Abel: Abel is the smallest of Tony’s friends. He has a habit of urinating in inappropriate places.
Bones: Bones is one of Tony’s friends. Tony and the others are wary of him because often he acts as if he is crazy.
Father Byrnes: Father Byrnes is the Catholic priest who gives Tony and his friends their catechism lessons. He teaches them to fear God. However, he does not treat the boys equally. When they are late for class, he punishes Florence but excuses Tony.
Chavez: Chavez is the father of Tony’s friend Jason. After Lupito kills his brother, the sheriff, Chavez rounds up a mob to find and kill Lupito.
Cico: Cico is Tony’s friend. He does not hang out with the other boys and is reputed to spend all his time along the river, fishing. Cico shows Tony the golden carp.
Ernie: Ernie is one of Tony’s friends. He likes to brag and always wants to be the center of attention.
Florence: Florence is one of Tony’s friends. He is an atheist. He is keenly aware of the injustices in the world and cannot reconcile them with the existence of a loving God. His own family is riddled with tragedy. His mother died when he was three, his father drank himself to death, and his sisters are prostitutes. Florence too meets an unhappy fate when is drowned in the lake.
Horse: Horse is one of Tony’s friends. He gets his nickname from the fact that his face looks like the face of a horse. He is big and tough and loves to wrestle.
Uncle Juan: Uncle Juan is one of Tony’s uncles who lives at El Puerto.
Uncle Lucas: Uncle Lucas is Tony’s uncle on his mother’s side. Lucas is cursed by the Trementina daughters and only escapes death because of Ultima’s intervention.
Lloyd: Lloyd is one of Tony’s friends. He has a voice like a girl’s, and he is always warning that people can get sued for even the most minor of infractions.
Lupito: Lupito is a World War II veteran whose war experiences have left him deeply scarred mentally. He murders Chavez’s brother, the local sheriff, and is in turn killed by the townsmen. Tony observes the killing.
Miss Maestas: Miss Maestas is Tony’s first grade teacher. He does well under her tutelage, and is allowed to skip second grade.
Andrew Merez: Andrew Merez is one of Tony’s older brothers. He returns with Eugene and Leon from World War II service, and then decided to remain at home when his brothers go off to lead their own lives. He gets a job in town and decides to finish his high school education. But he does not stick to his resolution for long. When his brothers next come to visit, he goes back with them to pursue his life away from his parents.
Antonio Merez: Antonio Merez is the narrator of the novel. He is nearly seven years old when it begins. Highly intelligent, thoughtful, and precocious, his mind is filled with questions about religion. He wants to know what happens to the soul after death, and the nature of divine forgiveness. He goes through many traumatic experiences. He sees two men killed and his friend Florence drowned; he takes part in two of Ultima’s magical cures, and he finds his brother Andrew at Rosie’s, the house of prostitution. Tony’s mother wants him to be a priest, but in addition to the Catholicism he is learning, he is also attracted to the pagan myths that Cico tells him about. He gradually learns that he must think for himself and evolve a faith that honors all aspects of his heritage.
Deborah Merez: Deborah Merez is one of Tony’s two older sisters. She has been to school for two years and insists on speaking only English.
Eugene Merez: Eugene Merez is one of Tony’s older brothers. They return home from World War II and spend a few months living with their parents. But they are restless, and Eugene takes the lead in deciding to leave home to try their luck in Las Vegas or Santa Fe.
Gabriel Merez: Gabriel Merez is Tony’s father. Before he married he was a vaquero (cowboy) who loved to roam across the plains. He cherished his independence and his freedom. Since marrying into the Lunas, however, his life has changed. He is restless because marriage has tied him down to living in a single place, with a woman who comes from a family of farmers, not vaqueros. This is the cause of many arguments between them. Gabriel dreams of moving with his entire family to the vineyards of California, but his three oldest sons make it clear that they are not interested. He has to accept that his dreams will never come true.
Leon Merez: Leon Merez is Tony’s eldest brother. He is badly affected by his experiences in World War II and has nightmares about them. Like his brothers, he is unhappy living at home and he goes along with Eugene’s decision to leave.
Maria Merez: Maria Merez is Tony’s mother. She comes from a family of farmers and is a devout Catholic. She wants Tony to become a priest.
Theresa Merez: Theresa Merez is one of Tony’s two older sisters. She is younger than Deborah, who teaches her English.
Uncle Mateo: Uncle Mateo is one of Tony’s uncles. He is the best story teller in the family.
Narciso: Narciso is a friend of Tony’s father, and he is known as the town drunk. But this is deceptive. He is in fact a man of integrity and courage. He tries to save Lupito from the mob, and he stands up to Tenorio. Eventually he sacrifices his life trying to warn Ultima of the danger from Tenorio. Another notable thing about Narciso is that he keeps a magnificent garden, full of all kinds of fruit and vegetables.
Uncle Pedro: Uncle Pedro is one of Tony’s uncles who live at El Puerto. When he hears that Tenorio is seeking revenge on Ultima for the death of his daughter, Pedro immediately heads for the Marez’s home with Tony. When Tenorio aims his gun at Tony, Uncle Pedro shoots and kills him.
Prudencio Luna: Prudencio Luna is Tony’s grandfather on his mother’s side.
Samuel: Samuel is one of Tony’s friends, and the Vitamin Kid’s brother. He is more softly spoken than the others. To Tony, he always seems wise and old.
Tellez: Tellez is a friend of Tony’s father. He seeks Ultima’s help because a curse has been laid on his house. Ultima performs a ceremony that lifts the curse.
Tenorio Trementina: Tenorio Trementina is a bad-tempered, vicious man who owns the saloon in town. He is also the town barber. His three daughters practice witchcraft. After one of them dies, Tenorio vows to be revenged on Ultima, whom he blames for the death. Ultima’s owl attacks him and plucks out one of his eyes. As he pursues his vengeance, Tenorio kills Narciso and tries to kill Tony. He also kills Ultima’s owl, which results in her death. Tenorio is eventually shot and killed by Tony’s Uncle Pedro.
Trementina Daughters: The three unnamed daughters of Tenorio are all thought to be witches. They put a curse on Lucas that nearly kills him. They are reputed to hold Black Masses and perform other rites in service of the devil. Two of the daughters die during the course of the novel, and their father blames Ultima for their deaths.
Ultima: Ultima is an old woman who is a curandera, a healer. She learned her powers from a great healer in Las Pasturas, the town where Tony was born. She knows how to heal by using plants and herbs, and she can also lift curses. Ultima is a long-time friend of the Merez family, and assisted Maria with the birth of Tony. The Merez’s invite her to live with them because they do not want her to live alone on the llano in her old age. Everyone in the house reveres Ultima, including Tony, who learns much from her about nature. He also absorbs her wisdom about life. Although Ultima is wise, she is also feared by her enemies, the Trementinas and their associates, who call her a bruja, a witch. Although Ultima is ruthless in how she deals with the evil of the Trementinas, she teaches Tony the virtues of tolerance. She sees wisdom in all things, knows her own place in the world, and accepts her destiny.
Miss Violet: Miss Violet is Tony’s third grade teacher.
Vitamin Kid: Vitamin Kid is one of Tony’s friends. No one knows his real name. He is the fastest runner among all the boys. No one can beat him.