Pedro Páramo

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Pedro Páramo
First edition
AuthorJuan Rulfo
Original titlePedro Páramo
TranslatorMargaret Sayers Peden
PublisherFondo de Cultura Económica
Publication date

Pedro Páramo is a novel written by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. The novel tells the story of Juan Preciado, a man who promises his mother on her deathbed to meet Preciado's father for the first time in the town of Comala only to come across a literal ghost town, that is, populated by spectral characters. During the course of the novel, these ghostly inhabitants reveal details about life and afterlife in Comala, including that of Preciado's reckless father, Pedro Páramo, and his centrality for the town.[1][2] Initially, the novel was met with cold critical reception and sold only two thousand copies during the first four years; later, however, the book became highly acclaimed.[3] Páramo was a key influence on Latin American writers such as Gabriel García Márquez. Pedro Páramo has been translated into more than 30 different languages and the English version has sold more than a million copies in the United States.

Gabriel García Márquez has said that he felt blocked as a novelist after writing his first four books and that it was only his life-changing discovery of Pedro Páramo in 1961 that opened his way to the composition of his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Moreover, García Márquez claimed that he "could recite the whole book, forwards and backwards."[4] Jorge Luis Borges considered Pedro Páramo to be one of the greatest texts written in any language.[5][6]


Narrative structure[edit]

The story begins with the first-person account of Juan Preciado, who promises his mother at her deathbed that he will return to Comala to meet his father, Pedro Páramo. His narration is interspersed with fragments of third-person dialogue from the life of Pedro Páramo, who lived in a time when Comala was a robust, living town, instead of the ghost town Juan now sees. The two major competing narrative voices present alternative visions of Comala, one living and one populated with the spirits of the dead.

The novel is set in the fictional town of Comala and its surroundings, a reference to the real town of Comala in the Mexican state of Colima, close to Juan Rulfo's homeland.


The sequence of events for the plot is broken up in the work in a nonlinear fashion and is at times difficult to discern and the same occurs with the characters as it is often impossible at first for the reader even to tell which characters are alive or dead.[7][8]

The earliest moment in the story is Fulgor Sedano's arrival at Media Luna. His old patrón, Don Lucas, informs him that his son Pedro Páramo is totally useless and that he should go and get a new job when he dies. Later, Pedro's grandfather dies, and when his family prays for him after his death to help shorten his time in Purgatory, Pedro instead thinks about playing with Susana San Juan, the love of his life. They would fly kites near the village, and Pedro would help Susana fly hers. He is scolded for taking so long in the outhouse by his mother while he recalls this event. Soon after Señora San Juan dies, the San Juan family moves to the mining region. Exploring the Andromeda mine, Señor San Juan lowers Susana at the end of a rope into the old mine shaft. Searching for gold coins, Susana only finds a skeleton. Later in her life, her husband Florencio dies, and she's driven mad by the belief that he's still alive.

When Lucas Páramo is mistakenly killed at a wedding, Pedro later massacres most of the wedding guests. Fulgor Sedano informs Pedro about his father's debts to the Preciado family. To relieve these debts, they concoct a plan to marry Dolores Preciado. When Sedano tries to convince her, she informs him that she's menstruating and cannot be married so soon. Osorio later warns Dolores not to sleep with Pedro on their wedding night, so she begs Eduviges Dyada to sleep with him in her place. Eduviges agrees, but Pedro is too drunk to have sex.

Pedro's son Miguel is killed when, travelling to Contla, he jumps over a fence with his horse. Despite Miguel's cruel and irredeemable nature, Father Rentería absolves him after Pedro pays him in gold coins. Father Rentería remembers how Miguel killed his brother and raped his niece. Dorotea later confesses to Father Rentería that she was trafficking girls for Miguel Páramo; the priest cannot forgive her.

Pedro Páramo seeks to add Toribio Aldrete's land to his estate, and when Toribio visits the home of Eduviges, Pedro Páramo and Fulgor Sedano hang him. Later, Eduviges kills herself out of despair. Living in the Media Luna estate, Dolores Preciado leaves Pedro Páramo to live with her sister.

