The Book of Unknown Americans

by

Cristina Henríquez

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Book of Unknown Americans can help.

Mayor Toro Character Analysis

Mayor was a young child when his family left Panamá, and he has lived most of his life in Newark, Delaware. Mayor is a scrawny, slightly nerdy teen boy. His father Rafael dreams that Mayor will achieve soccer stardom just like his older brother, Enrique, who is off on a college athletic scholarship, but Mayor is a quiet, sensitive boy who is too concerned with his own self-image to endure failure. Mayor quits the soccer team but does not tell his father, and, soon after the Riveras’ arrival, he develops a crush on Maribel Rivera. At first, he is conflicted about his feelings for Maribel, since he is aware of her brain injury, and does not want to take advantage of her or her time, but he soon realizes that he is truly the only one who sees Maribel for the complicated figure that she is, and one of the only people patient enough to help her negotiate the maze of her brain. Mayor’s obsession with Maribel deepens and leads to trouble for both of them—Mayor sees himself as a romantic figure full of longing, and his belief that he and Maribel are “meant” for one another blinds him to the ways in which his infatuation with her is selfish and even dangerous.

Mayor Toro Quotes in The Book of Unknown Americans

The The Book of Unknown Americans quotes below are all either spoken by Mayor Toro or refer to Mayor Toro. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage Books edition of The Book of Unknown Americans published in 2014.
Chapter 8: Mayor Quotes

“It’s in you,” my dad assured me once. “You were born in Panamá. It’s in your bones.”

I spent a lot of time trying to find it in me, but usually I couldn’t. I felt more American than anything, but even that was up for debate according to the kids at school who’d taunted me over the years. The truth was that I didn’t know which I was. I wasn’t allowed to claim the thing I felt and I didn’t feel the thing I was supposed to claim.

Related Characters: Mayor Toro (speaker), Rafael “Rafa” Toro (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17: Mayor Quotes

“Next time, just try to blend in with everyone else and you’ll be fine,” my mom offered.

“The way of the world,” my dad said.

“What?” my mom asked.

“Just trying to blend in. That’s the way of the world.”

“Well, that’s the way of America, at least,” my mom said.

Related Characters: Celia Toro (speaker), Rafael “Rafa” Toro (speaker), Mayor Toro
Related Symbols: Rafael’s Car
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26: Mayor Quotes

Both of us were trying to make sense of it. And sitting there, I started thinking, Who can say whose fault it is? Who can say who set this whole thing in motion? Maybe it was Maribel. Maybe it was me. Maybe if I hadn’t left school that day, none of this would have happened. Maybe if our parents hadn’t forbidden us from seeing each other, I wouldn’t have needed to steal her away. Maybe if my dad had never bought that car, I wouldn’t have had a way to get to the beach. Maybe it was my tía Gloria’s fault for giving my dad the money [to] buy it. Maybe it was my tío Esteban’s fault for being a jerk she would need to divorce to get that money. You could trace it back infinitely. All these different veins, but who knew which one led to the heart? And then again, maybe it had nothing to do with any of us. Maybe it really was completely random, just something that happened.

Related Characters: Mayor Toro (speaker), Maribel Rivera
Related Symbols: Rafael’s Car
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

“You could come back one day,” I said. “Or I could come there.”

“Maybe.”

“I could find you.”

Maribel shook her head. “Finding is for things that are lost. You don’t need to find me, Mayor.”

Related Characters: Maribel Rivera (speaker), Mayor Toro (speaker)
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Book of Unknown Americans LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Book of Unknown Americans PDF

