Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Mexico City

*Mexico City. Mexico’s capital city is the central location of the novel, providing a modern urban setting that contrasts with the country’s primarily rural history. Carlos Fuentes uses the city as a protagonist to which the characters must react as much as they interact with one another. Against this emerging modern backdrop, the characters struggle to understand their individual destinies, and in a collective sense, they embody the new, rising, modern Mexico coming to terms with the fallout of its early twentieth century revolution. The urban setting poignantly displays Fuentes’s cynical irony. The modern, postrevolutionary era does not provide equality nor justice. Remnants of classicism and political corruption abound.

The novel is framed with the question: “Here we abide. And what are we going to do about it? Where the air is clear.” Only in an ironic sense is Mexico City a place where the air is, in fact, clear. The phrase suggests a fatalistic alliance with a place that is changing but whose inhabitants have not yet figured out their role in the changes. There is no optimistic assertion that a movement toward capitalism and a middle class will satisfy the needs of the populace. Instead, the phrase suggests the betrayal of the ideals of the revolution that now finds itself played out in the dramas of citizens caught up in the cultural shift taking place.

Historically, Mexico City was the center of the indigenous Aztec culture and thus signified mythical and spiritual values of the land. The novel plays off this mythical association to suggest a spiritual decline of the citizenry. It calls into question...

(The entire section is 686 words.)

Historical Context

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

The Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was a result of a long line of squelched rebellions in pursuit of...

(The entire section is 753 words.)

Literary Style

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

The narrative of Where the Air Is Clear contains an abundance of symbols, which serve to relate Aztec mythology...

(The entire section is 1517 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Where the Air Is Clear is a very ambitious first novel by a young writer. Fuentes created a novel different from most Mexican novels...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Carlos Fuentes is one of the four novelists most closely associated in the public mind with the great "boom" in Latin American Literature...

(The entire section is 681 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Through a huge cast of characters, Fuentes in Where the Air Is Clear attempts to show life in Mexico City in the early 1950s where...

(The entire section is 158 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

1950s: The U.S.S.R. beat the U.S. into space with the launching of Sputnik in 1957.

Today: Russia insists on...

(The entire section is 341 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Do some research on Mexico's ‘‘Day of the Dead’’ celebration. What was the state of this celebration in the 1950s? How has it become...

(The entire section is 144 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

With the growth of cities which resulted from the industrial revolution, many writers, novelists in particular, began to make them the...

(The entire section is 239 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Many of Fuentes's other novels recreate both the history of Mexico and its mythology. In Terra Nostra (1975), by far the longest novel...

(The entire section is 83 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Several of the short stories collected in Fuentes' first book, Los Dias Enmascarados (The Masked Days) of 1954, are direct...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Dwyer, John P., ‘‘Conversation with a Blue Novelist,’’ in Review, Vol. 12, Fall, 1974, pp. 54-8.


(The entire section is 712 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brody, Robert, and Charles Rossman, eds. Carlos Fuentes: A Critical View. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982. Good and varied collection of essays on the stories and novels.

Duran, Gloria. The Archetypes of Carlos Fuentes. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980. Discusses female archetypes in Fuentes’ major works of fiction.

Faris, Wendy B. Carlos Fuentes. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983. Excellent introduction to Fuentes’ works. Focuses upon Fuentes’ capacity to absorb, transform, and transmit multiple voices.

Foster, David W. “La región más transparente...

(The entire section is 139 words.)