Study Guide

El Patrón in The House of the Scorpion

By Nancy Farmer

El Patrón

El Patrón gets compared to a vampire multiple times throughout the novel, and it's never a compliment (we'll put it this way: he ain't no Edward Cullen). If you think about it, comparing him to a mummy might work just as well. What we – and the characters in the book – are getting at is the fact that El Patrón is crazy old and seriously creepy. At over 140 years-old, he definitely shouldn't still be alive, and in that sense, he's a lot like Voldemort –alive and kicking when he should be dead as a doornail. Oh, and to top it off, he's evil.

Follow the Leader

Of course, this is all making it sound like El Patrón is some sort of hideous, monstrous troll. But the freakiest thing of all is that El Patrón looks like a normal guy. He isn't a mutant. And for all his evil qualities (of which there are many), El Patrón can be quite likeable. It's why Matt feels a lot of affection, and even love, towards El Patrón, especially in the beginning of the novel, before he wises up.

El Patrón is very charismatic, or charming, so he can manipulate people with his power. It's El Patrón's power that enthralls, or traps, Tam Lin, who tells our young hero, "El Patrón had an instinct for people he could enslave [...] He was such a powerful presence. Power's a strange thing, lad. It's a drug and people like me crave it." (24.25)

In his ability to gain and keep a following, El Patrón reminds us of some real-life dictators who create something known as a Cult of Personality. This term means that a dictator is really popular and is able to keep people under control by getting others to practically worship him (or her). Chairman Mao of China, Lenin of the Soviet Union, and Fidel Castro of Cuba are good examples of this type of leadership. They had massive groups of followers who respected and loved them, standing by their decisions without much question. It's no mistake that in Spanish, El Patrón basically means boss or protector.

Like a lot of dictators, El Patrón is a bad guy, through and through. He's a drug lord, he keeps slaves (eejits), he has created and killed other clones prior to Matt, and he loves to torment his family members. Plus, from the grave, he kills his entire so that they can all be buried with him in his wannabe-pharaoh tomb (Chapter 38). Creepy, creepy, creepy.

The Softer Side of Villainy

All villains are villains for a reason. So why is El Patrón such a bad guy, and, more importantly, why does he wants to live forever? Luckily, El Patrón answers this himself, when he tells Matt the story of his family:

"There were eight of us," said El Patrón, "and only I lived to grow up. Don't you think I am owed those lives?" El Patrón spoke so sharply, Matt jolted up in his chair. (23.29)

Okay, so what do we learn from this? The dude is nuts, clearly, but there's something else going on here, too. Here's our take: El Patrón is saying that because all of his siblings died young, he has a right to live far longer than the average person. Now that's some fuzzy math. He's got such a giant ego and such a huge dose of vanity that he has decided to conquer death in the ultimate power-play.

But, when you think about it, you can see that El Patrón is also afraid of death. He can't let go of things – possessions, power, life. Seeing all his siblings die young seems to have ticked him off and freaked him out. They died young, which is tragic, so he must grow (very) old, which is just... strange.

The really crazy thing is that despite his ridiculously long life and all the power and wealth he's grabbed over the years, El Patrón is still stuck in the past. He can't get over his terrible childhood. He's like a twisted version of Peter Pan – never able to fully grow up and move on. Next time, El Patrón, just try some therapy and leave the rest of us alone.

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