Mayor Toro Character Timeline in The Book of Unknown Americans

The timeline below shows where the character Mayor Toro appears in The Book of Unknown Americans. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Mayor
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor Toro and his parents watch the Riveras through the front window of their apartment as... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...expresses a hesitation—she begins to say something about “the girl,” but hesitates when she realizes Mayor is listening. Instead, she tells the Toros that they’ll “see for [themselves] eventually.” (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...to hear more and more rumors about the Riveras—many of which seem outlandish and untrue. Mayor has started a new school year and he hopes that this will be “the year... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Garrett Miller, a bully with a neck tattoo, has made Mayor his “special project.” He calls Mayor “Pollo” due to his scrawny legs. Garrett went to... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
The other anxiety Mayor faces with the start of the new school year is soccer. He feels forced into... (full context)
Chapter 5: Mayor
Longing Theme Icon
Mayor knows that “sooner or later all the kids who move into our part of town... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor has stopped going to soccer practice after his fall during the drill—he is too embarrassed... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
One day, Celia and Mayor go to the Dollar Tree, where they run into Maribel and Alma. Mayor is mesmerized... (full context)
Chapter 7: Alma
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...panicked, arrives back at the Redwood Apartments, searching for Maribel everywhere. She finds her with Mayor Toro, in the hallway outside the Toros’ apartment. Mayor assures Alma that everything is okay.... (full context)
Chapter 8: Mayor
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...of watching soccer. Rafael brags to the Riveras about Enrique’s success, and even talks up Mayor’s (nonexistent) soccer skills. Initially wary of these Sunday afternoons with the Riveras, Mayor tends to... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
One afternoon, Garrett taunts Mayor as Mayor walks home from school. Mayor considers that Garrett must be lonely—he doesn’t have... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor makes sure that Maribel is okay, and then asks her if she’s going up to... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Soon, Mayor and Maribel hear Alma calling for Maribel. She is flushed and panicked, but Mayor reassures... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Mayor feels that something has changed between him and Maribel—he is protective of her, and now... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor was just an infant when the Toros came to America, and though he never really... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor remembers the day he and his family took their oath of citizenship, “along with a... (full context)
Chapter 11: Mayor
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor and Maribel grow closer, despite Maribel’s difficulties with communication. Mayor is patient with her and... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Rafael chides Mayor for not being able to “talk to normal girls,” but Mayor refuses to “pass up”... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor begins visiting the Riveras’ apartment some afternoons after school in order to spend even more... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Mayor asks Maribel what happened to her. She tells him that she fell, but she cannot... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
One evening, Mayor leaves the Riveras’ apartment for the night and, when he arrives home, finds that his... (full context)
Chapter 13: Alma
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Alma notices that Maribel has “developed a sort of friendship” with Mayor, but she insists that the two only spend time together at one another’s apartments, and... (full context)
Chapter 14: Mayor
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor has not had a run-in with Garrett since he stood up to him in front... (full context)
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Mayor overhears his parents discussing the call they received from the school, requesting they come by... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor describes Christmas as “the best and the worst [the Toros have] had in a while.”... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
As the party grows more and more boisterous and joyful, and everyone starts dancing, Mayor pulls Maribel away from the action in order to give her a Christmas present—he has... (full context)
Chapter 17: Mayor
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Celia announces to Rafael and Mayor over dinner that her sister has received eighty thousand dollars in her divorce settlement and... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
...a moment, Rafael announces that he wants to use the money to buy a car. Mayor knows that his father “lusted” after cars as a boy and has always dreamed of... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Rafael, Mayor, and Celia go to a nearby used-car lot and pick out a Volkswagen Rabbit. After... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
The mood in the Toro house lifts with the purchase of the car, but Mayor is still grounded and still hasn’t seen Maribel since Christmas. He hopes that she doesn’t... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
...no one around him can understand that he and Maribel are “meant for each other,” Mayor goes to visit the Rivera apartment the following day after school. When Alma answers the... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor and Maribel tell Alma that they are going over to hang out at the Toros’... (full context)
Chapter 19: Alma
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
...what they are doing—Celia, wanting to avoid her, doesn’t invite her along. At the marsh, Mayor helps Maribel skate on the soles of her shoes. There is a large crowd at... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...anything,” but she must tell them that a few weeks ago she saw Maribel and Mayor canoodling in the Toros’ car—not only that, but when Mayor stepped out of the car,... (full context)
Chapter 20: Mayor
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Late in February, Rafael comes home from work one evening visibly angry. Mayor steers clear of his parents until dinner. At the table, his parents fight viciously back... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Mayor feels sorry for his father, who has worked at the diner six days a week... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor and his friend William have been on the outs lately, but one day, at school,... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Mayor protests, angry that his father has never liked Maribel and upset that no one ever... (full context)
Chapter 22: Alma
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Alma and Arturo tell Maribel that she cannot see Mayor anymore, and in the days afterward, she becomes “moody and sullen.” Alma remembers a time... (full context)
Chapter 23: Mayor
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
...job as a newspaper carrier. Tensions in the Toro house have eased, and Rafael ends Mayor’s grounding. It almost doesn’t matter to Mayor, though, as he is still not allowed to... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
One Friday afternoon, Mayor is sitting in class when he notices that it is snowing outside—though it is late... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Mayor drives his father’s car out to the Evers School and gets there at around two... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Mayor meets her at the front of the school, and, though Maribel does not have her... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
At nearly five in the evening, Maribel and Mayor arrive at their destination—it is the beach that Rafael once took the Toros to. Maribel... (full context)
Chapter 25: Alma
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
...apartment—Celia is surprised to see her, as the two have not talked since Maribel and Mayor have stopped seeing one another. Alma tells Celia that Maribel’s bus didn’t come twenty minutes... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...some coffee while the two of them wait for Maribel to get home. Celia calls Mayor, but his phone is off, and she again assumes that he is in a movie. (full context)
Chapter 26: Mayor
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
By the time Mayor and Maribel get back in the car and start heading for home, it is already... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
When Mayor and Maribel reach home, Rafael Toro is standing outside in the parking lot smoking a... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Maribel asks Mayor what is going on, and she seems to be growing agitated. Celia tells her that... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
...a nurse takes her away to the surgical waiting area to be with her mother. Mayor, Rafael, and Celia stay put. Eventually, a doctor comes out to tell them that Arturo... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
...find Garrett, there was a confrontation and a man fired at him with a shotgun. Mayor cannot stop imagining the scene in greater and greater detail, and the images in his... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Celia cooks for the Riveras, Rafael drinks and smokes, and Mayor goes up to the Riveras’ apartment, where a mountain of flowers waits at their doorstep.... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
The next morning, Celia and Mayor go to visit Alma and Maribel. Mayor sits with Maribel in her bedroom while their... (full context)
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
The last time Mayor ever sees Maribel is one week later—Maribel is sitting on the curb outside of the... (full context)
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
The next morning, Alma and Maribel are gone and Mayor pictures what they might have looked like as they left for their journey. Mayor believes... (full context)
Chapter 27: Alma
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Alma does not blame Mayor Toro for what happened, but Celia comes by every day—sometimes twice a day—with food, clothes,... (full context)