Nayeli is a nineteen-year-old Mexican girl from a small village called Tres Camarones. She works as a waitress at Tacho's bar, La Mano Caída, and as the campaign manager for Tía Irma's run… read analysis of Nayeli
Tacho, Nayeli’s boss, is the gay owner and bartender of the local taco shop, bar, and internet cafe, La Mano Caída (“The Fallen Hand”). He is gruff and cranky, though this is part of… read analysis of Tacho
Tía Irma, who is also known as “La Osa” (“the she-bear”), becomes the first female mayor of Tres Camarones. She is a Mexican nationalist and believes that women are the future of the country. She… read analysis of Tía Irma
Verónica, who goes by Vampi, is one of Nayeli's "notorious girlfriends," and she's the only goth girl in Tres Camarones. Her goth phase began after her parents died in a tragic bus accident, and she… read analysis of Vampi
Atómiko is a colorful figure that Nayeli meets in the dump in Tijuana. He's the self-professed king of the dump and believes he's a samurai. As such, he carries a "samurai staff," which is a… read analysis of Atómiko
Several years before the start of the novel, Matt went to Tres Camarones as a missionary, where he won the heart of every woman in town by writing their names phonetically on notecards. He also… read analysis of Matt
When Irma was a young woman, Chava was a fisherman by day and a bowling champion by night, as well as Irma's love interest. He was the most handsome man in Tres Camarones, and he… read analysis of Chava Chavarín
Officer Arnold Davis (Arnie)
Officer Arnold Davis, also known as Arnie, is a black Border Patrol agent working on loan in San Diego. He's worked for the government for the last twenty-seven years, and he finds the changes happening… read analysis of Officer Arnold Davis (Arnie)
Don Pepe is Nayeli's father. He used to be the only policeman in Tres Camarones, and he adored his daughter. He enrolled her in karate so that she'd learn how to take care of… read analysis of Don Pepe
Araceli is a Mexican Native woman who lives in Tijuana with her husband, Porfirio. They used to be farmers but were forced to sell their animals and move to Tijuana to find work. They… read analysis of Doña Araceli
Porfirio is Araceli's wife. He used to be a trash picker, but when the city of Tijuana closed down the dump, he began washing car windshields instead. He and Araceli only make a few… read analysis of Don Porfirio
Wino is a dump dweller who drives an ancient and decrepit Oldsmobile. He works with Atómiko to connect Nayeli and her group up with a coyote to take them over the border. To Nayeli's surprise… read analysis of Wino
Calendaria joins Nayeli and the Tres Camarones group during their first attempt at crossing the Mexican-American border. She's very pregnant, which suggests that she’s trying to get to the US so that her unborn child… read analysis of Candelaria
El Brujo, Vampi’s newfound boyfriend, was a metal musician who came to America with the dream of becoming famous. When he arrived, however, he discovered that nobody wanted to hire an undocumented Mexican musician… read analysis of El Brujo
García-García is the elderly owner of the cinema in Tres Camarones and is the only rich man in town. However, he's also frugal to a fault: he shuts off his air conditioning at home, leading… read analysis of García-García
Scarface is one of the bandidos who invades Tres Camarones. He's a "bottom-level narco" desperate to make it big as a drug cartel, and he attempts to dress the part by wearing sport coats in… read analysis of Scarface
Ma Johnston is Matt's mother. She dies several weeks before the novel begins and is described as having been an invisible but good woman who had unending hard luck in life. She lived in… read analysis of Ma Johnston
Chuy is the kindly, fat bus driver who drives Nayeli and her group most of the way to Tijuana. He endears himself to his passengers when he pulls off the road and spends an hour… read analysis of Chuy
Angel is a shy and polite young man who lives in the migrant camp. He fixed Chava's car at one point and refused to accept money from Chava. Angel agrees to return to Tres… read analysis of Angel
Agent Anderson is one of the Border Patrol officers who arrests Nayeli and the Tres Camarones group the first time. He and his fellow officer, Agent Smith, both speak Spanish, which surprises Nayeli, and… read analysis of Agent Anderson
Agent Smith is one of the Border Patrol officers who arrests Nayeli and the Tres Camarones group during their first attempt at crossing the border. Along with his fellow officer, Agent Anderson, Agent Smith… read analysis of Agent Smith
Carla is Ma Johnston's next-door neighbor and is briefly Matt's love interest. She's a heavy smoker and uses other drugs as well. Though she's reasonably kind when she speaks to Nayeli and her… read analysis of Carla
Rigoberto is a gay, slightly older man that Tacho meets in a Tijuana gay bar. He's wealthy, elegant, and kind, and Tacho is very attracted to him. Rigoberto dresses Tacho up like his partner, Wilivaldo… read analysis of Rigoberto
Sully is a white supremacist who harasses Nayeli and Tacho in a grocery store with his friend Jimbo. Sully and Jimbo later show up at the migrant camp that Nayeli and Tacho are visiting… read analysis of Sully
The cook and the cook’s wife are a Mexican couple who run a Mexican restaurant in the Rocky Mountains. The cook kicks Nayeli and Tacho out when they admit they illegally crossed the border. The… read analysis of The Cook
Jimbo, like his friend Sully, is a white supremacist who harasses Nayeli and Tacho in a grocery store in San Diego. Later, Jimbo and Sully try to violently attack Mexican immigrants at a makeshift migrant camp, but Nayeli and Atómiko succeed in beating Jimbo and Sully up instead.
The State Cop
Though the cop is a real cop, he earns almost all of his money as an advisor for the drug cartels in Mexico. He works for Scarface and carries a gun in a very squeaky holster.
Nayeli lives with her mother, María. María became a hypochondriac after her husband, Don Pepe, left three years before the start of the novel, and Tía Irma snaps at her for it. She becomes the new projectionist at the cinema after Irma wins the election for mayor.
Ernesto James is the old outgoing mayor of Tres Camarones. He suspects that there may have been foul play surrounding Irma's win of the mayoral election but notes that there aren't enough men to force a recount.
Pepino is referred to as "the town simpleton" in Tres Camarones. He's a kind boy and often asks Nayeli to marry him.
The Jefe is the chief customs officer at the customs office in Huila, Mexico. He picks Tacho out of line and assaults and harasses him in the bathroom because he can tell that Tacho is gay.
The coyote is a smuggler who unsuccessfully takes Nayeli, Yolo, Vampi, and Tacho over the border at Wino’s request. He's a smoker and out of shape, which irritates Nayeli. He abandons his customers when they hear a Border Patrol van on an overpass.
Don Arturo is the leader of the migrant camp outside of San Diego. He is friends with Angel.
Nayeli meets the kindly fisherman in a valley of the Rocky Mountains. He tells her what elk are, teaches her to fish, and gives her a sweatshirt.
Mary-Jo is the kind librarian in Kankakee, Illinois, who helps Nayeli track down Don Pepe. Later, she drives Nayeli and Tacho to the bus station and helps them buy their tickets back to San Diego.
Velma is a welcoming waitress at the pancake house where Matt takes Nayeli, Atómiko, Yolo, and Vampi. To compensate for the language barrier, she yells at her Spanish-speaking customers slowly in English.
The Cook’s Wife
The cook and his wife are a Mexican couple who run a Mexican restaurant in the Rocky Mountains. They insist on speaking English and are unwelcoming and hostile toward Tacho and Nayeli for crossing the border illegally.