Macho Camacho’s Beat Pages 148-211; Book Review  

This section of  Macho Camachos Beat continues to explore the cultural and social shift in Puerto Rico towards a more Americanized society. This shift is portrayed as a negative one; a society filled with sexism, racism and classism.  Each character in the book continues to represent an aspect of the decline of Puerto Rico – throughout the social hierarchy.  This section takes the characters to a new level of depravity by merging themselves into a more materialistic culture, especially the character of Benny. As a reader, it seems that the author intends Benny to symbolize the worst of young, privileged Puerto Rican culture. Only Doña Chon remains as a symbol of hope as she clings to traditional values. Although, the reader increasingly realizes that Doña Chon lives by her own religious and moral code of conduct, she is contradicting her own moral beliefs by associating herself with the prostitute/mother who is forced into this lifestyle as she is poor and has limited choices.

The main events in this section include  Benny and his friends blowing up a separatist movement’s headquarters (the separatists symbolize a movement towards a more democratic society and one that is less “Americanized”); Benny and his friends visiting a prostitute and violating her terribly by sticking a sparkler in her vagina (and later getting off these charges), the kid getting killed by Benny’s Ferrari, as well as developments in all the central relationships.

Every interaction in this section of the book, further explores how in this “Americanized” society, things are falling apart.  The poor are getting poorer and more exploited.  This is symbolized, for example, by our new understanding that the Mother is repulsed by the Senator, but has to engage in prostitution to support her disabled child while she clings to the dream of being the next big star like Iris Chacon. It is interesting though, that the mother idolizes Iris Chacon, who has become a star by exploiting her sexuality rather than finding success through skills and education. This idolization demonstrates the deep cycle of oppression in this new society.  The Mother is buying into the dream of Americanization, believing it stands for wealth/fame and a type of freedom while really standing for more oppression, since this influence sways her goals away from stability to a lust for fame.

Benny’s activities in this section further explain how much privilege he has in this society (especially contrasted to the prostitute he violates who has no power to get him arrested) and also demonstrates the emptiness of his life.  Benny’s only love affair is with his car.  Benny is racist (as demonstrated by his membership in a club that excludes blacks), is rich and above the law.  He has inherited this position and lifestyle from his father.  The Father/Senator is also privileged and is free to indulge in promiscuity and unsavory activities (like following a schoolgirl and considering whether he will attack her) with no repercussions. In this section, Benny runs over the “imbecile” child and Benny is shown to only worry about his car.  He shows no remorse, and no responsibility for the accident. It seems that the death of this voiceless child symbolizes the death of Puerto Rican traditional culture and the rise of American culture. Children are usually symbolic of the future, and the power between the “imbecile” child and Benny is a comparable to the economic power between Puerto Rico an the United States. These comparative similarities between the “imbecile” child and Benny an effective analogy of the relationship between former Puerto Rician culture and America’s influence.

Throughout the section we are repeatedly reminded of the song “Macho Camacho’s Garacha”.  The language continues to mimic the rhythm of the song. A correlation is made between the characters attitudes towards the song and their social status. The higher the social status (like the Senator, his wife and Benny) the less the song is liked. The song is seen by the wealthy, as an anthem of the masses; those with lower social status.  Ironically, there is snobbery amongst the rich and how they perceive this song when in fact it is they that are living the idolized life as depicted in the song.

As I read more of this book, I am getting used to how it shifts between character voices and how every single snippet of dialogue or action somehow represents an aspect of Puerto Rican culture and the impact of Americanization. It is a harsh portrait of a culture in a state of change.

 
References

Sánchez, L. R. (1980 ). Macho Camacho’s Beat. New York: Pantheon Books.

 

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