(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Broad and Alien Is the World reveals Ciro Alegría’s commitment to the ideological platform of Acción Popular Revolucionaria Americana (American popular revolutionary action), a socialist-oriented political party that he cofounded in 1930. As a result of his political engagement, which included involvement with guerrilla groups, Alegría was forced into exile. The novel openly attacks the violations of the human rights of the indigenous Peruvian population by national corporations and governmental institutions. The novel’s publication caused Peru to become the target of international outcry.

In its open treatment of life among native groups, Alegría’s novel moves away from traditional treatment of the Inca. Peru’s indigenous people were portrayed in previous works as living in the perfect state of natural existence, in the Romantic tradition of the noble savage. Alegría’s realistic descriptions of indigenous rural life are connected to a social movement known as indigenismo. This proindigenous movement encouraged a fuller, more honest understanding of the Peruvian national identity. For them, nature and people are interdependent. The city’s vicious exploitation of nature, the novel implies, may account for various economic and social crises.

Alegría’s novel presents a major character, Rosendo Maquis, mayor of a community of Indians, as a representative of the Incas. Rosendo is wise and hardworking. He is...

(The entire section is 469 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Rosendo Maquis is the mayor of Rumi, a small Indian town in the Peruvian uplands. The village is a communal organization, as it was for centuries. Its life is peaceful, for the Rumi Indians are an agricultural people. Rosendo’s only troubles are personal. His wife is dying, and he is sent into the mountains to find herbs to be used in making medicine for the sick woman. On his way back to the village, he sees an evil omen in the passage of a snake across his path. Troubled times, he believes, lie ahead.

That same night, Rosendo’s wife dies, and her death marks the beginning of many misfortunes for the mayor and his people. A few days later, it becomes known that Don Amenabar, whose ranch borders the Indian village, is filing suit to take away the best of the land belonging to Rumi. Rosendo and his selectmen saddle their horses and ride to the nearby town to get a lawyer to defend them. They hire Bismarck Ruiz, a man who has a poor reputation in the town because of his love affair with La Castelana, a notorious woman of very expensive tastes. In return for a large fee, Ruiz promises to win the suit for the Indians.

Life goes on as usual in the village during the days before the trial. There is a cattle roundup, to which Don Amenabar sends men to collect the cattle belonging to him. Although he does not pay the grazing fee, and the Indians know it would be futile to ask it of him, he charges them a high fee to redeem any cattle that accidentally wander onto his lands. The Indians are also busy building a school, for the commissioner of education of the province promised them a schoolmaster as soon as they have a hygienic place for the school to convene.

In an effort to learn what Don Amenabar is plotting against them, the Indians send one of their number to the ranch to sell baskets and woven mats. When Don Amenabar sees the Indian on his ranch, he orders his overseers to give the unlucky fellow a hundred lashes, a punishment that would kill many men.

Finally, the case comes to court. The Indians believe at first that they will win. Don Amenabar’s men removed the stones marking the community boundaries, but the Indians returned them. The return, they believe, is indicative of their success. The case is soon over, however, thanks to a large number of perjuring witnesses who testify against the Indians by claiming that the people of Rumi encroached on Don Amenabar’s land. Even the judge receives money and preferment from the rancher.

The Indians’ lawyer immediately makes up a brief for an appeal to a higher court, but Don Amenabar’s men, disguised as the followers of Fiero Vasquez, the outlaw, steal the mailbag containing the documents as the mail carrier passes...

(The entire section is 1115 words.)