Latin American History of the 1800’s
Prof. R. Grossman

“The Underdogs” – Mariano Azuela

Gabriela Rodriguez

“The Underdogs”
A Novel by Mariano Azuela

Mariano Azuela, a great Mexican author of one of the first novel published about
the Mexican Revolution from a unique, personal perspective, lived this revolution first
hand and shows it dynamically throughout this text. After attending medical school in
Guadalajara and with the fall of Francisco I. Madero, he affiliated himself with the
revolution troops as a military medic. His close ties with the troops, leaders and
revolution groups allowed him to document experiences and accurate facts about the
Mexican Revolution that aided him in writing “The Underdogs.” Under the military crew
of Julian Medina, he heard and shared many anecdotes from his fellow comrades, so
much so that one of his characters, Luis Cervantes shares many similarities with the
author’s personal life, like being a medic and joining the troops. It’s a novel that is
honest and realist and considered a classic of this historical event, but it differentiates
itself from other novels from this genre for its sincere crudeness to the extent that it
even reveals crimes committed by the insurgents.

In this novel, Azuela evokes a pessimistic viewpoint that seems to resonate with
the mexican way of life at the time and what the agrarian communities and families felt.
This novel is centered around the context of the Mexican Revolution held between
1910-1920, which was composed mainly of a series of riots and battles that fought
against an oppressive sociopolitical system created by dictator Porfirio Diaz. Upon
analyzing both the novel and the related texts that give historical context beyond the
narrative Azuela sets, it helps us understand the nature of these battles, which were not
homogenous across Mexico, instead they consisted of a series of internal conflicts that
were spearheaded by different political and military leaders who then succeeded to form
part of the government of Mexico.
Azuela sets a narrative that combines historical content with experiences lived
and some describe through metaphors, which almost reads poetically in a way, setting a
pessimistic tone when he interwebs his feelings into the historical narrative.Considering
the provided information, we are able to culminate several central themes throughout
the novel: the revolutionary movement in Mexico, the spontaneous yet empowering way
the farmers and agrarian communities filled up the revolutionary lines to fight for their
ideals and efforts to defeat the oppressive power of the federals. This novel also
explores the unfortunate realities common folk lived during the revolution including
prostitution, violence and abusive power dynamic from the authoritative powers to the
civilians and the poverty in rural areas that is still seen, which is what makes the
narrative of this novel so relevant today. Considering the hateful narrative in the media
that Mexican-Americans and Mexico as a country and cultural group face today, these
oppressive messages and treatment of this community, even though it was an internal
battle in the 1900’s, in the 21st century it has shifted to a different narrative but
withstanding the same battles of oppression, racism, poverty and safety to an extent.
A very interesting and important part of the narrative this novel brings is the
treatment of women during the revolution era and historically around this time in

Females were constantly discredited and were only accounted for in providing
the sexual enjoyment of males, manipulated to satisfy the needs of men, hence the
machismo way of life was and still being a very prominent part of the traditional cis male
mexican persona. The mexican male identity gets very defined this way, something we
can attribute to the revolution due to the fact that many men left their homes and their
families to fight against the government. These battles aided in forming this personality
of hiding their true selves to not appear weaker than their peers, acting heavily on their
hypermasculinity when it comes to their points of weakness. Mariano Azuela explicitly
shows us this time and time again in “The Underdogs”, shedding light to readers now,
especially non Latino readers to understand how gender manifests itself in Mexican and
Latino culture.
Having studied the Mexican Revolution prior to reading those novel, I was
surprised by the lack of content about the soldaderas or women soldiers that I admire
so much as a young women. However, there is one character that touches on what the
soldaderas were: La Pintada. She represents a different type of women of the era, a
conflict driven soul with the desire of standing out fearlessly, the true mexican feminist
icon in my eyes. The appendix and additional reading resources touched on it a bit
when making the case about the use of symbolism and animals Azuela’s narrative:
“women with olive skin, flashing eyes, and ivory teeth, with revolvers at their waists,
cartridge belts across their chests, and huge palm sombreros on their heads, come and
go between the groups like stray dogs” (p. 45) (Azuela,Appendix)
“This literary device of confusing animals and humans culminates toward the end of the
novel in a passage of great descriptive beauty and biting commentary about human
nature.” (Azuela, Appendix) However, in my opinion, considering that women did have
an important role historically in the revolution, it’s interesting how Azuela either chose to
not included as a heavy part of his narrative or since the soldaderas were territorial,
maybe he did not interact with them as much to include them.
If we take Azuela’s perspective and compare it to the historical context of the
time, as experiences correlate, it is merely one man’s perspective in the grand scheme
of themes. As mentioned before, he took these experiences lived first hand and tapped
into the feelings and emotions he felt while living this and wrote this poetic narration that
between real events and metaphors, truly represents how farmers and revolution
soldiers felt at a larger scale. Azuela perceived and transmitted the injustice the
community felt, the fear for their homes and livelihood, their ignorance and lack of
education that impeded them from speaking up and to top it all off, the nostalgia felt at
large that longs for justice and lives in the sadness of a submissive environment. That’s
why I believe that Azuela truly does write every page with history and facts within them
but due to how much symbolism and emotion he shows, the reader may not see it that
way. However, what better way to hear about the Revolution than a medic who lived it?
Think about it, as much history and facts that you would want to document from living
through something like that, you cannot help but bring how these experiences made you
feel, especially when you are among all those people living that as well. With Azuela
you get a real sense of not only his emotions throughout, but an interesting take on how
it affected all different types of people that participated in the revolution at large.


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