Do you remember what it felt like when you were young and in love for the first time? Did you often find yourself doodling on your notebook while lost in thoughts, just thinking about that special someone? Most if not everyone has experienced love at some point in their lives, and so did Mayor and Maribel. They had the most imperfectly perfect love story that has been under speculation in regards to its genuineness. Many disagree that teenagers overall, especially these two, actually understand what real love is, and that they are only infatuated with each other. Could this be any more far from the truth? Author William M. Kephart said, “The difference between love and infatuation may be an arbitrary one. In a literal sense, “infatuate” means to make “fatuous” or to affect with romantic folly. Young people use this term to describe romance that is faded out… and in which the emotional commitment is retrospectively at least, unsustainable.” Should Maribel and Mayor’s relationship be considered as real love, infatuation or a combination? Even a blind Cupid, would say, of course their relationship is based solely on real love! Their union may have been short-lived, but it was one of the steamiest, most sincere and innocently romantic love story ever. Both characters demonstrated their love with so much passion, selflessness, subtle intensity and a series of gut-wrenching emotions. It is true that love is a very complicated emotion, there is no wrong or right way, and we all have different ways of showing it. According to American pastor and author Joshua Harris, “True love isn’t expressed in [just] passionately whispered words, an intimate kiss or an embrace…love is expressed in self-control, patience, even words left unsaid.” This quote serves to inform that true love is far deeper than words could ever explain, or any action or body language could even convey. The words we don’t say, the selfless thoughts and empathetic feelings we share speaks louder than a million words ever could.

In the Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, Maribel, and Mayor’s unique, love story confirmed and added a new meaning to what real love should be. Speaking and using strong love language was not their style, they conjugated on a deeper more soul connecting level as described in the quote. No one can predict what will happen when real love is in control. As humans, we tend to submit and lose ourselves, regardless of the consequences. We go above and beyond to fulfill the wishes of our hearts desires no matter what the sacrifices may be. All this was carefully demonstrated all throughout this book between Maribel and Mayor. These teenagers with their unique background life stories put the L in Love with a twist.  Mayor not only became Maribel’s neighbor, but also the angel that subsequently took her breath away, gave her a new voice, and a new meaning to life. Based on Mayors distant relationship with his family, it is quite understandable why he felt the need to be so emotionally invested with Maribel so fast and yet so deep, he was lonely. According to Author and teacher Evelyn Duvall,”When a child feels estranged from his parents, the adolescent may attach himself affectionately to a member of the opposite sex both to satisfy his emotional hunger and to show his parents that they are not so emotionally important anymore.” This could  not be any more true, which explains why Mayor’s feelings for Maribel aren’t made up it was completely sincere, and he was invested. She became the most important person to him. 

Without admitting, even Mayors best friend could tell that he was head over heels over this girl that he never even met, so he came up with the cutest description for them before they even became a couple. “A Hot Little Taquito for Little Mayorito.” A Taquito is a small rolled up taco with meats, cheese and other yummy filling inside. This was a form of comparison used to sum up little Maribel, who was soft and warm on the inside. After so many days have passed with him yearning to meet this little so-called ‘Taquito,’ there she was, as Mayor walked down the aisles of the dollar tree store. “…When I caught sight of her, she was skinny and petite. Big full lips, and a long, thin Indian nose. Black hair that reached down her back in waves. Long as hell eyelashes. I stopped and stared…” (Henriquez 40). There was no question that in that short period Mayor checked out Maribel from head to toe. The quote pointed out how much details he perceived from his descriptions. Who knew, he probably had x-ray vision and saw straight through her soul too, if only his eyes could speak.

 A guy that is genuinely interested in someone pays keen attention to their every detail. Mayor couldn’t get over the beauty she possessed, he was completely lost in that moment and made sure his eyes didn’t miss anything. “Forget about how she dressed, white canvas sneakers straight out of another decade, and a huge yellow sweater over leggings, and forget about the fact that her black hair was mussed like she’d just woken up, and the fact that she wasn’t wearing any makeup or jewelry or anything else that most of the girls in my school liked to pile on. Forget about all of that. She was fucking gorgeous. My heart was jackhammering so hard I thought people from the next aisle were going to start complaining about the noise.” (Henriquez 41). Sure enough, from all the ‘and’ used to exaggerate all the simple flaws she possessed at that moment, he was also repetitive when he said ‘forget about’ at the beginning of every line. It almost the same as removing unnecessary dirt and dust from a newly found diamond in order to realize it’s true value. Mayor was love struck and got more eye candy than he had hoped. Most men are usually more visual; they tend to work themselves from the outward appearance in, but in this case, Mayor was complete. He could’ve cared less about anything else, what lies beneath the surface, the way she dressed, which obviously wasn’t good at all, he was able to see beyond everything. She was naturally appealing to him, and she didn’t seem like a snob. She was simple and attractive. This is not infatuation, what Mayor felt was  real. Real love doesn’t recognize flaws and its obvious Mayor didn’t either. The first impression says it all. Mayor had no reservations on how he felt the first time he saw her. He wasn’t even rude with his thoughts as many would have been, though he did seem to have devoured her with his eyeballs.

