|“||You don't understand one thing about it! You clean their fucking toilets, and you kiss their ass! You are all so fucking weak, and I am tired of being weak!||”|
|— Mateo to his family[src]|
Mateo is Tiago's volatile younger brother. While essentially goodhearted, he lacks the clear strength and ambition of his brother, making him vulnerable to both his own capricious emotions and various influences around him.
Throughout the SeriesEdit
The Vega family celebrate Tiago becoming the first Chicano detective in the Los Angeles Police Department. Mateo and Josefina congratulate him and ask to see his badge. They are joined by Raul and toast in honor of "Detective Tiago fucking Vega."
Inside the record store where Mateo works, Josefina hooks up with a guy in the booth. Mateo breaks them up and throws him out of the shop, gaining the attention of Fly Rico and his crew of pachucos, including Diego. Josefina begs him to stop but Mateo persists and chases him off. Josefina insists that she wasn’t doing anything and reminds Mateo that he isn’t her father. Maria breaks them up, instructing Josefina to go inside and scolding Mateo for swearing. She pulls him to the side and tells him that he was raised better than to fight in the streets, but he isn’t so sure that there’s much out there for someone like him other than working at the cannery or in the field.
Just outside of the record store, Raul tells Tiago how Mateo roughed up one of the customers who was hooking up with Josefina. Mateo joins them and reveals how Maria scolded him. Tiago then tries to convince Mateo to go to the Angels game on Monday as opposed to the protest led by Raul, who has a difference in opinion with Tiago. Raul tells him how the machines are in the empty lot across from the laundry, where they used to play Tom Mix. Tiago encourages Raul to keep Mateo out of it. However, Raul worries this is only the first step in a long thought out plan to have them all deported. Tiago warns Raul that if he goes against the cops, they’ll shoot them down. Raul places his hand on Tiago’s chest and asks where his heart is.
Monday morning. The Los Angeles Police Department stand on one side of the road and Raul, Mateo and the Belvedere Heights community stand on the other. Before long, Tiago arrives and walks into the street. He pleads with them to go home as there’s nothing they can do to stop the construction. However, Raul refuses to leave. Magda notices one young officer that’s exceptionally nervous. She whispers in his ear, sowing seeds of fear and uneasiness until he fires, killing one of the protesters. With that, a full blown riot breaks out as the community of Belvedere Heights attacks law enforcement. When a woman gets hurt, Raul and Mateo carry her to safety. Magda encourages Raul to fight back rather than tend to the wounded. So, he finds a gun and shoots multiple police officers. Raul shoots Lewis in the arm but before he can kill him, Tiago shoots him, and he falls to the ground almost instantly. As Tiago stands over Raul’s body, at the center of the blood shed, Magda and Santa Muerte stare each other down with only a few feet in between them.
At Los Angeles County Hospital, Maria, Mateo, and Josefina pray at Raul’s bedside as he lays unconscious. The shot fired glanced off his skull and caused bone fragments to shatter into Raul's brain. They are given three days before they have to remove him from the respirator. Josefina greets Tiago with a hug. Maria continues to pray for Raul’s recovery. Tiago suggests calling Father Nunez, but Maria refuses to accept that Raul will die. Two floors up, in the very same hospital, Maria gave birth to Raul. She insists that he’ll survive. Tiago then pulls Mateo to the side, who confronts him for shooting Raul. Should he succumb to his wounds, Mateo intends to denounce Tiago as part of their family.
Mateo and Josefina sit at Raul’s bedside while Maria consistently prays. Mateo kisses Josefina on the head and goes to get her a bottle of pop. While at the soda machine crying, he is approached by Officer Reilly and three other officers. Reilly smacks Mateo in the face and shoves him against the machine. He explains how his partner got his eye shot out and proceeds to apply pressure to Mateo’s eye, demanding that he scream. They are interrupted by Fly Rico, who pulls out a blade, forcing the officers to leave, as he reminds Reilly that there’s an entire city of Mexicans just like him, ready to protect their own. Fly Rico buys a soda for himself and Mateo. He questions why Mateo didn’t scream, to which Mateo replies that he was too busy pissing his pants. Rico’s uncle is upstairs. He was injured during the riot, which Rico advised him against going to. He tells Mateo to find him at The Cat. When Mateo asks why, he replies "Because you didn’t scream. You’re a Pachuco, baby."
