government on his travels and comes to see that the system he's been living under is bad. Canales decides to lead a revolution. He dies when he hears that the President attended Camila's wedding.

Camila Canales is the daughter of General Canales. She is taken by Angel Face after her father flees. No one is willing to shelter her, because they're scared of being branded traitors as well. She grows ill, marries Angel Face, recovers, and has a son.

Don Juan Canales is Camila's uncle. He refuses to take her in because of the supposed crimes of her father.

Miguel is the son of Camila and Angel Face.

The Zany is the beggar who committed the murder at the beginning of the novel. He is saved by Angel Face but eventually killed by Vasquez.

Jose Sonriente is the Colonel who mocked the Zany and was murdered.

Lucio Vasquez is one of the people who works with Angel Face. He kills the Zany.

Genaro Rodas is another person who works with Angel Face.

Fedina de Rodas is Genaro's wife. She's taken by the police for supposedly helping Canales escape, even though she didn't. She's smeared with lime so that her baby can't feed from her breasts; the baby starves to death. Later she's forced into a brothel and then put into the hospital when they realize that she's holding her dead baby.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 720

El Señor Presidente

El Señor Presidente (sehn-YOHR preh-see-DEHN-teh), a dictator partially modeled on Manuel Estrada Cabrera, a ruler of Guatemala during the author’s lifetime. His government runs on webs of political intrigue and corruption involving rumors, rigged elections, spies, secret police, hired assassins, false imprisonment, and torture. Since childhood, he has enjoyed tormenting weaker beings. Now he takes brutal revenge on all those who oppose or hinder him, including his former associates. He initiates a plot to frame his rival, General Canales, for murder. He at first appears to accept the relationship between Miguel and Camila, but he steadily works against them in secret.

Miguel Cara de Ángel

Miguel Cara de Ángel (mee-GEHL KAH-rah de AHN-hehl), the handsome protagonist, called “as beautiful and as wicked as Satan,” who serves as aide and favorite adviser to the dictator. His character changes when he falls in love with and later marries Camila Canales, whom he had earlier kidnaped while engaged in the dictator’s plot against her father. His efforts to protect her lead him deeper into conflict with the regime and into a web of deception that the dictator suspects and eventually unravels, causing disaster for the young couple. Arrested while supposedly leaving on a foreign mission for the government, Miguel is tricked, betrayed, tortured, and finally thrown into prison, where he eventually dies in anonymity and despair after hearing lies about his wife’s involvement with the dictator.

Camila Canales

Camila Canales (kah-MEE-lah kah-NAH-lehs), the innocent young daughter of an influential general. During a plot against her father, she is kidnaped by Cara de Ángel, who wants her for himself. He is charmed by her and comes to pity her situation. They soon fall in love and marry, despite obstacles. She is separated from her husband and relatives through the dictator’s deceits. She and her son finally leave the city to live in seclusion in the countryside, believing that Miguel abandoned them after he supposedly goes abroad on a secret mission for the dictator.

General Eusebio Canales

General Eusebio Canales (eh-ew-SEH-bee-oh), an opponent of the dictator who is falsely accused of murder. He flees, learns of more abuses by the government, organizes a failed revolution, and finally dies of shock after hearing lies about his daughter’s connections with his enemies.

Lucio Vâsquez

Lucio Vâsquez (LEW-see-oh VAHS-kehs), a low-level employee of the secret police. His killing of Pelele, under orders, causes a series of events culminating in the downfall of Cara de Ángel. He is eventually imprisoned.

Genaro Rodas

Genaro Rodas (heh-NAHR-oh RROH-dahs), a misguided friend of Vásquez who wants to join the secret police. He witnesses the killing of Pelele without understanding all of its implications. Beaten and imprisoned by the authorities, he agrees to spy against Cara de Ángel and is involved in his eventual arrest.

Fedina de Rodas

Fedina de Rodas (feh-DEE-nah), the wife of Genaro and a friend of Camila. Thought to know too much about the plot against General Canales, she is tortured by the authorities. After her baby dies of neglect, she is sold into prostitution and driven to madness.


Pelele (peh-LEH-leh), meaning Zany or Idiot, one of several unfortunate beggars found around the cathedral early in the novel. His demented killing of one of the dictator’s officers sets the plot into motion, as the dictator tries to blame the crime on General Canales. Pelele is aided by the unwitting Miguel but eventually is killed by Vásquez under the pretext that he is a public danger infected with rabies.

El Auditor General de Guerra

El Auditor General de Guerra (GEH-rrah), the Judge Advocate General, a military counselor, one of several powerful, brutal, and corrupt officials. He is successful in undermining Cara de Ángel, thus fulfilling his own political ambitions and gaining favor with the dictator.

Doña Chon

Doña Chon (chohn), a brothel madam who knew the dictator in the old days. She bargains with the Judge Advocate General to buy Fedina de Rodas for her establishment.

Abel Carvajal

Abel Carvajal (ah-BEHL kahr-vah-HAHL), a lawyer summarily executed for supposedly aiding General Canales. His wife tries desperately to save him but cannot.

Major Farfán

Major Farfán (fahr-FAHN), a minor officer who is aided by Miguel but who eventually betrays and arrests him.

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