Rosario Castellanos’ The Luck of Teodoro Mendez Acubai is a narrative focused on the social and historical identities of its characters, presented through their own perspectives upon the world. The two most prominent characters, that of the title character of Teodoro Mendez Acubai, a rural worker and native Mexican Indian, and Don Augustin Velasco, a merchant of European heritage, each view the narrative from their social and historical identity, which thus informs their take on events. Hence, both of these characters portray the roles that are given to them by social and historical discourse.
Teodoro Mendez Acubai, therefore, at the outset of the narrative finds a silver coin which sets in motion the story. The reason why Teodoro finds the coin is consistent with his social status, as established in the very first sentence: “Walking through the streets of Jobel (with lowered eyelids as befitted his humble person) Acubal Teodoro Mendez found a coin.” Thus, the turn in Teodoro’s life begins when he follows his social status: he finds the coin because of the humiliated status of the native within a highly segregated society.
Much in the same manner, Don Augustin views Acubai with a suspcision, looking upon him as the conquerer upon the conquered. Thus, Augustin views him as a lower form of life, prone to savagery and violence. When he sees Acubai intending to buy something, all the social stereotypes shapes his thoughts, suggesting to him that the Indians are planning a revolt. Augustin thus informs those of his race and class: “His sense of solidarity of race, class and occupation forced him to communicate his suspicions to other traders and the police occurred together. The neighborhood was on notice thanks to the diligence of Augustin.” Hence, in both cases, the initial reactions of both characters is the direct product of their status within Mexican society.
When Teodoro finall enters the store to purchase something, thus breaking with his social identity, the result is tragedy: Augustin brandishes a gun at him for merely entering the store, suspecting Teodoro has violent intents, and Teodoro is ultimately taken away by the police. Castellanos can thus be said to represent the social structure of Mexico itself, showing the logical conclusions of the social identities that exist in Mexico as well as divisions.
Accordingly, identity in Castellanos text is filtered through social and historical legacies. The only time in the story when these identities are broken is when Teodoro thinks about what he will purchase with the coin he has found and decides to enter the store. But then once again the social identities show their dominance, causing him to be locked up. The identities of Castellanos’ characters are not represented, imagined or negotiated through the individual characters themselves, but rather the society and history that has conditioned these same identities.