The Mixquiahuala Letters

by Ana Castillo

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 881

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Teresa, a Mexican American woman married to Libra. She is bored with her marriage. She meets Alicia during a summer trip to Mexico while in search of her roots and her purpose in life. She wants to be a writer and keeps notebooks of her daily impressions. Having met Alicia, she becomes a virtual nomad, going through a series of painful separations from men she once trusted. Unlike Alicia, who has a light complexion despite her gypsy background, Teresa is dark and has attractive Indian features, indicative of her ancestry. The rivalries as well as the close friendship between Alicia and Teresa result from differences in skin color, appeal to men, and temperament. What unite the friends are their many shared experiences and their dedication to their own art.


Alicia, a New York artist whose ancestry goes back to Spain through a grandmother who is from Andalucía and is part gypsy. Alicia’s parents come to the United States and adopt the prejudices of that country toward people of color, forgetting that, through Alicia’s father, they are related to gypsies. In her rebellion toward her parents, Alicia goes through a sexual quest, always involving herself with men with dark complexions. She helps Teresa get over her first husband and initiates her into a similar erotic quest, one that ends with Teresa’s second and very happy marriage in the conformist reading of the novel. Alicia’s nomadism and sensuous lifestyle result in a life devoted to art and personal isolation from society.

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Libra, Teresa’s first husband. A high school dropout, Libra makes numerous attempts to start a business but is always duped by his associates. He is a weak person who is easily intimidated by men with strong personalities. It is clear that Libra will never achieve anything in life. He is inconsiderate to women, even his wife. Teresa’s bohemian life and search for herself is a direct response to Libra’s opinions and way of life.


Rodney, Alicia’s black boyfriend. He represents defiance against her racist father. Alicia becomes pregnant by Rodney and has an abortion that results in unintended sterilization. She takes a trip to Mexico to get over the shock of her sterilization and entrusts Rodney with the care of her New York apartment, only to find on her return that Rodney has been taking his black girlfriend there for romantic trysts. This begins a series of sentimental and erotic mishaps that serve as indications that the only spiritual fulfillment Alicia will find will be through her career as an artist.

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Latest answer posted July 16, 2019, 6:09 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Alexis Valladolid

Alexis Valladolid, a flamenco singer and distant gypsy relative of Alicia who goes to New York in search of stardom. He moves in temporarily with Alicia and shortly thereafter begins a stormy relationship with Teresa when she arrives for a short visit. When Teresa moves back to Chicago, Alexis follows her. They move in together, and Teresa becomes pregnant and eventually goes through an abortion. That leads to their separation and mutual manipulation, until Alexis leaves her when assured of a contract in a local nightclub. They come in contact again five years later in the same nightclub, while both are involved with different people. Alexis represents the artist who loves only his music, allowing nothing and no one to interfere with his art. Teresa is envious of Alexis, admiring his dedication and his passion, but feels inadequate in her many failed attempts to excel in her craft as a writer while simultaneously searching for a man’s love. The hurt caused by Alexis and his abandonment brings Teresa back to reality. She abandons a bohemian life when she meets someone who finally, in the conformist reading, gives her the stability she always sought, through marriage, a son, and a home.

El Gallo

El Gallo, a close gypsy friend of Alexis Valladolid who accompanies him on his trip to the United States. Estranged from his wife, El Gallo becomes Alicia’s lover and live-in companion, thus helping Alicia endure the pain caused by the news that Rodney is having a child with a black girlfriend. El Gallo eventually leaves Alicia when he decides to return to Spain and his wife.

Vicente das Mortes

Vicente das Mortes, Teresa’s Brazilian boyfriend, who abandons her after he develops an interest in Alicia. He appears only in letter 38.


Abdel, an anguished Vietnam veteran from New York who is a mediocre artist. He meets Alicia in art school while Alicia is trying to forget and transcend her past love affairs through the attainment of a degree. Abdel befriends Alicia and confesses his many problems with the wife he is divorcing. He soon moves in with Alicia. Their love affair becomes a struggle because of Abdel’s insecurities and expressed envy of Alicia’s artistic talent. Letter 40, read only in the conformist reading, reveals the end of this relationship. Abdel becomes a nuisance, particularly when he destroys Alicia’s paintings and sculptures. Alicia decides to throw him out of her life. As a form of revenge, he commits suicide in Alicia’s apartment while she is attending school one evening; ironically, Alicia had just changed her mind about Abdel and decided to try to make their relationship work.

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