'Amigo Brothers': Plot, Characters, Themes

Boxing gloves hanging in boxing ring
"Amigo Brothers" tells the story of two best friends who share a passion for boxing. Westend61 / Getty Images

"Amigo Brothers" is a short story by Piri Thomas. It was published in 1978 as part of Stories from El Barrio, Thomas' short story collection for young adults. "Amigo Brothers" follows two best friends from a poor New York City neighborhood as they prepare to compete against each other in their shared passion: boxing.

Fast Facts: Amigo Brothers

  • Author: Piri Thomas
  • Year Published: 1978
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Genre: Young adult fiction
  • Original Language: English
  • Type of Work: Short story
  • Themes: Positivity, purity of sports, Afro-Latin culture
  • Characters: Antonio Cruz, Felix Vargas


"Amigo Brothers" tells the story of Antonio Cruz and Felix Vargas, teenage best friends who live and breathe the sport of boxing. They train together whenever they can and share an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport and its stars. Their passion for boxing is a positive element of their lives that has kept them away from gangs and drugs, which are prevalent in their New York City neighborhood.

One day, Antonio and Felix learn that they are set to fight each other in an elimination bout that will determine which of them goes on to compete in the Golden Gloves—the first step towards a real professional fighting career. Initially, the two friends pretend that their upcoming fight changes nothing. However, they soon agree that they should separate until the fight in order to train independently. In addition to physical training, both Antonio and Felix work to get into the right psychological state to fight their best friend.

On fight night, Tompkins Square Park is filled with cheering fans. Because they know each other so well, Felix and Antonio are able to counter each other's every move throughout the fight. Both boys are battered and exhausted by the end of the fight, but when the final bell sounds, they immediately embrace in shared triumph, and the crowd cheers. Before the winner of the fight can be announced, Felix and Antonio walk away, arm in arm.

Major Characters

Antonio Cruz. Antonio is tall and lanky—a naturally skilled technical boxer. He uses his long reach to penetrate his opponent’s defenses.

Felix Vargas. Felix is short and stocky—not as technically skilled as Antonio, but a powerful slugger. He relies on the power of his punches to pummel opponents into submission.

Literary Style

"Amigo Brothers" is told in a straightforward manner using a third-person narrator. The prose is simple and all information is given efficiently and without fanfare, a style that makes the story accessible for all readers. The dialogue includes Puerto Rican slang, which adds a casual, genuine dimension to the characters' conversations.


Positivity. Thomas saw his writing as a tool to help kids in underprivileged neighborhoods see potential paths for their lives beyond gangs and violence. In "Amigo Brothers," Thomas purposefully minimized the presence and power of gangs and crime. In one sequence, Felix is menaced by some gang members, but they let him pass unmolested when he does some shadow-boxing, demonstrating his skills. The scene suggests that positive activities have the power to protect and serve you.

Purity of Sports. The book suggests that the sportsmanlike behavior the boys have learned while training to be boxers has helped them become remarkable. They fight each other not out of hatred or even the desire to win, but rather for the love of competition. At the end of each fight, the boys are triumphant and happy for each other no matter who wins, because they tried their best and survived.


  • “STORIES FROM EL BARRIO by Piri Thomas.” Kirkus Reviews, www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/piri-thomas/stories-from-el-barrio/.
  • “Why Piri Thomas' Coming of Age Memoir Still Resonates Today.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 20 June 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/piri-thomas-and-power-self-portrayal-180963651/.
  • Berger, Joseph. “Piri Thomas, Author of 'Down These Mean Streets,' Dies.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/books/piri-thomas-author-of-down-these-mean-streets-dies.html.
  • Marta. “‘Puerto Rican Negro’: Defining Race in Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets | MELUS | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 June 2004, academic.oup.com/melus/article-abstract/29/2/205/941660?redirectedFrom=fulltext.
  • Short Stories for Students. Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories. Gale Group, 2010.
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Somers, Jeffrey. "'Amigo Brothers': Plot, Characters, Themes." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/amigo-brothers-plot-themes-4174514. Somers, Jeffrey. (2020, August 28). 'Amigo Brothers': Plot, Characters, Themes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/amigo-brothers-plot-themes-4174514 Somers, Jeffrey. "'Amigo Brothers': Plot, Characters, Themes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/amigo-brothers-plot-themes-4174514 (accessed February 4, 2023).