After seeing Maribel at the dollar tree, Mayor had the typical reaction a lot of people have when they like someone but was too shy to admit it. He stayed in his room every time Maribel went to his house with her family. He even admitted, “…I could have looked at her all day, but actually having conversations with her? That was a different story.” (Henriquez 68). Sure enough, this is an entirely reasonable reaction; it’s almost like loving someone from a distance, the kind we all have for celebrity crushes except Maribel was not a celebrity. Mayor was nervous that if he’d try to talk to her, he’d probably say something stupid he’d regret forever, so like the old saying, ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry.’

We can always tell when someone is in love through their actions, and actions do speak louder than words. Little Mayor that is known never to stand up for himself developed the courage, to defend his little ‘taquito’ when Garette tried to pick on her in the parking lot. He quickly found out Maribel was an Evers kid, but the thought never lingered he just knew she was still the prettiest girl he’d seen in real life, and he was going to defend her no matter what. If, “leave her alone!”, “She hasn’t done anything to you.” was Mayor’s way of saving Maribel, then it worked for the moment. Though things didn’t end well for Mayor after being shoved to the ground and called a ‘shitface,’ he brushed himself off and walked over to her. One would never imagine that the first thing Mayor would end up saying to the girl he’s been fantasizing about would be, “Are you ok?” only to get a nod as a response and, “Don’t pay attention to him, He’s a jerk.” This act in itself is so pure and selfless, him knowing the consequence of even talking to Garette, but he still did regardless. All in the name of love he probably didn’t realize he had for Maribel just yet. On top of this, he stood in the rain and waited with her till he knew she was safe. How many teenage boys will stand in the rain and get wet with some girl unless they had an ulterior motive or was looking for something in return? Mayor’s action was pure and genuine he felt the need to protect her.

While he waited with her they had short conversations that made absolutely no sense to the normal person, but to them it was everything. It’s priceless when two people can talk about the simplest things for hours, and it never gets boring; Something as simple as ‘habaneros.’ “Habaneros are hot,” Maribel said with a smile that seemed to have wrecked Mayor. He responded with, “No kidding, I learned the hard way.” Are they talking about habaneros? A good guess would be Maribel is the hot habanero, and Mayor learned the hard way from getting shoved to the ground by Garette. Whichever way, if she’s a hot little habanero or a warm little taquito it doesn’t matter, Mayor already knew after that afternoon that something magical transpired between them. “ After that something between me and Maribel changed, I felt this weird protectiveness over her so on Sundays after church instead of hiding away in my room like I used to, I made it a point to sit next to her on our little brown couch attempting to have quiet conversations with her and telling stupid jokes in an effort to make her smile again like I had that one time.” (Henriquez 74) This quote described the turning point of what was a heart wrenching attraction to something much deeper. Mayor wanted to be around Maribel more and he felt like it was necessary for him to be her protector. These couch conversations was the starting point of something special. He didn’t only sit with her because he had to, he did so because he wanted to. Making her smile was his goal and according to author Julie A. Walker “A smile is worth a thousand words.” This means that a simple smile can tell so much and creates its own message without words. Every time we smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.  In many cases, the smile can take on a specific meaning because of the surroundings and situation when it happens. A person who is infatuated with another does not pay attention to specific details such as a smile. Their brains are too busy thinking about things of minimal or no importance. So, for Mayor to care about her simply smiling speaks volume of how much he truly cared, and that, in itself was a genuine act of love.

There is no doubt that Mayor had crawled out of his shell after the incident with Garrett, and from spending more time with Maribel. For someone who was anxious to meet Maribel to being shy when he finally did, then running to her rescue and becoming her safe haven even though she never asked, showed growth, comfort, that he had stepped up and wasn’t afraid to be her Superhero. It was important to Mayor just to see Maribel smile, so if acting like a comedian was what it was going to take, then he was ready and willing to do just about anything. This kind of dedication and selflessness is priceless! Mayor was very patient and had a kind heart. He demonstrated this throughout the rest of their story that only intensified till the last minute. The writer took us through all the stages of this developing relationship in subtle details, while leaving little gaps for the readers to fill. It Showed how Mayor grew from a little lonely boy, to someone anxious, then shy, and to being protective. Maribel also changed from being quiet and scatterbrained, to more talkative, responsive, unforgetful and overall happier each time she’s around Mayor. Love had helped them to blossom in ways that are indescribable. It is clear that infatuation is not, what is being described. Mayor and Maribel’s feelings go way beyond that. He dealt with her in a gentle, respectful manner; he earned her trust, friendship, and love in return.

