Yunior, the speaker, focuses on Nilda, a quiet young Dominican girl in his neighborhood who becomes the neighborhood tramp as she grows up. It’s obvious he loves her and has since before she had her killer body, back when she was quiet and shy and hid behind her hair. And he still loves her now in her brokenness, loves her even as she chases after the wrong guy after guy. But he loses her to his hardest competition, his brother.His infatuation with Nilda makes it seem like she is the protagonist because he describes her to great depth and even names the excerpt after her.
But I can’t help but think that the main character is actually Rafa. While Nilda seems to be the main character, it’s really her relationship with Rafa the summer he learns he has cancer and the way his death affects her that take the spotlight. Because Yunior loves Nilda while Nilda loves Rafa, Rafa’s actions have a profound effect on Nilda, which has a profound impact on Yunior. Rafa causes Yunior and Nilda’s change in a chain reaction. When Rafa dies of cancer, Nilda deteriorates into a hot mess, and it breaks Yunior’s heart to see her falling apart. He contemplates marrying Nilda and taking her to the West Coast like she had wanted to with his brother, but ultimately he can’t fill his brother’s place.