Questions and Topics for Discussion
Teresa Mendoza’s boyfriend is a pilot the narcos of Sinaloa, Mexico, call “the king of the short runway,” because he can get a plane full of cocaine off the ground in three hundred yards. But in a ruthless business, life is often short, and Teresa has a special cell phone that Güero gave her, along with a dark warning: If that phone rings, it means he’s dead, and she’d better run because they’re coming to kill her next.
And then the call comes.
To survive, she will have to say goodbye to the old Teresa, an innocent girl who entrusted her life to a pinche narco smuggler. She will have to find inside herself a woman tough enough to leave her entire life—and her country—behind, and to start over again in a world as dangerous and ugly as the world of the narcos. And the strength of the woman who emerges will surprise even those who know her legend, that of the Queen of the South.
ABOUT ARTURO PÉREZ-REVERTE
Arturo Pérez-Reverte lives near Madrid. Originally a war correspondent, he now writes fiction full-time. His novels include The Flanders Panel, The Club Dumas, The Fencing Master, The Seville Communion, The Nautical Chart, and The Queen of the South. In 2002, he was elected to the Spanish Royal Academy.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONSWhy is Teresa involved with Güero, given the obvious danger of their relationship? In the opening pages of the book, how did you see Teresa? Did she seem innocent and naïve, or strong enough to cope with Güero’s warnings? How did she surprise you?
Discuss this passage from the conclusion of Teresa’s first meeting with don Epifanio: “Teresita Mendoza. Chale.Güero’s morra. A narco’s old lady. A girl like so many others—quieter, even, than most, not too bright, not too pretty. And yet that smile made him study her thoughtfully, cautiously, with a great deal of attention, as though suddenly a stranger stood before him” (p. 53). Does Teresa change in this moment? Is she a stranger? In what ways is she a stranger to don Epifanio? To herself?
After she leaves Mexico, Teresa lives quietly in Melilla, keeping to herself, until she meets Santiago Fisterra. What about Santiago is attractive to Teresa? Why does she go back to the life of a smuggler’s girlfriend? And then, why does she insist on being part of the smuggling operation?
Discuss Teresa’s photo. Originally, it is a photo of herself and Güero. Why does she burn Güero’s half of the picture and save her own? What does the photo represent to her?
Is Teresa’s relationship with Patty more important to her than her relationships with men? How does Patty’s friendship change Teresa, both physically and mentally?
Teresa and Patty often compare their relationship to that of Edmund Dantes and the abbé in The Count of Monte Cristo. Is this accurate? How are the relationships similar? How are they different? In what ways is Teresa, like Dantes, motivated by revenge? What motivates Patty?
Right before Teresa and Patty go to the cave to find the hidden cocaine, “Teresa saw in a kind of flash that Patty was perhaps not the stronger of the two” (p. 206). What brings on this epiphany? Is it true? How does it change their relationship?
How does Teresa’s physical transformation change her? What does bettering her physical appearance and improving her mind through reading bring to Teresa? Why does Patty encourage it?
Discuss the following passage: “Teresa even came to wonder to what extent Patty had sacrificed herself to fate, like a woman accepting the tarot cards that she herself turns up. To what degree had Patty foreseen, or even fostered, many of the things that eventually occurred between the two of them, Teresa and Teo Aljarafe? And thus, in a way, among the three of them.” Ultimately, what does Patty sacrifice? And, in the ends, does Patty let Teresa down, or the other way around?
Why does Teresa spare Pinto’s life? Why is he so loyal to her afterward? Discuss some of the ways Teresa’s “code of honor” differs from others in her business.
Why do you think Teresa chooses to keep the baby? And why doesn’t she tell Teo that she’s pregnant? Do you think she would have made a different decision if she didn’t have to kill Teo?
Why does Teresa meet with don Epifanio when she returns to Mexico? Does she owe him an explanation? Does she gain closure from the meeting?
Do you sympathize with Teresa? Why or why not? In what way is she a victim of Güero’s life and death? Do you think she would be a sympathetic character if she were a man?
Discuss the narrator’s interviews throughout the novel. How do the descriptions of Teresa change as he digs further into her life? Are the interviewees’ impressions of Teresa in line with the real Teresa?
Why does Teresa become the legendary Queen of the South? Why are so many people, including the narrator, fixated by her?