Angelina Santos-De La Cruz (seen on the left above, with the leg injury) was born in late February of 1977, nine months to the day after her parents’ June wedding. At the time the Hometown begins, in the fall of 1994, she is seventeen.
Angelina is just a Good Kid in pretty much every dimension: she’s a shoo-in for valedictorian, she’s an athlete (captain of the field hockey team), she’s in the school choir, and she’s in all the school plays. The eldest of seven children, she got used to taking on responsibility early on, and she helps out a lot at home – once all those school activities are done, of course. She’s also an active participant at her family’s church, though she’s maybe not quite as devout a Catholic as they are (more on that later).
What’s more, she doesn’t fall into the trap of many a Good Kid and become self-righteous. She has friends among all strata of Belford High School society, and she doesn’t judge people for having a different life than she does. Many of the school’s bad girls – including Vicki – have waited for quite some time for the slut-shaming to begin before they realized it wasn’t going to.
And for those who do become her friend, there are certain benefits. She is fiercely loyal and fiercely protective, and while she’s not unusually large, her physical strength as an athlete and the self-defense techniques she was taught by her father – Belford’s chief of police – make her an effective protector indeed. Yes, this becomes an issue during the course of Hometown.
But as much as Angelina is a genuine Good Kid, she is not without her issues with her family. The first and, until recently, foremost, was about what she was going to be when she grew up. Ever since she was a very little girl, Angelina has wanted to be a doctor. Her mother takes it at least seriously enough to use it as a prod to get her to do her homework (“Have to take those Science classes if you want to be a doctor, mi’jita.”), but her father insists that she’ll be a nurse instead. He indulged her when she was a small child, like another parent might indulge a child who wants to fly a space fighter, but now that she’s getting ready to graduate high school, it’s time to get serious: all that time and effort and expense of becoming a doctor will just go to waste when she gets married, has a passel of kids, and settles down to raise them, which she will of course be doing as a good Catholic girl.
Why yes, Dad is a rather old-fashioned guy.
(Holding on to her dream in the face of her father’s discouragement has given Angelina an iron will that gives her an edge that she needs during the story – as does her knowledge of first aid, for that matter – but it still hurts.)
This brings us to the second, newer, and more serious issue: Angelina’s best friend Kara Sauer is gay. Angelina herself couldn’t care less, but she does keep it secret from her father, because she knows that if he ever found out, she would never be allowed to see Kara again.
And speaking of sexuality, Angelina is having a few issues with her own. Oh, she’s very much attracted to boys, but that causes its own problems: she’s recently started feeling That Way about her and Kara’s mutual best friend Jason Olsen. She’s had boyfriends before, but the farthest she’s gone with them is some kissing, maybe a bit (a little bit) of feeling around up top – above her clothes, of course. But she likes Jason, she trusts Jason, and she thinks she may want to go further with him. And that scares her. It scares her because her female relatives have spent years warning her that any sexual activity at all will absolutely guarantee pregnancy, and the facts about Safe Sex that she’s learned in health class only help so much. It scares her because a religious upbringing has left her so afraid of sin that she’s afraid to Commit the Solitary Sin (i.e., masturbate – not that she can bring herself to stop completely, like most teenagers). Her father once said something on the topic that haunts her to this day: “I know what the world teaches these days, mi’jita. But it’s dangerous to listen to that. God doesn’t change, and neither do his rules. Suppose you do something in the back seat with this boy of yours, and there’s a car crash on the way home. You could end up in hell!” Papi has also made it clear that he won’t stand for anyone dishonoring his family – as he said to his brothers when he thought Angelina wasn’t listening: “I won’t have a whore in my house.”
If I’ve made Rafael de la Cruz (I swear I wrote the story before I ever heard of the senator from Texas!) sound like an ogre…well, we do see him at his worst in Hometown. He’s the chief of police in a town that’s experiencing a horror novel. He’s hard-working, conscientious, and extremely competent when it comes to ordinary police work, but nothing has prepared him for this. He’s being run to exhaustion, and it’s also hitting him hard emotionally because a lot of the victims are his daughter’s age. This is a man who makes it to every family dinner and school event that he can, despite the unpredictable schedule of his job. He taught Angelina how to defend herself and he turns off her alarm clock when the school announces a snow day so she can sleep in. He’s a great dad in a lot of ways, but he’s not prepared to deal with a daughter who doesn’t want to live in the way he believes is the only right way to live.
Other interesting facts about Angelina Santos-De La Cruz
- Her field hockey stick is named “Ninja”. Even she doesn’t remember anymore if she named the stick first and then wrapped it in black electrical tape, or if the tape came first and the name after.
- She’s based on two women I knew from college. She got her athleticism from one, and her nationality from the other.
- Angelina is first-generation Dominican – her parents arrived in the country as children when their parents immigrated. She speaks Spanish as fluently as English (and sometimes dreams in both), but never mixes the two into Spanglish. Like her father, her precise nature makes her want to speak one language correctly at a time, rather than a sloppy mush. Her heritage has also been another source of her iron will and ambition: both her father and the casual racism of small town America has driven home the fact that she needs to work twice as hard to get half as much.
- Angelina is one of the few people – let alone teenagers – in all of Belford to have a cell phone. Her father, being in the profession he’s in, sees the expense as a worthwhile investment for her safety: she can call for help wherever she is. This phone is used for just that several times during Hometown…but there comes a point where there is no help.
- As much as I love this picture, I don’t want you to necessarily feel bound by it. So here is Angelina’s physical description from when she first appears in the book:
Angelina Santos-De La Cruz was a beautiful young woman. Her hair was jet black, her eyes the color of a tropical night, and her skin a rich mahogany after a summer of lifeguarding. Sleek, powerful muscles bunched in her arms and shoulders as she wrung out her hair and flexed in her legs as they carried her out of the water. She wore a simple blue one-piece, but some people don’t care about attracting attention, and others don’t need a string bikini to do so. Angelina was both.
I pictured her with longer hair and perhaps slightly curvier myself, but that’s the thing about being an author: everyone sees your characters differently.