Mateo describes his encounter with Officer Reilly and Fly Rico in detail to a recovering Raul. Mateo describes Fly Rico as being smooth, comparable to Fred Astaire. Raul takes Mateo’s sudden fascination with Fly Rico to mean that he now wants to join the Pachucos. Mateo admires their pride, but Raul isn’t as won over, mentioning that the Pachucos didn’t even bother to join them during the riot. Mateo then asks Raul if he remembers anything from the protest, but he can’t recall. Mateo reveals to Raul that Tiago shot him. He goes on to tell Raul how he killed several cops. Mateo then says that if he was a Pachuco, he would slit Tiago’s throat for what he did. Raul comes to Tiago’s defense, not only reminding Mateo that they’re brothers, but that Tiago’s lost in between two worlds. Raul then proceeds to encourage Mateo to join the Pachucos. Tiago then enters Raul’s room and takes a seat at his bedside. When Tiago asks Raul how he’s doing, Raul places Tiago’s hand on his chest.
Mateo arrives at the Crimson Cat night club. He finds Fly Rico at the center of the room, dancing with two ladies. He appears almost mesmerized by the scene. Fly Rico approaches him and bring him onto the floor, where they proceed to dance, both with each other and the ladies. Rico then introduces Mateo to the queen, Rio, explaining that no one sits with him until they kiss the ring. Mateo joins Fly Rico, Rio, Diego, and Bernadette in a booth. Fly Rico recalls how Mateo stood toe-to-toe with Reilly. He asks Mateo what took him so long to show up. Mateo explains that he had to work. Fly Rico tells him that work’s for saps and gringos. Rio then invites Mateo onto the dance floor. Mateo and Rico dance center floor. Fly Rico, Diego, and Bernadette join them. Officer Reilly and at least a couple dozen officers enter the Cat. The city has issued a curfew for Mexicans as of ten minutes ago. It’s not until Reilly insults them by referring to Rio as an "albino dyke" and Rico and his boys as "pretty faggots," that the scene turns violent. Rio throws the first punch. Diego, Bernadette, and the others fight them off as Rio, Fly Rico, and Mateo escape out the back.
Rio, Fly Rico, and Mateo hold up in an alleyway. Rico is pissed that they cut his clothes. Rio informs Mateo that sometimes the cops bring razors to slash up their clothes so that they’re not Pachuco anymore. However, as far as Rio is concerned, she’s Pacho stark naked, strutting down Wilshire. Mateo points out that she's white. Rio explains that her parents are from Sevilla, in old Spain. She was born in Mexico and moved to Los Angeles when she was three. With the law now pursuing them at the Cat, Rico wonders what’s next. Rio says that next they’ll be shooting them down like Belvedere Heights-way. Rio wants to get active against the cops. She refuses to allow them to continue to beat them up and throw them in jail for no reason. She wants her piece of the American Dream, even if it means using fear to get it. Mateo is in agreement. Fly Rico reveals that from the minute he was born, he was thrown out like garbage. He only knows of his mother, who was a stone junkie. He did everything he could to survive. Then one day, he met Papa Pachuco. He gave Fly Rico a tattoo; three dots above a cross, otherwise known as the Pachuco cross. He wears it proudly and refuses to throw it away on a war that they’ll never win. However, Rio believes they can win. She wants to make LA bleed. 90 years ago, Los Angeles was Mexico. She wants to take it back. Fly Rico concedes.
Later, Mateo gets a Pachuco cross tattooed on his hand as Rio and Fly Rico watch on.
Mateo and Josefina walk home from the store. Josefina inquires about the bandage on his hand. Before he can reply, they are surrounded by Reilly and two other officers. He accuses them of spray painting the construction site. He then recognizes Mateo from their last encounter at the hospital. Mateo is held against the fence and restrained while Officer Reilly frisks Josefina. He grabs her breast and then sticks his hands up her dress. Mateo watches helplessly as this continues. Reilly releases them both and Josefina starts to cry. Josefina makes Mateo promises that he won’t tell anyone, especially not their family.
