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|Cover artist||Gabriele Wilson|
|September 30, 2002|
Caramelo is a 2002 novel by American author Sandra Cisneros. It was inspired by her Mexican heritage and childhood in the barrio of Chicago, Illinois. The main character, Lala, is the only girl in a family of seven children and her family often travels between Chicago and Mexico City. Because Cisneros also has six brothers and her family moved frequently when she was a child, the novel is semi-autobiographical. The novel could also be called a bildungsroman, as it focuses on Lala's development from childhood onward. It was shortlisted for the 2004 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Characters in Caramelo
Celaya (Lala)- Central narrator. She tells her story, as well as that of her grandmother. She always seems to be an outcast and turns out to be very similar to her Awful Grandmother.
Inocencio-; Celaya’s father. He shows an affinity for her over her brothers. Candelaria is his illegitimate child. He enjoys upholstering and is very good at it, but does not make a lot of money at it. Soledad favors him over the rest of her children.
Zoila- Celaya’s mother. They don’t have a very strong relationship; it mimics the relationship between Aunty Light-Skin and Soledad. She is frugal and often takes Celaya to shop at second hand stores, even though Inocencio does not approve.
Soledad (Awful Grandmother)- she is always trying to cause trouble. Her mother died when she was young and her father gave her up to her aunt, who had too many kids to deal with. She went to live with Narciso’s family and worked as a servant. Narciso got her pregnant and then he married her. He basically neglected her the whole time and she was heart sick until Inocencio was born. She causes trouble with Zoila by telling about Candelaria. She is just generally unpleasant and brings the people down around her, but she has a strong relationship with Celaya it seems.
Narciso (Little Grandfather)- Husband of Soledad. He generally is not very good to Soledad, but is favored among his grandchildren. At a young age, he joined the Mexican army but ended up deserting.
Rafa (Rafael), Ito (Refugio), Tikis (Gustavo), Toto (Alberto), Lolo (Lorenzo), Memo (Guillermo)- The brothers of Celaya (Lala), sons of Inocencio and Zoila. Generally cause trouble for Celaya, but they have their moments.
Uncle Fat-Face (Federico) and Uncle Baby (Armando)- brothers of Inocencio. Work with him on upholstery and live in Chicago. They all take a trip down to Mexico in the summers.
Aunty Light-skin (Norma)- Inocencio’s sister. Narrates part of the novel. Relates to Celaya because they both feel heartbreak. Antonieta Araceli’s father left after she was born, leaving Aunty Light-Skin in depression.
Antonieta Araceli- Aunty Light-Skin’s daughter by the man whose name shouldn’t be mentioned.Caramelo pida pelo.
Amor and Paz- daughters of Uncle Baby and Aunty Ninfa.
Eleuterio- Father of Narciso, married to Regina. Left his family in Spain and went to Mexico. Impregnated Regina, then fled back to Spain. Returned later and married her. A friend to Soledad and supposedly influences Narciso to marry her after she gets pregnant.
Regina- Narciso’s mother. She loves him very passionately. She makes most of the income selling things at flea markets. When the war breaks out, she gets very rich by basically becoming a trading post, specializing in cigarettes.
Candelaria- Daughter of washerwoman. Not a large role in the novel, but her presence seems to infiltrate the whole thing because she is Inocencio's child out of wedlock.
Elvis, Aristotle, and Byron- Uncle Fat-Face and Aunty Licha’s children. Named after people she finds in her horoscope.
Ernie (Ernesto) Calderon- A good catholic boy that is friends with Celaya’s brothers. They get romantically interested and run away together, but Ernie ends up choosing his mother over Celaya.
Exaltacion Henestrosa- Exotic woman who Narciso falls in love with while married to Soledad. She then leaves him for a female singer in a traveling circus, Panfila Pal
Each summer, Celaya and her family return to her grandmother's home in Mexico City. At the house, Celaya meets Candelaria, the maid's daughter, who she secretly admires for her beauty. Here we also meet other members of her family, including the Awful Grandmother, Aunty Light-Skin, and the Little Grandfather. We learn about their stories. For example, the Little Grandfather lived in Chicago for a time and was injured during the Mexican Civil War. Aunty Light-Skin had an affair with an unnamed movie star. Through it all, the ties between families are bound together by the silken rebozo. The rebozo is central to the story, as it represents the dsyfunctional and interconnected relationships.
The narrative turns to a story of Celaya's adolescence. Her family lives in Chicago but decides to move to San Antonio. Unfortunately for the father, his new job as an upholsterer is not well-paid, nor is he respected at work. Celaya learns to deal with a new home and classmates who pick on her. She meets Ernesto, who romances her and eventually brings her to Mexico City, ostensibly to marry. Instead, he runs away because his mother disapproves and chooses her over Lala; and Celaya must be rescued by her father.
The Little Grandfather dies. Celaya's father grows old and infirm.