The Underdogs Characters
The main characters in The Underdogs are Demetrio Macías, Luis Cervantes, Camila, and War Paint.
- Demetrio Macías: The protagonist, Demetrio Macías, is a peasant from a small Indian village who joins the Mexican Revolution and fights without understanding his own motives.
- Luis Cervantes: A former medical student and journalist, Cervantes embraces the revolutionary cause and deserts the Federales to fight in Demetrio's band.
- Camila: Camila is a young woman who becomes Demetrio's companion. She travels with the revolutionaries until she is killed by War Paint.
- War Paint: War Paint is a formidable woman revolutionary who introduces Demetrio and his men to the practice of pillaging.
Demetrio embodies the spirit, courage, and charisma of the revolutionaries' fight against the Mexican government. He is illiterate, a peasant, and an Indian. He loves his home in Límon, his wife, and his son. The trajectory of his character in the novel moves from honorable leader to challenged and limited general to completely disillusioned post-revolutionary figure. When readers first meet Demetrio, he is hiding and likely in shock after another gunshot wound, just one of “half a dozen” that he has suffered. He confronts the Federales, and an odd exchange allows him to go free because one of the Federales respects Demetrio as a man with a cause. Demetrio escapes to the mountains seeking shelter, safety, and a repast so that he can heal his wounds. He is a figure of strength, courage, and resilience that inspires his men. In Remigia’s small hut, the reader begins to see another side of Demetrio—one that has limits to his heroism. He makes advances toward Camila, a young girl, while on the revolutionary war path. After one of their victories, Demetrio shoots an innocent man and sets fire to a house. Demetrio is essentially apolitical. He tells Luis Cervantes that he does not understand politics. He represents the peasants who were swept up in the revolution.
Cervantes is a journalist and medical student who initially joined the Federales. He became a trusted confidant to many soldiers, who shared their stories of being rousted from their homes and subsequently becoming embittered by their treatment at the hands of the government. After being beaten and disillusioned by the government’s position himself, Cervantes walks into Demetrio’s camp having embraced the ideology of the revolution. His medical knowledge proves valuable, and he is an inspiration to “Doc,” encouraging him to gain a medical degree. Cervantes carries the highest sense of idealism for the revolutionary cause, and his joining the revolution catches the attention of an old friend, Solís. Over time, Luis learns of the factionalization that has overcome the revolution and becomes disillusioned once again. He eventually leaves Mexico for the United States, embodying both youthful idealism and practicality.
Montanés is a loyal friend to Demetrio. He can at once be violent and compassionate in his loyalty to his cause. He seeks to be understood when he is with Luis Cervantes. After Cervantes demonstrates his intelligence and character, Anastasio opens up. He is not simply a dirty and ragged man: he has ten oxen of his own and is quite content with his accomplishments. He enjoys harassing the Federales and joins the revolutionaries only to help Demetrio.
Pancracio is a freckled, smooth-faced young man with violent tendencies. His misguided decision-making may be due to his youth. When he and Manteco, another man in the camp, play cards, Pancracio’s impulsiveness shows itself—their interactions always end with insults and, frequently, physical fighting. Pancracio gives everything he has in battle.
Remigia is an old woman who treats Demetrio’s gunshot wound in her hut using traditional indigenous medicine practices, including a pigeon sliced in half. The other women in her village greatly respect her knowledge and wisdom and come to her asking for medicine to treat common and uncommon ailments.
War Paint is a revolutionary and a complex character. Her presence is immediately striking in the story. As Demetrio and his men enter a bar, War Paint establishes her position in the gathering with her language as well as with her body. She is intelligent, courageous, and bold. Her motives with Camila are unclear, seeming by turns supportive and misguided. War Paint has a reputation...
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for gathering the most valuables after a rebel victory and explains the spoils of war to Demetrio, who is not yet accustomed to this aspect of battle. War Paint claims jewelry, homes, and possessions as the rightful compensation for their work as revolutionaries. When she enters the restaurant on a black mare, she prompts envy and respect. She is impulsive and has little need for grand ideals or ideology. Toward the end of the novel, she is asked to leave Macías’s band, flies into a rage, and stabs Camila to death.
