Ana Larragoity Cubillas is in search of adventure and hopes to follow the footsteps of her conquistador ancestors all the way to the enchanted island of Puerto Rico. In Spain, Ana is a misfit who is painfully made aware of her shortcomings by her antagonistic mother, who had hoped for a son, but birthed a daughter instead. Ana’s one and only confidant, best friend and lover Elena is to be married to a man named Inocente. In hopes to stay near her love, Ana intrigues and seduces Inocente’s twin brother Ramón to fulfill her desire of always being close to Elena. As thrill seekers themselves, the twin’s become interested in Ana’s dreams of relocating to Puerto Rico in search of fortune and adventure. As the story unfolds, it becomes painfully obvious that Ana is willing to sacrifice anything or anyone in pursuit of success. Ana’s ambition, drive and ruthlessness know no bounds. From a feminist’s perspective, Ana is the epitome of an independent, entrepreneur female heroine – a protagonist to be revered for surviving in a man’s world; from a historical perspective, Ana is cold, callous, and malevolent – a historical antagonist who puts the bottom line first while engaging in the cruelest business of all: slavery.
Never before had I read a novel where the main character could simultaneously be both the antagonist and protagonist through the entirety of the story. Ana should be studied, dissected, and analyzed in the likes of Jane Eyre, Juliet and Tess of the d’Urbervilles for years and centuries to come.
Want to learn more about Esmeralda Santiago? Check out her interview on PBS!