They both accepted and saw the good in each other and only grew closer when obstacles presented themselves. Even when Mayor’s dad seemed to disapprove of Mayors feeling towards Maribel, he was determined to prove a point. “My dad’s narrow-mindedness only made me feel more connected to Maribel, though, like maybe I was the only one who understood her, the only one who was willing to give her a chance…Her mom wouldn’t let Maribel actually go anywhere with me, so she and I just sat on the floor…and talked. (Henriquez 109). True love is demonstrated through patience and sacrifice. In the midst of the Alma and Raf love block wall, these two lovebirds were humble enough not to push an issue, they secretly built their connection, established trust and were complete in just each others company. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that they are both in control, whether they realize it or not. For a person that doesn’t speak much, Maribel had Mayor wrapped around her fingers, and in a position where he’d probably climb Everest for her if it came down to that. That’s just how love works, it takes over and make us do things we never imagined possible. He was compromising in every way necessary to keep her comfortable, safe and happy. She never asked for anything, Mayor  just knew what made her happy, how to be patient enough to understand her feelings and he paid keen attention to every detail.

Maribel and Mayor had such a powerful and deep connection simple people would not understand. Their deepest thoughts and feelings were merely said out loud; they had the type of chemistry where they just know what the other one was thinking, feeling or wanted to say. That kind of connection that cannot be made up; it comes from deep within the soul. Other speculations are that Mayor is only taking advantage of Maribel because of her brain injury, and that he’s only infatuated with her. How absurd is that statement? Mayor ended up with a split lip from Garrett for defending Maribels, name, and honor. He tried to portray Maribel as just a ‘handicap’ of whom Mayor could easily take advantage. It’s evident this is not true, all Mayor did was love and accept her completely for who she was, the only person that tried to take advantage of her in this book was Garrett both physically and verbally.  “She a good lay?” I bet she is. I bet you can do whatever you want with a girl like that…” (Henriquez 128). If what Mayor felt for Maribel was infatuation he would never stand up to Garrett after he said these disgusting things about her. The poor guy can’t even throw a good punch, but all the belittling things Garrett was saying about Maribel pushed Mayor to the edge, and he had enough of Garrett’s insults. They weren’t even directed to Mayor, but that was an act of respect that Mayor had for Maribel, and he didn’t want anyone talking trash about her.

It is safe to say that Mayor was Maribel’s superhero; he fought battles for her without her knowledge, and he never went and told her what he did, so he could scoop up extra credit. He did all this because he genuinely cared about her. That Christmas Mayor saved all his allowance so he could buy Maribel a scarf. He didn’t just buy her a simple scarf he had put so much thought into it. He made sure it matched her sunglasses, this showed that he paid attention to her every detail. He even bought it a month prior; this guy was all in, no questions asked! When he gave her the scarf he felt nervous because he cared so much about her reaction, he was more worried about if she’d like it versus what he was going to get in return. “…I felt nervous all of a sudden like maybe it was too much, or maybe she wouldn’t like it.” (Henriquez 142) Guys that aren’t in love and only infatuated don’t care about if the girl likes his gift all he’d care about is the fact that he got her something and now it’s her turn to pay the piper. That night was also the first time they kissed in that hallway, Mayor described it as his, “first REAL kiss.,” not just a kiss, but a real one, one that she approved. “…I kissed her, this strange electricity shot through my body. My first real kiss…she pulled away first, but she peeked at me and smiled.” (Henriquez 142) As mentioned before a simple smile could mean so many things, in this case, that was her approval. That shot of electricity that shot through Mayor was all the built up emotions he’d been bottling up for Maribel. All the love, care, and deep kinetic energy that keeps them engaged and connected from the core. Speaking of approval, even Maribel’s mom seemed to have subtly approved of their ‘friendship’ without admitting it out loud to anyone.  

Maribel’s mother pretended to be oblivious to the fact that there is something much greater than just a ‘friendship’ between her daughter and Mayor, she knew all along that Mayor liked Maribel. During a conversation with Mayors mom Alma said, “He seems to like Maribel, no? He’s been good for her; I think She’s different when he’s around. More like herself..”(Henriquez 168)  In the quote she didn’t say that he was good ‘TO’ her? She said he was good ‘FOR’ her. It felt as if Alma approved without really saying it, as long as her daughter was happy and she got confirmation from Mayor’s mom, that Mayor was actually a good boy. Even a mother knows true love when she sees it even if they don’t say it out loud. A mother knows best and if Alma had thought there was anything along the lines of infatuation or her daughter being taken advantage of by Mayor, she would’ve never made this comment. She didn’t need anyone to tell her, she was able to see this in her daughters demeanor that she was a happier person. True love did that to her, not infatuation.

