Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The novel of Indian concern has had a long vogue in Latin America, where it is known alternately as novela indianista or novela indigenista. This tradition in the novel has produced such well known works as Lopez y Fuentes' El indio, Alcides Arguedas' Raza de bronce, Jorge Icaza's Huasipungo and Ciro Alegr(')ia's El mundo es ancho y ajeno, all published between 1919 and 1941. These novels seek to illustrate the deplorable conditions of life in Indian communities from Mexico to Bolivia. In so doing, however, the Indian characters of these novels are generally reduced to single dimensional characters devoid of individuality. They are objects acted upon by more powerful elements of society, usually landlords, political bosses and an indispensible priest. By mid-century several forces were at work to produce major changes in the novela indigenista. Changes in style allowed a break with the realistic-naturalistic tradition of the past. Increased anthropological studies of contemporary Indian communities and the publication and study of written documents of Indian composition called attention to aspects of Indian life other than that of exploitation. The psychological make-up of the Indian, his system of perceiving the world were now added to the prime element of social concern. The result was the creation of characters who stood out in relief against the background of their community; individual, full-dimensioned characters now emerged. In Mexico this new tradition in the indigenista novel is best represented by the works of Rosario Castellanos: two novels, Balun-Canan (1957) and Oficio de tinieblas (1962), and a collection of stories, Ciudad Real (1960). These works explore the psychology of both the Indian and his exploiting landowner, revealing considerable parallels between Indian and non-Indian societies and thus calling attention to the very human condition of both groups. Literature dealing with the condition and experience of women in Latin America has a history going back at least to the second half of the seventeenth century. In the works of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz we find concern for the exploited nature of women, for the poor education of women and for the lack of regard accorded the feminine mind. The twentieth century has witnessed a resurgence of concern for aspects of the feminine experience of life. Poets such as Juana de Ibarbouru, Alfonsina Storni, Delmira Agustini and Gabriela Mistral address problems of sensuality, sterility, isolation, lack of education and exploitation. Together with the achievement of the vote in Latin America and the increasing world-wide interest in the condition of women which followed World War II, these and other women have helped to spawn a new feminine consciousness. In Mexico Rosario Castellanos has addressed a wide range of feminine issues in poetry, in essay, in her Master's thesis, and in fiction. In the two novels of indigenista concern, Castellanos introduces the element of concern for the condition of women in Indian and non-Indian societies, raising this concern to a level equal to that of concern for the condition of the Indian. Castellanos' last two collections of stories, Los convidados de agosto (1964) and Album de familia (1971) abandon the Indian in order to concentrate solely on the existential dilemma facing women in Mexico both in the provinces and in the metropolis. This work examines the development of Castellanos' Indian characters and the gradual evolution of her female characters, noting parallels in the condition of both the Indian and woman.