At the onset of the Mexican Revolution, the countryside has become too dangerous, and the San Juan family returns to Comala. When Señor San Juan dies, his ghost visits the crazed Susana, who only laughs. A stuttering man (Spanish: El Tartamudo) arrives at Pedro's house and informs him that revolutionaries have captured and killed Fulgor Sedano. To protect himself, Pedro invites local revolutionaries to his house for supper, promising them money and support. Pedro informs a revolutionary leader, El Tilcuate, that the money has run out and that he should raid a larger town for supplies.

When Susana San Juan dies, she refuses absolution by the priest, and Father Rentería pretends to give her last sacraments. The people of Comala have a large party, greatly annoying Pedro, who is mourning the loss of Susana. Out of spite, he lets the town die of starvation. The wife of Abundio Martínez, Refugia, dies of this starvation. He heads into town to drink, and finds Damiana Cisneros, the cook at the Media Luna. Abundio Martínez stabs her to death, captured and dragged to the Media Luna. There, Abundio kills Pedro Páramo, revealing that he's an illegitimate son of his. As he dies, he thinks of Susana and sees the ghost of Damiana.

Dolores Preciado dies, and on her deathbed, she charges her son Juan to head to Comala and find his father Pedro Páramo. There, he finds the ghosts of Abundio, Eduviges, and Damiana, who tell him the stories of the town. He meets an incestuous couple, Donis and his sister, and spends the night at their house. Haunted by the ghosts of Comala, Juan dies of fright, buried in a shared grave with Dorotea. Trapped in his grave, he experiences the story and life of Pedro Páramo.


A major theme in the book is people's hopes and dreams as sources of the motivation they need to succeed. Hope is each character's central motive for action. As Dolores tells her son, Juan, to return to Comala, she hopes that he will find his father and get what he deserves after all of these years. Despair is the other main theme in the novel. Each character's hopes lead to despair since none of their attempts to attain their goals are successful.[9]

Juan goes to Comala instilled with the hope that he will meet and finally get to know his father. He fails to accomplish this and dies fearful, having lost all hope.

Pedro hopes that Susana San Juan will return to him after so long. He was infatuated with her as a young boy and recalls flying kites with her in his youth. When she finally returns to him, she has gone mad and behaves as though her first husband were still alive. Nevertheless, Pedro hopes that she will eventually come to love him. Dorotea says that Pedro truly loved Susana and wanted nothing but the best for her.[9]

Father Rentería lives in hope that he will someday be able to fully fulfill his vows as a Catholic priest, telling Pedro that his son will not go to heaven, instead of pardoning him for his many sins in exchange for a lump of gold.[2]

Ghosts and the ethereal nature of the truth are also recurrent themes in the text.[1][2] When Juan arrives in Comala it is a ghost town, yet this is only gradually revealed to the reader. For example, in an episode with Damiana Cisneros, Juan talks to her believing that she is alive. They walk through the town together until he becomes suspicious as to how she knew that he was in town, and he nervously asks, "Damiana Cisneros, are you alive?" This encounter shows the truth as fleeting, always changing, and impossible to pin down. It is difficult to truly know who is dead and who is alive in Comala.[1]

Sometimes the order and nature of events that occur in the work are not as they first seem. For example, midway through the book, the original chronology is subverted when the reader finds out that much of what has preceded was a flashback to an earlier time.[9]


Critics primarily consider Pedro Páramo as either a work of magic realism or a precursor to later works of magic realism; this is the standard Latin American interpretation.[10][3][11] However, magical realism is a term coined to note the juxtaposition of the surreal to the mundane, with each bearing traits of the other. It is a means of adding surreal or supernatural qualities to a written work while avoiding total disbelief.[1][12][9] Pedro Páramo is unlike other works of this type because the primary narrator states clearly in the second paragraph of the novel that his mind has filled with dreams and that he has given flight to illusion and that a world has formed in his mind around the hopes of finding a man named Pedro Páramo. Likewise, several sections into this narration, Juan Preciado states that his head has filled with noises and voices. He is unable to distinguish living persons from apparitions. Certain critics believe that particular qualities of the novel, including the narrative fragmentation, the physical fragmentation of characters, and the auditory and visual hallucinations described by the primary narrator, suggest that this novel's journey and visions may be more readily associated with the sort of breakdown of the senses present in schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like conditions rather than with magical realism.[12][13]