The language that Maribel spoke was louder than words itself. She didn’t use many words throughout the novel, but when she did, it just always seem like code for something else. She is not a dumb girl she knows a lot more than she’s letting on. In the conversation, she had with Mayor about the car she said,”…you got a car?…so the car is sad…it’s lonely…should we visit it?” (Henriquez 171) Mayor’s response was, “the car?” then I realized what she was trying to do. See she was smart. She was way smarter than anyone gave her credit for. ” I smiled… I mean sure if you want to.” “… We told her mom we were going over to the apartment, and I promised, as I always did, that I wouldn’t leave her side the whole thirty-step journey from her unit to mine.”(Henriquez 171) Now it’s not rocket science to know that Maribel initiated the whole idea of what happened in the car. She knew exactly how to use code to convey a message. The car is sad; it’s lonely, should we visit it, Maribel was not referring to the car itself. She was the lonely, sad car. Mayor knew too what she was implying, and hell no, he was not going to turn down that opportunity. His warm taquito, upgraded to a hot habanero and needed to be cooled down like an overheated car. It can also be noticed  that Mayor didn’t say ‘I.’ told her mom we were going to the apartment? He said, “We.” Told her mom we were going to the apartment. This was a decision initiated by Maribel and decided by both of them, it was nothing forced since they were both in mutual agreement.  When they reached the apartment little Maribel knew how to sneak in and out of the house quietly; Mayor didn’t have to cover her mouth, she knew exactly what she wanted and acted accordingly to get it.

In the car she skimmed her hand across the bumpy faded leather across the dash, then she asked Mayor, “Do you know how to drive?,” this was also coded for making out. She said, “ you talked for a long time…it was like hours” After Mayor tried to answer with his boring driver’s ed story? She never complained about Mayor talking too much till this moment, where she wanted him to get down to business and shut up already. When a girl wants what she wants then two minutes of talk will definitely sound like hours. Go, Maribel! “She grazed her fingertips across the console, her nails scraping the hard plastic I watched the delicate round bone at her wrist twist back and forth and felt the blood pounding in my ears…”(Henriquez 173) There is no doubt she was purposely turning him on with all this fetish play. Lucky for Mayor his ears didn’t catch fire or explode. She went ahead and told Mayor using his name this time, “Mayor? I feel like you’re the only one who… sees… me.”(Henriquez 173) All the eclipses used between who, sees and me, were indications that she was either doing something erotic between these words or there was room for something else unsaid, maybe it was her way of saying he’s her first or she was just genuinely grateful that he accepted her for who she was and not treating her differently like everyone else.

It can be concluded that the love between the teens was mutual, and not forced. Mayor has been very respectful, patient caring and understanding from the start. Maribel recognized how good of a guy Mayor was and she trusted him, she submitted herself and gave him everything he needed, which was simply HER. They loved and accepted each other without thought or speculations. It is evident that true love changes a person, the way they are, the things they do, and the sacrifices they make. So was their relationship based on infatuation? Absolutely not, this was all based on pure love, the real type of love. Loving and being loved adds richness to our lives. When people feel close to others they are happier and even healthier. Love helps us feel important, understood and secure. Each kind of love has its own distinctive feel, so there’s no wrong or right way. The kind of love we feel in romantic relationships is its own unique type of love, just like Mayor and Maribel’s. Cristina did an excellent job with creating the tiniest most important details in a way that the normal person wouldn’t understand. This required the use of imagination and placing one’s self in the character’s shoe to create or complete an idea or scene.  It is also evident that teenagers do fall in love and can understand and care about one’s deepest feelings. Like grown-ups, teens know how to sacrifice, and they understand how to be logical, romantic and thoughtful when their with the right person and treated as a prized possession and not a toy.”You Don’t Need Another Human Being to make your life complete, but lets be honest. Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see them as disasters in your soul but cracks to put their love into is the most calming thing in this world!”- Emery Allen


Works Cited:

Duvall, Evelyn Millis. “Adolescent Love as a Reflection of Teen-Agers’ Search for Identity.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 26, no. 2, 1964, pp. 226–229. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Henriquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel. Unabridged. Books on Tape; [New York], 2014.

Kephart, William M. “Some Correlates of Romantic Love.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 29, no. 3, 1967, pp. 470–474. JSTOR, JSTOR,



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