López y Fuentes, Gregorio
Gregorio López y Fuentes 1897–1966
Mexican novelist, short story writer, poet, and editor.
López y Fuentes is one of the principal authors who wrote about the Mexican Revolution of 1910. His works focus directly or indirectly on the Revolution, especially on the ways it affected the Indians. In his first major novel, Campamento (1931), he describes one night in a military encampment, concentrating not on individual soldiers but on their group identity and circumstances. His next major novel, Tierra (1932), portrays the ten-year struggle, led by the Indian leader Emiliano Zapata, in which the indigenous Indians fight for their right to own land. López y Fuentes's best-known work, Elindio (1935), described by Isaac Goldberg as a "miniature epic," examines the political and social conditions of postrevolutionary Mexico by depicting life in a remote Indian village. As in Campamento, El indio employs a "mass protagonist"; individuals remain nameless and are of secondary importance to the characterization of the group as a whole. Many of López y Fuentes's novels, while supporting the aims of the Revolution, are critical of the way the reforms have been carried out. Critics praise López y Fuentes for conveying vividly and accurately the revolutionary era of Mexico.
Willa Cather's famous plea for "the novel démeublé" is more than answered in ["El Indio," an] uncommonly interesting story of Indian life in Mexico. You could not find a tale less cluttered with unnecessary literary furniture—or richer in episodes that make you believe the truth of what you read….
Nothing else you have read about Mexico is like "El Indio" [published in Great Britain as "They That Reap"]. In Ogden Nash's phrase about another matter, it is sui generis to a fault. The scene is a high, remote mountain village. All the Indians who live there are the characters. They aren't even given names. But you come to know them with an ultimate thoroughness based on seeing how they live day after day, what they do and what they fear and what they hate. Their games are as revealing as their battles. The enemy within the gates is fought as desperately as the invaders—gente de razon, which sardonically means people of reason—who come up from the plains below.
The story begins and ends with episodes of invasion. First the wandering plunderers who arrive to look for fabulous hidden caches of gold and who torture the Indians when they cannot find what they want. Then, years later, the men of the new day who bring talk of roads and schools and freedom and who plunge the Indians into the disastrous currents of politics.
Within that long interval there are the stories of many individual...
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Whether "El Indio" may properly be called a novel is beside the question; as a matter of definition it is rather a miniature epic. A proud Indian youth is crippled by the cupidity of the white man, equally lustful for gold and for women. The compatriot who discovers him mutilated at the bottom of a gully wins away his sweetheart. A war of sorcerers is waged when the father of the cripple seeks vengeance upon the successful rival. The actors in this drama meet their various deaths by animal ferocity, pestilence, or the rigors of the elements; only the cripple survives. This plot, however, is but the nucleus for the evocation of a conquered race, and the nostalgia that it portrays gives way at last to the promises of education and economic justice.
By this same token a certain unobtrusive allegory inheres in the tale. No person is named; it is as if the identity of the characters, important as they are to themselves and to one another, is merged into the history and the fate of the collectivity….
López y Fuentes has, intuitively, and in generous proportions, both sight and vision. His description of the Indian rite of the "volador," and his account of the huntsman's death at the tusks of the wild peccaries are remarkable for their simple power. From a Hispanic-American culture not at its best in the longer forms of fiction comes now this excellent work that may well be studied by our own writers.
Isaac Goldberg, "A Miniature Epic," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. XV, No. 8, February 27, 1937, p. 10.
In Mexico a new novel is being created. It is simple in art, realistic in subject, and rooted firmly in native Mexican life and culture. Because it is a social novel, written with a vigor new to modern Mexican letters, drawing its inspiration, ideals, and much of its subject matter, from the Mexican Revolution of 1910, it has become known as the "Novel of the Revolution". The word "Revolution" in the title itself indicates the importance of the new novel, for only significant economic and social reforms and the cultivation of national arts and crafts are popularly identified by Mexicans as outgrowths of the Revolution.