Meaning of title[edit]

It is obvious that the title underscores the importance of the character of Pedro Páramo. Pedro is a very important character, and his life and decisions that he makes are key to the survival of the town of Comala. His last name is symbolic because it means "barren plain" or "wasteland", which is what the town of Comala becomes as a result of his manipulation.[1] He is not only responsible for the economic well-being of the town but also for the existence of many of its inhabitants. His offspring includes Abundio, Miguel, and Juan, along with countless others. He is commonly seen raping women, and even Dorotea cannot keep track of all the women he has slept with.[9] He is also responsible for the security of the town. He strikes a deal with the revolutionary army and does so mainly in his own self-interest and for protection. But being the owner of such a large swath of land, he is, by extension, in charge of the physical well-being of the town.[12][2] An example of his power is when he decides to allow Comala to starve and do nothing with the fields and with the crops. The town withers on his apathy and indifference. The entire work centers around his actions, appetites and desires. He holds the town of Comala in the proverbial palm of his hand.[9]


Main characters[edit]

Pedro Páramo[edit]

Pedro Páramo is both protagonist and antagonist since his acts are at cross-purposes. He is capable of decisive action, like when he eliminated his debt and took over more land, but is unable to use that decisiveness to do any good for the community. He is like a tragic hero in the way that he longs for Susana and is totally unable to get over her death. His one fatal flaw is her. He cannot function without her or the incentive of her. Pedro serves as a fertility god figurehead in the work. He not only literally impregnates many of the town's women, but he has many children (the priest brings many to his doorstep). He also is in charge of the well-being of Comala, but also can "cross his arms" and let Comala die. This shows that he has the power of life and fertility over the town. Pedro's name has great significance in the work. Pedro is derived from the Greek petrus, meaning 'rock', and Páramo, meaning 'barren plain'. This is ironic since in the end of the work Pedro collapses "like a pile of rocks" after observing what his land had become.[14]

Susana San Juan[edit]

She is the love of Pedro's life. They grew up together. Her mother died friendless, and later her father Bartolomé is killed in the Andromeda mine by Sedano so that Pedro can marry her. She loved her first husband very much and went mad when he died. She thinks that he is still living, and she "talks" to him several times in the work. She appeared to have loved him for his body and not for his personality. She might have had sex with Pedro, but it is apparent that he wanted to have her. They were never married since he had never divorced Dolores. He is full of grief when she dies and refuses to work anymore and lets the town die. She is commonly portrayed and symbolized as the rain and water. In the passages that she is in, there is a backdrop with it raining. Such an example of this is the scene with Justina, Susana, and the cat. The entire background is the rain; it is raining torrents, and the valley is flooded.[14]

Juan Preciado – narrator[edit]

Juan is one of the two narrators in the work. He recounts his story for the first half of the work, up until his death.[14] He comes to Comala in order to find his father, his mother's last wish. He finds the town abandoned and dies of fright from the ghosts. He is then buried in the same grave as Dorotea, whom he talks with. It is apparent that he dies without the proper sacraments and is now stuck in purgatory.[2]

Fulgor Sedano – mentor[edit]

He is the administrator of the Media Luna. Initially warned by Pedro's father not to trust him, he eventually becomes enforcing hand of Pedro's schemes. He had been around the estate for many years serving the former patrons, Pedro's father Lucas and Lucas's father before that. He knows what to do and how to do it and boasts a number of achievements, including getting Dolores to marry Pedro. He is killed by a band of revolutionaries who view him as an embodiment of the privileged estate that they are fighting against. He also is responsible for having Toribio Aldrete hanged because he was trying to get the land surveyed to prove his right to some of it.[14]

Miguel Páramo[edit]

