Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Tierra caliente

*Tierra caliente. Hot rural lowland region to the west and south of Mexico City where the novel is set. Because the primarily agricultural area is lightly populated and separated from urban areas by mountains, banditry is rampant.


*Yautepec (yow-teh-PEK). Pleasant and peaceful Mexican village with hard-working and honest people in the tierra caliente that is home to Doña Antonia, her daughter Manuela, and her goddaughter Pilar. Strongly traditional in its social conventions, the village is a symbol of that which is orderly and good in society. The villagers rightly fear the political disorganization, social unrest, and criminal activity that are beginning to encroach on their lives.

The novel’s leading characters, Doña Antonia and her family, live in a typical Mexican home, in which the mother attempts to protect and appropriately socialize her resistant daughter. However, Manuela longs for the freedom and excitement that lie beyond the village. Her romantic fantasies about bandits combined with her lack of life experience eventually moves her to run off with the bandit. Her mother dies of grief.

The Indian blacksmith Nicolas and Pilar believe that they, as symbols of righteous convention, are meant for each other and plan to marry. At their wedding at the end of the novel, the village is the site of righteous retribution and the restoration of...

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El Zarco, the Bandit Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Castagnaro, Anthony R. The Early Spanish American Novel. New York: Las Américas, 1971. Focuses on the development of the Latin American novel since the nineteenth century. Establishes Altamirano as a precursor of the genre in Mexico.

Duncan, Cynthia. “Altamirano, Ignacio Manuel.” In Dictionary of Mexican Literature, edited by Eladio Cortés. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992. A survey of Altamirano’s works; a good introduction to this author.

Nacci, Chris. Ignacio Manuel Altamirano. New York: Twayne, 1970. Good introduction to Altamirano’s life and works. Presents an overview of his works, with strong biographical and historical background.

Reyes, Lisa. “The Nineteenth-Century Latin American National Romance and the Role of Women.” Ariel 8 (1992): 33-44. Provides a comparative study of major nineteenth century novelists’ treatment of women in their works. Stresses the influence of the strong Latin American patriarchal social structure on the emerging novel.