The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The characters in Macho Camacho’s Beat are grotesques, allegorical rather than fully rounded, and are defined primarily by their obsessions and a desire to be what they are not.

The Heathen Chinky/The Mother, representative of the masses as her generic labels suggest, is obsessed with sex and her desire to be television’s sex symbol, Iris Chacón. Barraged on all sides by mass-media hype, her self-perception is so distorted that it seems quite reasonable to prostitute herself for the price of a new linoleum floor. She believes herself to be a good mother because she fondles the Kid and sings to him, just as she has seen mothers do in Mexican films. To maintain her delusions of happiness, the Heathen Chinky eagerly subscribes to the pop philosophy of Macho Camacho’s guaracha, which insists, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that “Life Is a Phenomenal Thing.”

Senator Vincente Reinosa is obsessed with sexual fantasies involving black and mulatto women and fancies himself a modern-day Don Juan. He sexually exploits women whom he would never acknowledge in public and embezzles public funds to pay the cost of keeping them. He uses his political clout to keep his budding terrorist son out of jail (and out of the headlines), and he bilks the government for the price of a brand-new Ferrari to appease the boy. Reinosa wants Puerto Rico to become a part of the United States. He represents the desire of the wealthy to maintain...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Heathen Chinky

The Heathen Chinky, also called The Mother, a woman who has been used sexually since she was five years old. Her brother was killed in the Korean War, and her mother died of grief shortly thereafter. When her husband deserted her for a Chicano woman, he left her alone with her encephalitic, retarded son. She prostitutes herself to pay for the boy’s food and medical expenses and calculates the price of her material wants in terms of the number of tricks she will have to turn. At the suggestion of the Old Man, she has taken to leaving her child in a nearby park for a beneficial “sun bath” while she meets him. Ironically, she is waiting for the senator’s arrival when her child is hit and killed by the car driven by his son, Benny.

Senator Vincente Reinosa

Senator Vincente Reinosa (veen-SEHN-teh rra-NOH-sah), called The Old Man, a Puerto Rican politician. Reinosa prides himself on supporting the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and on his coining of the phrase “Yankee this is home” in response to the “Yankee go home” sentiments of the nationalist movement for independence. He has an inflated sense of his sexual prowess, classing himself within a great tradition beginning with Don Juan and coming down to him through Ricardo Montalbán and other Latin lovers. The senator’s wife allows him in her bed only on rare occasions, and she is quick to make the sign of the cross immediately thereafter. His relations with his son are limited to providing material goods and immunity from the law. While he waits in traffic, creating inane campaign slogans (“Vince is a prince and easy to convince”), his son, Benny, kills the child of his mistress.

Graciela Alcántara y López de Montefrío


(The entire section is 760 words.)