Solís is an old friend of Luis Cervantes. He been part of the revolution long enough to see the arc of its progress and the realities of its promises. At first, he had expected “a field of flowers” at the end of the road of the revolutionary cause; instead, he says he has found a “swamp.” He is the voice of reason and reality that checks Cervantes’s hopes and dreams. He offers two choices for the rebel: either becoming a bandit just like them or vanishing from the scene in selfishness. He is articulate, sincere, and respected.
Grandiose and mercurial, Guero entertains the band of revolutionaries with his marksmanship in a restaurant, providing a reminder of the sinister side of the revolutionary soldiers. Guero shoots at a man’s feet to frighten him and make him “dance.” He sprays bullets left and right through the red-light district, smashing lights and splintering wood.
Venancio is a barber. In his town, he also serves as a rudimentary dentist and medicine man. He is literate, which is valuable to Demetrio and his men. He has read The Wandering Jew and one or two other books. The men call him “Doc.” At first, Venancio is jealous of Cervantes’s medical knowledge and skill, but later, his jealousy turns to warm respect. Cervantes is a great inspiration and support to him, and even after Cervantes moves to the United States, Venancio receives encouragement and guidance from him.
Quail is one of Demetrio’s most trusted men. Demetrio sends Quail to disguise himself as a priest and take confession from Cervantes. Quail dresses for the role and helps discover Cervantes’s sincere commitment to the revolution.
Don Mónico is from Límon. He and Demetrio had a disagreement some time ago, and in retaliation for their dispute, Don Mónico went to the Zacateas to have them arrest Demetrio. By the time the Federales arrived in Límon, Demetrio had escaped thanks to some friends who had cautioned him of their arrival.
General Navera represents the political and highly strategic part of the revolution. Demetrio is in support of the revolutionary cause but lacks the interest or intelligence to grasp events as Navera does. Demetrio simply wants someone to tell him what to do. Navera represents an entirely different facet of the revolutionary forces: he is knowledgeable, savvy, and the type of leader that the others aspire to be.
Demetrio Macías, the novel’s protagonist, is an Indian peasant from Límon who is frustrated by the government of Diaz and the pillaging and rape committed by the Federales. Demetrio’s charisma and sharp marksmanship make him a leader in the revolutionary forces fighting in the Mexican Revolution. He has a wife and son in Límon.
A bearded, tough, and compassionate soldier in Demetrio’s band, Anastasio is a loyal and courageous fighter in the revolutionary forces.
Camila (or Camilla, depending upon the translation) is a poor young girl living in a small village of huts along the trails of mountains in Mexico. She cares for Demetrio and also tries to start a relationship with Luis Cervantes. Ultimately, she is stabbed to death by War Paint.
Cervantes fights for the Federales until he becomes disillusioned with their cause. He is found by Demetrio’s men and later welcomed into the revolutionary forces. Luis is a medical student and a journalist. He wrote pieces about the revolutionaries, and the Federales came after him to stop him from continuing his writing. Luis calls himself a coreligionist with the same ideals as the revolutionaries.
Fortunata is one of Remigia’s neighbors. Her daughter was taken by the Federales.
Meco is one of Demetrio’s men.
Pancracio is a spirited soldier under Demetrio’s leadership. He often screams in delight at killing the Federales. He is light-complexioned with a smooth face. He and Manteca stab each other to death in a card game.
A revolutionary who is joined with Demetrio’s men after a key battle, War Paint (La Pintada) is a spirited, generous, complex character. She is a strong female leader among the revolutionaries but is eventually asked to leave; in response, she flies into a rage and stabs Camila to death.
An old friend of Anastasio's, Towhead (also called Blondie or Whitey, depending upon the translation) shows an ugly side to the revolutionaries when he slaps a waiter for not bringing him cold water and flaunts his power, signaling the abuses of the revolutionary cause. He later enjoys torturing a prisoner, and toward the end of the novel, he commits suicide.
He is one of Demetrio’s men. He and Panacio stab each other to death in a card game.
María is a large and pock-faced woman in the village with a reputation for sleeping with many men.
Remigia is an old woman in a small village along the trail; she cares for Demetrio after he is wounded. With herbs and other remedies (including a pigeon sliced open), Remigia treats Demetrio’s wounds.
Serapio is a candy maker and one of Demetrio’s soldiers. He is missing from action. Anastasio finds him dead, swinging from the branches of a mesquite tree.
