In Juan Rulfo’s groundbreaking novel Pedro Páramo (1955), the character of Juan Preciado sets out on a doomed quest to find his father.1 His journey into the ghost town of Comala, where he discovers a world in which the dead live alongside the living, as the unresolved traumas of the past continue to haunt the present, is one full of transcendence. On one level it highlights the existential angst of the individual’s quest for meaning—sought invariably in one’s origins. Preciado hopes to find out who he is by discovering who his mythical and enigmatic father, Pedro Páramo, was. On another level it is a novel about Mexico and, by default, Latin America, unable to move on, gripped in a vicious circle of unresolved tragedies.2 The Aztec purgatorial world of Mictlan (Place of the Dead) is all pervading, expressing the inability of Juan Preciado, the Mexican people, and the population of Spanish America to come to terms with their past. The people of Comala are unable to “move on” when they die. Their souls remain trapped, condemned to relive their tragic lives, time and again, with no hope of attaining any form of resolution or closure. They cannot come to terms with their past because of its violent nature, and yet they desperately seek salvation by trying to understand how it came to pass that their lives ended the way they did.


Latin American Country National Identity Indian Woman Political Violence Hybrid Culture 
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© Will Fowler and Peter Lambert 2006

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  • Will Fowler

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