The Tortilla Curtain
While driving his custom, foreign car to the recycling center, Delaney hits Candida who is crossing he street when returning from the market. Initially, Delaney is concerned about his car and then insurance rates and then lastly, for the man who was struck by his car. Candida, who is severely injured from the accident, but afraid to seek medical help due to not wanting to be found by la Amiga, is in pain and confused as Delaney attempts to communicate with him in English and then French.
When it was apparent that neither were able to understand the other, Delaney offered Candida twenty dollars as some sort of apology, penance or maybe even bribe. It was at this point that their two lives began to parallel each other in opposite says. While Delaney and Candida both reside in Toboggan Canyon, they each return to very different homes. Delaney returns to his expensive home in the secluded and exclusive “Arroyo Blanch” estates. Candida, however, returns to his home which Delaney has no idea even exists only a few hundred feet from his own backyard.
Candida, in fact, does not return to a home at all, but rather to his makeshift camp in the valley below “Arroyo Blanch. ” Both characters have families who have one thing in common, the American dream. Candida and his pregnant wife illegally came into the United States with he hope of not only chasing, but living the American dream. On the other hand, Delaney, along with his wife and her six-year old son, have secluded themselves and begun to hind behind walls in an attempt to protect and hold onto the American dream.
Two men who were born on opposing sides of the United States/Mexico border are now on the same side of the border, but are now being separated by a wall. A wall that was seen as a necessity in order to keep the coyotes and other animals out of their yard in order to protect their privacy, their children and their pets. Delaney appears to have it all. He is married to a very successful realtor, lives in a nice house, drives a nice (foreign) car and has as much time as he wants to do the things that he loves and he loves the outdoors.
Delaney writes an outdoors column for a nature magazine and agreed to move into the hills because it gave him the opportunity to be closer to nature, but all that appears to be in danger after his accident with Candida and the vote to build a concrete wall around “Arroyo Blanch. ” Candida, however, has nothing but the love of his wife and the dream of one day getting an apartment for him and America to live in and raise their baby, but is dreams begin to pop like a bouquet of balloons as one unlucky event strikes him after the other, beginning with the accident with Delaney.
It is through the series of unfortunate events that happen to Candida and a series of other things that happen to Delaney that the reader becomes conscious of a change in their character. In response to some comments by one of his friends, Delaney says, “Immigrants are the life-blood of this country – we’re a nation of immigrants – and neither of us would be standing here today if it wasn’t. ” (page 101) As the book progresses, hatred of Mexicans, especially for one hat threw himself in front of his car, begins to take control of Delaney.
Atone point, a fire in the canyon breaks out and he blames the fire on two Mexicans who were not at fault and even begins to fight them. He realizes his downward spiral and thinks, “He [Delaney] was the hater, he was the redneck’s, the racist, the abuser… Would he have felt the same way if the men walking up the road had been white? ‘ (page 290) Candida also goes through a change in personality. All he wanted dodo was to make enough money in order to take care of his wife and his new baby and he was going to do it the right.
Candida had been raised very religious and knew that it was wrong to steal, but he wouldn’t have to steal because he was a hard worker and God would provide. Candida was able to make money, but each time they were close to having enough money to take a step forward and get out of the canyon, something bad would happen, like being beaten and robbed or having a fire start. Candida felt that he was the unluckiest man in the world. Candida swore that he would never steal, but after his baby was born, and there were no other options, he began to take from the rich white people.