Author: Carlos Fuentes
First published: La región más transparente, 1958 (English translation, 1960)
Locale: Mexico City, Mexico
Federico Robles (feh-deh-REE-koh RROH-blehs), a wealthy and powerful business tycoon. Robles is born to peons working on the Ovando hacienda but has the opportunity to go to Morelia with a priest to serve as his sacristan. They go to the Zamacona hacienda, where Robles meets fifteen-year-old Mercedes Zamacona, with whom he begins sexual relations. After the lovers are found out, Robles flees and never again sees Mercedes, whom he made pregnant. Robles fights in the Mexican Revolution and later becomes a wealthy lawyer working for North American companies. Robles finally meets his son, Manuel Zamacona, who is later killed by an unknown assailant. Robles marries the beautiful Norma Laragoiti to complete his success. Robles begins a sexual and emotional relationship with Hortensia Chacón, whose Indian mother was a servant in the Ovando household. Although Hortensia is a typist in Robles' office, they do not meet until he begins to visit her in the hospital, where she is recovering after being beaten by her estranged husband. Robles takes care of Hortensia, who is now blind. She later stands by him when he goes bankrupt as the result of rumors and the dirty dealings of other businessmen. Norma, crazed by the thought of losing her wealth and social position, threatens to leave him. After Norma dies in a fire, Robles marries Hortensia, who is pregnant. The two withdraw to the countryside to grow cotton. Robles represents the corrupt businessman who sheds his false self to return to an authentic existence.
Ixca Cienfuegos (EEH-kah see-ehn-FWEH-gohs), a mysterious Indian who appears everywhere and knows all the characters. As he moves in the various social classes, he listens to the characters'life stories. He performs humanitarian acts but almost lets Norma drown in the ocean. He may have been responsible for her death, a sacrifice demanded by Teódula Moctezuma, his mother. After the fire, Teódula informs Ixca that he can go back to his true life, having performed the sacrifice. His wife is to be Rosa, Norma's maid and the recent widow of a taxi driver. Ixca disappears for three years but reappears at the end of the novel. He waits for Rodrigo in the latter's car and explains that Teódula believed that Norma's sacrifice was necessary. He forces Rodrigo's foot onto the accelerator but finally allows him to stop the automobile.
Norma Larragoiti de Robles (lahr-rah-goh-EE-tee), Robles' wife, Ixca's lover, and Rodrigo's former girlfriend. Norma pretends to be the daughter of an aristocratic family that lost everything during the revolution, but her mother is a maid and her father had been a small businessman before his suicide. She becomes Ixca's lover while married to Robles. Although she knows that he wants to destroy her, she loves him. After an argument with Robles about his bankruptcy, she locks herself in her room, throws herself on the bed, and laughs hysterically. When the house catches on fire, she is unable to find the key and dies.
Rodrigo Pola (rrohd-REE-goh POH-lah), a failed poet. When his father returned to the revolutionary troops, he left his bride of two weeks pregnant. Rodrigo is reared by his mother, who works hard to educate him. He falls in love with Norma, who later tires of him. He feels unfulfilled and often complains of his bad luck. Toward the end of the book, he begins to write screenplays of little value, but they make him rich. He is now respected and marries the aristocratic Pimpinela de Ovando
Pimpinela de Ovando (peem-pee-NEH-lah deh oh-VAHNdoh), a member of the fallen landed aristocracy. She is innocent, dignified, and well-mannered. She lives reasonably well but tries to get back the family's lands. She falls in love with a young lawyer, Robert Regules, but does not marry him because her mother objects. She later regrets this decision when he becomes rich. She marries Rodrigo after he becomes wealthy.
Teódula Moctezuma (teh-OH-duh-lah mohk-teh-SEWmah), an Indian woman who represents the great mother figure of Aztec mythology. She keeps the coffins of her dead husband and sons in her house and performs Aztec rites over their cadavers. Believing Norma to be the victim of the sacrifice she demands from Ixca, she goes to Norma's burning house and throws her ritualistic jewelry into the fire as she gives thanks for the sacrifice.
Gabriel, a border crosser who returns to Mexico with gifts for his family. He is stabbed in the stomach during a party.