He and Juan are both sons of Pedro Páramo. Miguel is the only son recognized by Pedro and was thus being groomed as the next Páramo heir. Miguel's character is the exact opposite to Juan. He is wild and a rapist, while Juan is quiet and respectful of women. He is fearless, whereas Juan dies of fear. He has a horse and rides it often, whereas Juan does not and has to travel by foot. His wantonness contrasts the calmness of Juan despite their shared parentage. Additionally, he is known for liking loose women and for murdering Ana's father. He also rapes Ana when he goes to her to apologize to her for killing him. He is thrown from his horse when going to another village to meet his current lover.[14]

Dorotea – narrator[edit]

Town's beggar. She is the second narrator in the work. She tells the story of Comala before Pedro died after she is buried in the grave with Juan. Her storytelling dominates the second half of the work. She was known for being homeless and living on the charity of the people in the town. She had always tried to have children but had "the heart of a mother but a womb of a whore". She was known for her eccentric behavior by thinking that she had had a baby.[14]

Father Rentería[edit]

Town's priest. He is really not the main character, but he possesses all the characteristics of one; for which he could considered an antihero. He tries to stand up to Pedro and not give absolution to his son, Miguel. He has only the best intentions in mind but is unable to carry them out. His brother was killed by Miguel, and his niece was raped by Miguel as well when he came to apologize to her. He takes some gold to absolve Miguel, and he feels poorly about it, throwing himself in a corner and crying to the Lord.[14]

He goes to another town to try to get himself forgiven of his sins so that he could continue to give the sacraments to the people of Comala. The other priest refuses, but they talk about how everything that grows in their region tastes sour and bitter. It is directly Father Rentería's fault that so many souls are stuck in Comala. He had failed in his duty to absolve those people and administer the last rite to them, and thus, they died and were unable to go to heaven. He is later mentioned as having joined the Cristero War.[14]

Minor characters[edit]

Eduviges Dyada[edit]

Town's prostitute and good friend of Dolores Preciado. They promised to die together and help each other through the afterlife. She had died years ago and greets Juan when he arrives at Comala. She tells him of how she almost "came within a hair of being his mother" since she had to go and sleep with Pedro on their wedding night. She tells of her relationship and relations with Miguel Páramo and how it was she who saw his ghost before it left. Her sister, María Dyada, tells the priest that her suicide was out of despair and that she was a really good woman. He refuses to help her, and thus, her ghost remains in the town and purgatory. She dies with the idea that Abundio is a good man and does not know about him murdering Damiana.[14]

Dolores Preciado[edit]

She was Juan's mother. She was wooed into marriage to Pedro by Sedano who said he thought of nothing but her all day and night and that her eyes were beautiful. Pedro owed her family the most money of all the other families, and her sisters had already moved to the city. She was married to annul the debt. Later, she is staring at a buzzard and wishes to be like it so that she could fly to her sister in the city. Pedro gets mad enough and dismisses her for good. They are never officially divorced. Her dying wish is for Juan to go and see his father and "make him pay for all those years he put us out of his mind".[14]

Abundio Martínez[edit]

He's another illegitimate son of Pedro's who works as the town's mail carrier. He is deaf because a rocket once went off near his ear. After that he did not talk much, and he became depressed. Later, his wife dies. He goes to get drunk at a local bar. Upon leaving he sees Damiana Cisneros and asks her for some money to bury his wife. He startles her, and she begins to scream. He then kills her, is captured, vomits, and is dragged to town. Eduviges calls him a good man.[14]

Inocencio Osorio[edit]

He is the town's seer. He is the one who tells Dolores not to sleep with Pedro on her wedding night. His nickname is "Cockleburr" since he is well known to be able to stick to any horse and break it.[14]

Damiana Cisneros[edit]

She is the cook at the Media Luna and the ghost who takes Juan from Eduviges's house on that first night. She is sad to hear that Eduviges is still wandering the earth. Juan takes a while to realize that she is really a ghost and for a time, thinks that she is still alive. She was murdered by Abundio. She was also one of Dolores's good friends, and Juan knew about her when he arrived at Comala.[14]

Toribio Aldrete[edit]

He is a property surveyor. He was splitting and dividing up Pedro's land and was going to build fences. He is stopped by a plot by Pedro and Sedano. They plot to try to stop him from doing the survey and draw up a warrant against him. Sedano goes to Eduviges's house one night with a drunken Aldrete and hangs him and throws away the keys to the room. He remains there in spirit and wakes Juan on his first night in Comala with his death screams.[14]

