Tell Them Not to Kill Me!

by Juan Rulfo

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What is the setting in "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" by Juan Rulfo?

The story takes place in a rural area of Mexico in two adjoining cattle ranches.

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Juan Rulfo’s story takes place in a rural area of Mexico. The setting in the first part of the story is two adjoining cattle ranches in the Alima area; they are located in inhospitable, arid terrain. Water is scarce, which makes it an especially valuable resource. The dryness of the climate means there is a limited amount of grass available to pasture the cattle. Rulfo shows that land tenure and the related social relations between neighbors often created conflicts. The land rights figure prominently in the reasons for the crime that Juvencio Nava committed more than three decades earlier.

Juvencio had worried constantly that his cattle would die—he had been grazing them on Guadalupe (nicknamed Lupe) Terreros’s land. He considered Lupe his friend, but the latter was the legitimate owner of the Puerta de Piedra estate. Juvencio failed to acknowledge that as such, and Lupe had the legal right to restrict his cattle from grazing there. Instead, he cut a hole through the fence to allow his cattle through, even though Lupe’s intention in having the fence was clearly to exclude them. The escalating conflict led Lupe to kill one of Juvencio’s animals, for which he then exacted revenge. The setting also plays a role in the aftermath of Juvencio’s attack on Lupe, as he left him to die of his wounds and exposure; Lupe’s body was later found in a ravine (arroyo).

The modern setting is another piece of land that Juvencio owns but is managed by his son, Justino; it is called Palo de Venado. Juvencio went to live there after killing Lupe. He has been able to grow a little corn on the land when there is adequate rain. Near the ranch, there are mountains with thickets of evergreen madrone (arbutus) trees, where Juvencio would go to hide when he heard that legal authorities were looking for him.

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