Distant Neighbors: Twentieth-Century Mexican Literature

Mariano Azuela (1873-1952)

The Underdogs


  • Born in 1873 in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico; died of a heart attack in Mexico City in 1952. Buried in the Rotonda de Hombres Illust, Mexico's Westminster Abbey.
  • Married Carmen Riveria; father of ten children.
  • Educated as a doctor in Guadalajara; practiced medicine all his life, first in Lagos where he was born and later among the poor of Mexico City.
  • Served as chief of political affairs in Lagos de Moreno and later as state director of education in Jalisco under the revolutionary government of Francisco I. Madero; after Madero's assasination, became a physician with the army of Pancho Villa and, after Villa's defeat, fled to El Paso, Texas. Returned to Mexico City in 1916.


  • Began writing while still a student and published his first novel, Maria Luisa, in 1907; continued to write throughout his life.
  • Best known as a prolific novelist, though he also wrote short stories, plays, criticism, and history.
  • Received the National Prize for Literature in 1949; his play based on The Underdogs won a prize for drama in 1950.
  • The foremost chronicler of the Mexican Revolution, wrote five novels on the subject, including the The Underdogs, which is considered his masterwork. The Underdogs, composed of linked, starkly realistic sketches that depict the military expliotation of indigenous people.

Major Fiction (*indicates availability in English translation)

Maria Luisa, 1907
Los fracasados ("The Falures"), 1908
*Mala yerba: Novela de costumbres nacionales, 1909. Tr. as Marcela: A Mexican Love Story by Anita Brenner, 1932
Andres Perez, maderista, 1911
*Los de abajo: Novela de la revolucion mexicana, 1916. Tr. as The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution by E. Munguia, Jr., 1929.
*Los caciques, 1917. Tr. as The Bosses by Lesley Byrd Simpson, published in Two Novels of Mexico,1956.
*Las moscas, 1918. Tr. as The Flies by Lesley Byrd Simpson, published in Two Novels of Mexico, 1956.
*Las tribulaciones de una familia decente, 1918. Tr. as The Trials of a Respectable Family by Hendricks and Berler, published (with The Underdogs) as Two Novels of the Mexican Revolution, 1963.
La Malhora, 1923.
El desquite, 1925
*La luciernaga, 1932. Tr. as The Firefly, by Hendricks and Berler, published as Three Novels of Mariano Azuela, 1979.
El camarada Pantoja
, 1937.
San Gabriel de Valdivas, 1938.
Neuva burguesia, 1941.
La mujer domada, 1946.
Sendas perdidas, 1949.
La maldicion, 1955.
Esa sangre, 1956.

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volumes 104 and 131, and Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 81.  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.  
  • Other Gale resources include the Dictionary of Hispanic Biography; "Hispanic Culture of Mexico, Central America, and the Carribbean," Volume 4 of the Dictionary of Twentieth Century Culture, ed. Peter Standish; Hispanic Literature Criticism (contains protrait); Hispanic Writers; Major Twentieth Century Writers; and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism.
  • Other sources of critical/biographical information:
    • Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, 1996.
    • Cassell's Encyclopedia of World Literature, Vols. 2 and 3, 1073.
    • Cyclopedia of World Authors, ed. Frank Magill, 5 vols., 1997.
    • Dictionary of Mexican Literature, ed. Eladio Cortes, 1992.
    • Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, 1999. (contains portrait)
    • Latin American Lives, 1996-98.
    • Spanish American Authors: The Twentieth Century, Angel Flores, 1992.
    • Obituaries on File, comp. by Felice Levy, 2 vols., 1979.
    • Forum for Modern Language Studies, January 1979, pp. 14-25.
    • Journal of Spanish Studies: Twentieth Century, Fall 1979, pp. 207-12
    • New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1985.
    • Philological Quarterly, January 1972, pp. 321-328.
    • Studies in Short Fiction, 30, No. 4, Fall 1993, p. 616.

Retired Discussion Series

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