Mateo and Josefina return home. Maria notices the bandage on Mateo’s hand and rips it off to discover the Pachuco mark. Maria is enraged and ashamed, but Mateo is proud of his mark. He refuses to end up like his mother, being a maid or his brother, a cop. Mateo exclaims that he’s tired of being weak and storms out. Maria follows him out the door. Josefina tries to tell her mother what happened, but Maria brushes her off.
Mateo arrives at the Crimson Cat, where he reveals to Fly Rico, Rio, Diego, and Bernadette that his sister was assaulted by Reilly. Rico tells him that situations like this happen all the time. Rio wants to teach him a lesson. Bernadette reveals that Reilly keeps little girls down in Sonoratown, puts them on smack, and they’re his bitches. Bernadette knows the one now. Her name is Sofia. She was a good girl before Reilly got a hold of her. Mateo approaches Rico and tells him that he will get his revenge on Reilly. Diego agrees to help him.
Mateo, Fly Rico, Rio, and Diego track Reilly down. They kick in his door and proceed to attack him. They stand over a beaten and bloody Reilly. Fly Rico hands Mateo a blade and tells him to kill Reilly, reminding Mateo that it was Reilly who assaulted his sister and that they can't leave him alive now that he's seen their faces. Mateo takes the blade and slices Reilly’s throat, killing him in seconds. Fly Rico, Rio, Mateo, and Diego then pull up outside the precinct and dump Reilly’s naked body on the sidewalk before pulling off.
Mateo is filled with regret and sorrow after killing Officer Reilly. However, Rio assures him that his actions were justified and that he saved the lives of many others by killing Reilly. Now, it’s time to purge. She undresses Mateo, starting with his blood soaked shirt, down to his pants and underwear. She then starts to take measurements of his body and tells him about the Children of the Royal Sun and how they’re the sons and daughters of Tenochtitlan. Mateo and Rio then start to have sex on her bed. Fly Rico kicks open the door to find Mateo and Rio in bed. Mateo tries to explain himself, but before he can, Fly Rico joins him and Rio in bed. He kisses Mateo and then kisses Rio. And together, the three of them continue having sex.
Tiago and Lewis kick in the door and find themselves face-to-face with Rio, Mateo, and Diego. Tiago has his gun pointed at Mateo. Fly Rico tackles Tiago to the floor, knocking the gun from his hand, and Rio throws the table at Lewis, providing them with a chance to escape; Fly Rico and Mateo down the fire escape and Rio and Diego out the front door. Tiago chases Fly Rico and Mateo down the fire escape. Mateo and Fly Rico run in opposite directions as they reach the bottom. Tiago jumps off the fire escape and onto a car. He then chases Mateo down the street. He finally catches up to Mateo at a dead end. Tiago draws his weapon and asks Mateo if he killed Officer Reilly, which Mateo admits that he did. And he’d do it again. Tiago lowers his gun and allows Mateo to run.
Mateo, Fly Rico, and Rio are held up in a shack. Mateo refuses to allow Diego to swing for what he did. However, they believe that Diego is swinging already. Fly Rico tells Mateo that he’s different from Diego, and that’s why he got away and Diego didn’t. They hear a knock at the door. It’s Maria. Rio tells her that she's not welcome, but she’s come to bring Mateo home. She doesn't care what he’s done. All that matters is what Mateo does next. However, he refuses to leave and tells his mother that she isn’t welcome.
Mateo greets Josefina as she’s walking home from school. She tells him to come home with her, but he can’t. He makes her promise to him that she loves him before revealing that he did something bad. However, before he can truly reveal the act, Josefina tells Mateo that not only will she always love him, but so will their father in heaven. She tells him that there is no love stronger than God’s. Mateo tells her to stop, as he doesn’t need to hear make believe. He needs his sister, to which Josefina replies that she found her faith. With that, Mateo says his goodbye and tells her that he hopes the church makes her happy.
