Juan Preciado (hwahn preh-see-AH-doh), the protagonist and point-of-view character of the novel. A young, curious man, Juan decides to research and discover his past after the death of his mother. Juan returns to the dusty provincial town of Comala in search of the man he knows to be his father, Pedro Páramo. Although he finds the town virtually deserted and Páramo dead, he continues to investigate the events that have brought the town to its current state. He talks with the local inhabitants who remain. Literally suffocated by the paralysis and despair of Comala, Juan dies in the middle of the novel. Even after his death, his consciousness remains alive and gives reports on the life and fate of his cruel father.
Pedro Páramo (PEH-droh PAHR-ah-moh), the local chieftain of the village of Comala, dead by the time the novel begins. Pedro Páramo is a loveless man, without soul or pity, who lives to control and dominate others. Although he lacks a distinguished family background, Pedro rises to the top of the village hierarchy by a ruthless process of exploitation. Pedro bullies more timid men and through force and deceit neutralizes other potential power centers in the village, such as Father Rentería and Bartolomé San Juan. Pedro gathers all power to himself and uses it neither to benefit others nor to improve the quality of life in the desperately poor village. Pedro’s rampaging, promiscuous sexuality leads him to affairs with many women and the fathering of several children. Unscrupulous, insensitive, and dedicated to graft and tyranny, Pedro has one emotional soft spot: his love for Susana San Juan. When she dies, Pedro, through his semimagical powers, leaves the town dead in revenge. Pedro is finally killed in resentment by one of his many sons, Abundio. Pedro’s death marks the end of any sign of life in Comala.
Miguel Páramo (mee-GEHL), Pedro’s impetuous son. Miguel has all of his father’s machismo and boorishness without his calculating cruelty. He is symbolic of human appetite incarnate, complementing his father’s embodiment of cruelty. The only one of Pedro’s many sons to be fully acknowledged by him, Miguel is employed as a tool in his father’s schemes. Filled with lust and rage, he rapes the young Damiana Cisneros and kills the brother of Father Rentería. An avid horseman, he is killed while riding. Although he is hated by Comala, his death further saps the waning life force of the town.
Susana San Juan
Susana San Juan (sew-SAH-nah sahn hwahn), Pedro’s idealized lost love. She is the daughter of Bartolomé San Juan, a dead miner. Susana represents the lost innocence of childhood and youth to Pedro. He cherishes her memory even though he stands for the corruption of all the qualities she represents. Susana is the only figure in the novel exempt from Comala’s snares of despair and death.
Abundio Martínez (ah-BEWN-dee-oh mahr-TEE-nehs), one of Pedro’s illegitimate sons. He kills his father out of resentment and frustration.
Father Rentería (rrehn-teh-RREE -ah), the local priest, whose potential to present opposition to Pedro’s domination of Comala is short-circuited by his own unwillingness to challenge authority. He is the uncle of Damiana Cisneros, who is raped by Miguel, who also murders the brother of the priest, Damiana’s father. Through his charitable act of convincing Pedro to accept responsibility for his illegitimate son Miguel, Father Rentería ironically seals the doom of Comala. Father Rentería is a symbol of the subordination of church to state in anticlerical,...
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twentieth century Mexico.
Damiana Cisneros (dah-mee-AH-nah sees-NEH-rohs), Father Rentería’s niece. She is raped by Miguel Páramo as a young girl. She becomes a domestic servant of Pedro and takes care of Juan Preciado as a boy, surviving to encounter him years later and provide him with ambiguous information regarding his father.
Dolores Preciado, the mother of Juan. Dolores is seduced and abused by Pedro, as one of his many female conquests. She lives in devastated sorrow the remainder of her life. Her death initiates her son’s quest to find his father.
Dorotea (doh-roh-TEH-ah), called “La Curraca,” (lah kew-RRAH-kah), a local woman who offers a kind of passive resistance to Pedro Páramo and after his death is the vehicle that the novel uses to portray the collective meditation of the town’s inhabitants.