Study Guide

Celia in The House of the Scorpion

By Nancy Farmer


We'd just like to go on record saying that Celia is amazing She's Matt's mother in all the ways that count. Plus, she's Matt best ally and protector during his years of growing up at the Alacrán estate. It's Celia who rescues Matt from the clutches of Rosa when he's a child, by alerting El Patrón to the fact that Matt is imprisoned. It's Celia who gives Matt a loving home and a childhood that's as normal as possible. And it's Celia who poisons Matt to, believe it or not, keep him safe. This takes some explaining, so we'll let Celia herself do it:

"I didn't give Matt enough to kill him - I wouldn't do that! - but enough to kill anyone already weak who tried to steal his heart. You've had your eight lives, El Patrón. It's time to make your peace with God." (23.55)

Celia stands up to El Patrón, which definitely takes guts. And she did something risky and crazy and totally awesome to save Matt's life. Celia effectively kills El Patrón by saving Matt. And in killing El Patrón, she has also opened the door to save Opium, a country that finally has a chance to crawl out from under the rule of a nasty dictator.

A Heroine in Mother's Clothing

But Celia isn't some sort of super spy/action hero. In fact, she's a fairly traditional woman – a loving mother, a good cook, a devout Catholic, and a believer in superstitions. Celia holds on to her past, her traditions, and who she is in order to avoid the corruption of the Alacrán estate.

As she raises a young Matt, she puts him to bed the same way every night: "She tucked Matt in and lit the holy candle in front of the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe," (2.80) a ritual we learn she never failed to complete. While of course this shows us her faith in God, it also shows us just how much she loves Matt – so much so that she prays over him every night. This love plays a big role in how Matt is able to survive.

In many ways, Celia's life before Matt is a mystery to us. We get a bit of her backstory (see Chapter 14), but we don't know much about her emotions or personality. Was she ever tempted by El Patrón's power? After all, she owed him her life when he rescued her from the border patrol. Did she ever feel greed or jealousy or rage – emotions that the Alacráns are pretty comfortable with? We never really know for sure, but we're willing to bet that Celia almost always held on to who she was, even before Matt came along. After all, that's what she does throughout the novel. She's probably the most decent person we meet, and in the end, she's also one of the novel's greatest heroes.

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