Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In Mulata, as in the majority of his works, Asturias concerns himself with the effects of the continuous clash of two cultures: the Spanish Christian culture and the culture of the Mayas and their descendants.

In Asturias’s view, this clash has left the Indian and mestizo suspended between the past and the present, between myth and reality, a suspension where myth can be reality and reality myth, where the past is the present and the present the past. Their daily reality is dominated by tradition saturated with legends, myths, and superstitions. In such a world, anything is possible: Dead animals may arise and speak, women may change into dwarfs, and boar-men may counsel humans. It is this magic reality that, in Asturias’s work, the people use as a defense against the four-and-a-half centuries of persecution to which they have been subjected since the Conquest. Unfortunately, this response to the Spanish Christian culture precludes a true and pure amalgam of the two cultures. It is Asturias’s view that the reason for this is not that the ancient Mayan beliefs have adulterated the Christian culture but that Christianity arrived in an already adulterated form, which then proceeded to adulterate the Mayan beliefs.

It is no accident that the clashes in Tierrapaulita between the ancient Indian myths and the Spanish Christian beliefs are conducted by demons, Indian and Christian, and not by the deities of either. The deities are no longer available to do battle since the beliefs that have survived are dominated by demons on both sides, each side bent on the destruction, physical and spiritual, of the people.

In the words of Father Chimalpín (and Asturias), “A person is not a Christian just because he is one; a person is a Christian because it implies loving more, loving more is giving one’s self more, is reaching, through that giving, everything that...

(The entire section is 780 words.)