Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Los Gusanos is a study of the political nature of history and of human action. In the world of this novel, every act is colored by some sort of political intent or influence. As the novel remarks at one point, Toda la vida es política: All of life is political. Behind every act (even the most idealistic and pure), argues Sayles, stands a political motive.

The novel is also an examination of the making and meaning of history. Los Gusanos, in its own way, is a history itself, attempting as it does to write a version of the Bay of Pigs invasion and its legacy. History is written, is textual, suggests Sayles; what matters is who happens to be writing the current version of that history.

Sayles is also interested in the problems of culture and of cultural crossings. His portrait of the Cuban exile population of Miami is, among other things, a portrait of a community in transition; its people move between the world they knew (and were forced to leave) and the world that has become their temporary (or, for some, permanent) home. Character, Sayles contends, is defined by culture, and the characters in Los Gusanos find themselves struggling to establish or understand the very nature of the exiled self.