Mateo is overwhelmed with guilt. He can’t keep it a secret any longer and plans to go home and tell Tiago the truth — that he killed Reilly. Rio explains that it had to be Diego. That’s why she gave him up. She made sure they got him so that Mateo would getaway. He’s got heart and faith that most Pachucos don’t have. She tells him to make sure his sacrifice counts. Rio believes that it's Mateo’s job to lead them, not Fly Rico’s. Mateo’s pure heart can lead them out of poverty and give them a voice. Rio looks to him to give their people hope and power.
Mateo, Rio, Fly Rico, Bernadette, and the Pachucos arrive at the Cat. They dance briefly before noticing Maria, Josefina, and Raul. Mateo greets Josefina with a hug. Fly Rico takes a liking to her and asks her to dance. Mateo tries to give Maria a kiss but she pulls away. Raul tells Mateo that he’s a joke. Rio retorts that he’s a man now. While he may be dressed like a man, Maria says that he’s still a boy. A real man stays home and helps out his family with pride. Mateo believes that they all find their pride in different ways. When Raul went into the union, Mateo recalls his mother shouting that he was going to become a Bolshevik and get blown up. There were even bigger fights when Tiago joined the force. And while Mateo doesn’t understand the Temple, he realizes that Josefina found her pride. He reminds Maria how she always taught them to be proud and be Vegas. He asks her to be his mom, if only for the night. Maria worries for him, but she agrees.
Mateo and Josefina join their mother and brother at the table to see that Tiago has arrived with Molly. Raul separates Mateo and Tiago as they go back and forth. Mateo tells Tiago that he doesn’t belong at the Cat because it is for Chicanos, and Josefina accuses Molly of lying to her. Maria blames Tiago for dividing the family. Mateo adds that a Chicano girl isn’t good enough for a white cop. He tells Tiago to be proud of their skin and nothing he does will change how they look. "No matter how many gringa putas you fuck." Tiago demands that everyone stop and demands that everyone respect him and Molly. Tiago then goes over to Mateo and tells him that he loves him and that sometime soon, they should talk. Tiago then takes Molly to dance as Raul partners with Josefina, and Mateo with Maria.
Tiago tells Raul to take Maria and Josefina home. He and Mateo stay behind. Tiago tries to take Mateo outside to explain the situation, but before he can, Fly Rico, Rio, and Bernadette get word that Diego was murdered by cops and shares it with the crowd. Fly Rico tries to calm them down, but Rio encourages them to fight back. Fly Rico attempts to control the crowd from rioting. If they try to fight back now, they’ll either end up dead or in a cell. He refuses to be the animals that white people see them as. Fly Rico instead suggests that they walk with him and show the city exactly who they are. Mateo, Rio, and Bernadette follow behind Rico as he leads a crowd of angry citizens into town. Tiago tails them.
With a full blown race riot on their hands, Fly Rico and Rio flee into an alleyway, where Rico demands that Rio answer for her actions. Rio stabs Fly Rico and tells him that now is not the time for peacemakers. Mateo watches as Fly Rico's lifeless body hits the ground. She remarks that the king is dead and hands Mateo the blade, crowning him the new leader of the Pachucos. Mateo then comes to Tiago’s aid as he is being attacked by three sailors. Mateo stabs all three men with the knife he just got from Rio, forcing them to flee. He then tells Tiago goodbye before running off with Rio. The following weekend, Mateo joins his family for Day of the Dead.
Appearance and PersonalityEdit
- Santa Muerte
- Dead People Lie Down
- Wicked Old World
- Josefina and the Holy Spirit
- Children of the Royal Sun
- How It Is With Brothers
- Maria and the Beast
- Hide and Seek
- Sing, Sing, Sing
- Day of the Dead
- "You keep dreaming your dreams, Mama, and maybe Santa Muerte will make them come true one day. But for the rest of us... who wants a spic?"
- —Mateo to Maria[src]
- "You don't understand one thing about it! You clean their fucking toilets, and you kiss their ass! You are all so fucking weak, and I am tired of being weak!"
- —Mateo to his family[src]