*Andes. Great mountain range that runs through Peru and the other countries of South America’s west coast. Within the novel, the mountains’ peaks are personified by the indigenous peoples: Urpillau, Huarca, Huillac, Puma, Suni, Mamay, who are inextricably tied to nature. Geography is always a silent presence in the novel. At times, it is almost a dominant character, reflecting the importance of geography in Peru’s culture: the lofty Andean sierra with its crisp, thin air, its gaunt landscapes, sparse vegetation, and rocky soil. Ciro Alegría was born and reared on a hacienda in the same region in which he sets this novel.
Rumi. Small Peruvian Indian village in which the novel is primarily set. The village is physically defined by Lombriz Creek, the plateau of El Alto, Lake Yanañahui, and the cliffs over Yanañahui; its space defines its inhabitants’ sense of self and order. Rosendo Maqui, the mayor, represents the inhabitants of Rumi at their best at the same time as the Rumi community, people and space, represents the ideal of nature. Rumi is a pastel-colored place, with cobbled, windswept streets and huddled houses. Its people grow potatoes and tend their llamas. They chew coca to cope with hunger and the cold, and their chests are like those of pouter pigeons since their high-altitude air has little oxygen.
Umay Ranch. Private ranch adjoining Rumi that is owned by Don Alvaro Amenabar, a greedy and unprincipled patrón who uses force and legal trickery to wrest the best farmland of the villagers away from them. His greed diametrically opposes every tenet of the Rumi community’s philosophy and practices. Amenabar represents the worst of the latter-day conquerors.
Yanañahui (yah-na-NYAH-wee). New and higher altitude location to which Rumi’s people move their village after Amenabar forces them off their original land. After going through great suffering and loss to rebuild in this location, they eventually lose even this less desirable space, as the conquerors’ space has no room for them, physically or psychologically. Nowhere under the Peruvian flag is there a place that is not hostile to Indians.
Cities. The large Peruvian cities that figure into the story, such as the provincial capital, Trujillo, and Lima, the national capital, are centers of primarily European institutions: banks, a law school, the seat of government. Imposed upon the landscape, rather than integrated into it, the cities represent not only the continuing physical and mental encroachment of the descendants of the original conquerors upon the indigenous inhabitants but also the unbridgeable gap that still separates them.
Jungle plantations. Rubber tree collecting camps and coca plantations in Peru’s jungle backlands are perceived by Indians as places of hope where they can earn money; however, they prove to be hellholes. Both courageous and cowardly Indians try to bridge the gap between the cultures or escape their fate in their communities by taking jobs on the plantations. However, these profit-making enterprises—like the cities—are imposed on, not integrated into,...
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