The Devil in Texas Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Aristeo Brito

First published: El diablo en Texas, 1976 (English translation, 1990)

Genre: Novel

Locale: The Texas-Mexico border towns of Presidio and Ojinaga and the surrounding area

Plot: Historical realism

Time: The 1850's to the 1970's

Ben Lynch, or Don Benito (beh-NEE-toh), an Anglo-American landowner who represents everything undesirable. He acquires his land in a legal but unethical agreement with Tía Paz, who was in no shape mentally to resist his overtures. In order to secure his position among the Mexican American population, he marries Francisco's sister. The story of his vengeance against anyone who opposes him reveals the extent to which he will go in his exploitation and manipulation of the minority population. By virtue of his Anglo-American heritage, he is able to find support from law enforcement agencies. His character personifies everything evil.

Francisco Uranga (ew-RAHN-gah), also called Don Pancho (PAHN-choh), a pathetic figure whose life as a journalist and a lawyer is spent trying to correct the injustices he sees perpetrated upon the Chicano population. Francisco speaks for himself, his family, and the Mexican American population in general. It is through his acts of resistance, which are reinforced by his sons and their sons, that the reader sees a panorama of abuse that extends over several generations and clearly is suggestive of similar abuses in other communities with the same racial mix. What Fran-cisco's character lacks in depth, it makes up for in intensity. His persistent dedication to exposing abuse and cruelty along the Texas border, despite the alienation he experiences on both sides of the river, helps to establish him as a sympathetic character whose determination to right wrongs merits respect.

Jesús (heh-SEWS) and Reyes (RREH-yehs), Francisco's sons, who continue the resistance effort in their own manner. Jesús is killed by Lynch's men because he refuses to stop transporting Mexican workers across the border. Reyes becomes a part of a renegade band of Mexican Americans who sabotage Lynch at every opportunity by organizing resistance to the Texas Rangers.

José Uranga (hoh-SEH), who as a fetus “speaks” from Marcela's womb. He returns to Presidio when his father is dying in 1970. His character represents the typical Chicano youth (perhaps inspired by the author's own experiences) who escapes from an oppressive environment and experiences some success in the dominant Anglo-American culture, only to realize as a mature adult the strong ties he still feels for Chicano culture.

Marcela Uranga (mahr-SEH-lah), the mother of José Uranga. Like many Mexican American wives, she is trapped in a society that often deprives her of physical and emotional support. When her husband escapes to Mexico, she is left to deal with deprivation and physical discomfort. Upon attending a mass, she sees an apparition of the Devil winking at her with a mocking grin. The emotional trauma she experiences pushes her to the edge of insanity.

Chente (CHEHN-teh), Marcela's uncle, who dies an untimely death that is brought about by extreme working conditions, reinforcing the prevalence of exploitation across all aspects of Mexican American life. His conversations with Vicke, Marcela's mother, are poignant reminders of the hopelessness and helplessness of the Mexican laborer.

The Devil, the most powerful character in the story. He takes many forms, both real and symbolic. He is the snake coiled around the cross that stands high on the mountain overlooking the river; the river and later the bridge that control the destiny of the Mexican Americans; Ben Lynch, who has more power in Texas than God himself; the goat-footed stranger who appears at a party; the tall cowboy who winks at Marcela in church; the train conductor; and the Green Devil who operates the capitalistic agrarian system. In fact, the Devil is anything and everything evil and oppressive and symbolizes the blatant insensitivity and evil intention of the Anglo-American population along the border with Mexico.

Categories: Characters