[There are] … three main figures responsible for this literary creation,—Mariano Azuela, Martín Luis Guzmán and Gregorio López y Fuentes…. (p. 23)
Gregorio López y Fuentes is the most important, for although he is a newcomer and little known abroad, in Mexico his novels are in great demand. In the United States there is a growing interest in them, several having been very favorably reviewed in newspapers and periodicals. And now his latest work, El indio, has just been published in an English translation….
López y Fuentes has rapidly risen to fame in Mexico through his steady output of novels. Each successive work marks an advance in technique and reveals a deeper understanding of the social problems of his country. With Guzmán self-exiled in Spain, and Azuela entering his sixties, López y Fuentes—just turned forty—is likely to become Mexico's most prominent contemporary novelist. Certainly he seems the most promising at this moment. (p. 24)
The reader will recall that the Revolution awakened Mexico to the serious plight into which it had been thrown by four centuries of military abuse, feudal land conditions, and Church corruption…. [Toward the end of the conflict the "revolutinary ideals" originating in the people's discontent] … were permanently synthesized, and embodied in the Mexican Constitution of 1917. In essence, this notable document insists that labor be granted equality with capital, that land be redistributed fairly among Mexicans, and that the indio and the Mexican be made the basic considerations of every social, economic, and cultural manifestation of the nation's life.
These ideas López y Fuentes uses as focal points in his examination of Mexican life. A survey of his novels will show the direction his social criticism takes as well as his rapid development in skill as a novelist.
Campamento marks the beginning of a satire that is to strike deeper and deeper in his later novels at the roots of social evils. Here the thrust is light, yet he manages through a study of revolutionary masses to point out the wide gap between revolutionary ideals and the actual conditions under which people are forced to live during war. He is an objective observer. His descriptions are vivid. The Indian, who in real life turns out to be the chief protagonist in the drama of revolution, is portrayed in this novel as the victim of all the warring factions. A nameless Indian guide runs beside the general staff's horses, driven on by the trampling hoofs, until he dies of exhaustion…. His death elicits a few pitying remarks from the soldiers. Nevertheless, the same men—most of whom also have Indian blood in their veins—who watch him die with the blood spurting from his exhausted lungs, will witness similar brutality again and again without uttering a word of protest!
In this work of brief span—fifteen hours of life in a military camp—the author relies upon the unities of time and place to integrate his vivid and precise descriptions of the Revolution. The restless human beings act out their individual rôles of tragedy upon the serene and beautiful stage of the Mexican Valley. Their actions are natural. As individuals they play petty parts; as a group they reach epic grandeur in their tremendous struggles, sacrifices, and accomplishments.
The style of the author is supple, well suited to his task. His pages are crowded with turbulent military masses madly fighting for ideals that are vague but...
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The participation of López y Fuentes in the Revolution was more limited than that of Azuela or Guzmán but sufficiently committing to give him enough first-hand experience to assimilate its physical details and movement as well as its idealistic and ironical under- and overtones. Moreover, as a native of the state of Veracruz with roots deep in the psychology and customs of Indians and mestizos, as one of the unsuccessful defenders of Veracruz against the U.S. occupying force of 1914, and as an adherent to the Carranza faction, he acquired a set of experiences and perspectives that differed somewhat from those of [other writers]….
The geographical proximity of the state of Veracruz to the state of...
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John S. Brushwood
In 1931 there was not one novel of importance published [in Mexico] that did not deal with the [Revolution] … in one way or another. (p. 205)
There were two facets to the Revolution, even during its military phase: one was predominantly political and looked toward a genuinely democratic, capitalistic society; the other was social and anticipated fundamental changes in the economic structure. One was middle class, the other was proletarian. The first was the initial and predominant force. The second, whose principal exponent during the military phase was Emiliano Zapata, came later and was in the position of having to exert its influence on the middle-class, political revolt that had already...
(The entire section is 2528 words.)