Mariano Azuelo’s The Underdogs was originally published in 1915. It appeared between October and December in an El Paso newspaper. By 1952, the novel was recognized worldwide as the classic story of the Mexican Revolution.
The main character, Demetrio Macías, joins the rebel forces and eventually earns the position of general in Pancho Villa’s army. Villa and other generals in The Underdogs are presented as the Robin Hoods of the Mexican people—taking from the rich and giving to the poor. The Underdogs also draws comparisons to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and the French revolutionaries attempts toward democracy and equality.
The first part of the novel corresponds to the second phase of the revolution. Opposition forces gain strength against the Huerta government. The revolutionary armies are led by Pancho Villa, Carranza, Obregón, and by peasants under Zapata- joined forces. Huerta resigned as president of Mexico and fled to Spain. The revolutionary armies entered Mexico City, and the novel focuses on the dissension within these revolutionary forces, particularly between Villa and Carranza. The main character, Demetrio, and his men represent the peasant guerrilla forces in the revolution. The Federales (government troops) blaze their way through the countryside—a disorganized and corrupt government stealing from the poor.
Many novelists published work in Mexico from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, but The Underdogs achieved both widespread popular and critical acclaim. Azuelo was one of the first writers to speak out against the corruption of the post-revolutionary government and society. In 1924, The Underdogswas referred to as the greatest novel of the Mexican Revolution. Its depiction of the charisma of Demetrio warms readers to the cause of the Revolution. The disillusionment following the Revolution is heart-breaking and Azuelo’s early twentieth century novel explains an impoverishment within Mexico that persists into the twenty-first century. The characters, dialogue, descriptions, and narration set an early mark for the accomplishments of Latin American writers that have influenced the literary landscape since the 1960s.