Antonio is a musician who played for a Juchipila band and is one of Demetrio’s soldiers. Like Serapio, he is missing from action and found hanging, dead, from a tree.
Meco is one of the men in Demetrio’s group. His wife has a son while he is away.
One of Demetrio’s men, he often walks at the front of the group and spots the Federales.
A man who joins Demetrio’s group after the peak of the revolution, Valderrama sings songs for the men.
Venacio is a barber in his village and can also pull teeth, cauterize wounds, and perform bleedings. He can read and is a great asset to Demetrio’s group. The others call him “Doc.”
Demetrio Macías (day-MAY-tree-oh mah-SEE-ahs), a Mexican Indian who fights against government forces in the Mexican Revolution. Demetrio rebels against the government as a result of the treatment he receives at the hands of Federalist troops. He has no personal ambition, but his bravery and leadership eventually earn him the rank of general. Still, he is not a student of the rebel cause. His reasons for fighting at the outset are simple, even personal; later, he does not know why he continues to fight. His men wreak havoc on the many towns they enter, but Demetrio, in general, is not the sociopathic thug that so many of his men are, and he often steps in to keep their behavior in check. Demetrio is successful at defeating his enemy in battle but rejects several chances to kill those who have wronged him. He will not consider immigrating to the United States. He is an essentially peaceful man who has reacted to his circumstances. His only wish is to return home and to a peaceful life. He does return home, but the revolution does not provide him with a peaceful end.
Luis Cervantes (lew-EES sehr-VAHN-tehs), a pseudointellectual who joins Demetrio’s troupe, claiming to be a former journalist who has just deserted from the Federalist forces. He has deserted in part because he has come to see the truth about the government’s side, and he sympathizes with the poor and oppressed, represented by the rebels. How much of Cervantes’ story and, more important, his stated beliefs about the revolution is true is often difficult to discern. It takes some time for Demetrio and his men to trust him. He has the ability to intellectualize the revolution in all the ways in which Demetrio cannot, and it is Cervantes who encourages Demetrio to take his rightful place in history. Cervantes, however, looks out for himself. He always keeps himself out of harm’s way during battle, he collects booty when the opportunity arises, and he finally immigrates to Texas, from where he invites another of Demetrio’s men to come so the two of them can open a Mexican restaurant together.
Solís (soh-LEES), a true intellectual who has become disillusioned with the rebel cause. Solís appears only briefly, but his conversation with Cervantes provides an important view of the revolution, one probably similar to the author’s view. Solís began as an idealist and supported the rebel cause, but he has come to see the revolution as a hurricane and its participants like leaves in the wind, simply swept up by circumstances. He still appreciates the revolution on an ideal, theoretical level, but in the hands of the thugs who have executed it, he recognizes that it has become nothing more than an arena for robbery and murder. Solís is killed by a stray bullet as he and Cervantes talk.
Blondie (or Whitey Margarito, depending on the edition of the translation), a rebel who exhibits outrageous, even sadistic, behavior. Virtually all of Demetrio’s men display repugnant, criminal behavior (and in fact share criminal pasts), but Blondie’s behavior borders on the criminally insane. For example, he tortures a prisoner by dragging him down a road with a rope around his neck, and he makes an innocent person he meets in the street dance by shooting at his feet.
Camilla (kah-MEE-yah) or Camila (kah-MEE-lah), depending on the edition of the translation, a young woman who helps nurse a wounded Demetrio back to health. Her interests lie in Cervantes, who ignores her. Later, Cervantes tricks her into coming to join Demetrio, who has expressed an interest in her. She comes to care for Demetrio, but her criticism of the barbaric behavior of Blondie lands her on the wrong side of War Paint, who brutally murders her later.
War Paint or La Pintada (lah peen-TAH-dah), depending on the edition of the translation, a camp follower and armed female thug who accompanies Demetrio’s men. At first, she expresses interest in Demetrio, but soon she is back at Blondie’s side. She is jealous of Camilla on many levels, and when Demetrio orders the women not to accompany the men—an order instigated by Camilla—La Pintada, already enraged by Camilla’s comments about Blondie’s behavior, stabs Camilla to death in front of Demetrio and his men. Her attitude and actions are surpassed in their criminal nature only by those of Blondie.