Donis and his wife/sister[edit]

These two are some of the last living people in the town. Donis is suspicious of Juan and his motives for being there and thinks that he is a serious criminal, perhaps a murderer, and does not want him to spend the night. Donis is engaged in an incestous relationship with his sister, started in an attempt to repopulate the town, although they once asked a bishop riding through town to marry them which he furiously refused, demanding they stop their relationship and "live like men". His wife/sister starts to like Juan after the first night and does a little extra to try to get him some more food since they have so little. She trades some of the old sheets for food and coffee with her older sister. Donis is glad that Juan showed up since he could now leave the town and have his wife/sister taken care of.[14]


She is Susana's caregiver. She has taken care of her for many years, since she was born. She cried when Susana was dying, and Susana told her to stop crying. Justina is scared one day by the ghost of Bartolomé, who tells her to leave the town since Susana would be well cared for.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Cluff, Benjamin H.; et al. (thesis presented to George C. Stallings as chair of department) (18 November 2009). Remembering the Ghost: Pedro Páramo and the Ethics of Haunting (PDF). BYU Department of Spanish and Portuguese (MA (Master of Arts)). Dissertations and Theses. Vol. 1936. Provo, Utah, United States of America: Brigham Young University. ISSN 2572-4479 – via BYU ScholarsArchive.
  2. ^ a b c d e Eckert, Ken (1 October 2011). Kwak, Jae-Sung; Lim, Taekyoon; Seo, Ji-Hyun; Kim, Won-Ho; Kim, Myung-Hye; Kim, Chong-Sup (eds.). "Christian Purgatory and Redemption in Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo" (PDF). Asian Journal of Latin American Studies. Seoul, South Korea: Latin American Studies Association of Korea (LASAK). 24 (4): 73–83. ISSN 2287-920X. OCLC 809386948. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b Zepeda, Jorge (2005). Venegas, Socorro; Buiza Figueroa, Maricel; Botello López, Elsa; Cabrera Camacho, Victor Hugo; Chavelas Peña, Rosalía; Zama Garza, Patricia; Sánchez Hernández, María Guadalupe; Alonso Yodu, Odette (eds.). La recepción inicial de Pedro Páramo (1955-1963) (in Spanish). Ciudad de México, Mexico: Dirección General de Publicaciones y Fomento Editorial (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)/Fundación Pedro Páramo. p. 378. ISBN 9789703216680.
  4. ^ Lewis, Jim (10 March 2008). Hohlt, Jared; Benedikt, Allison; Bennett, Laura; Check, Dan; Matthews, Susan; Levin, Josh (eds.). "The Perfect Novel You've Never Heard Of: Rediscovering Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. OCLC 728292344. Archived from the original on 5 January 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  5. ^ Saadi, Suhayl (23 October 2011). Broughton, Christian (ed.). "Book Of A Lifetime: Pedro Páramo, By Juan Rulfo". The Independent. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Archived from the original on 2022-05-25. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Jorge Luis Borges Selects 74 Books for Your Personal Library | Open Culture". Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  7. ^ Leal, Luis (1 January 1964). Lope Branch, Juan M.; Soler Arechalde, María Ángeles; Campos Guardado, María del Refugio; Pérez López, Julio; Reyes Coria, Sergio; Shuttera, Alejandro (eds.). "La estructura de Pedro Páramo". Anuario de Letras. Lingüística y Filología (in Spanish). Ciudad de México, Mexico: Centro de Lingüística Hispánica "Juan M. Lope Blanch" del Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)/Dirección General de Publicaciones y Fomento Editorial (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). IV (1): 287–294. ISSN 2448-8224. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  8. ^ Ortega, José (1 October 1975). Díez Canedo, Joaquín; Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo; Galindo, Sergio; Munoz, Mario; Gómez Aguilar, Luis Emilio; Sánchez, Diana Luz; Martínez, Germán; Guerrero, Jesus (eds.). "Estructura temporal y temporalidad en "Pedro Páramo"" (PDF). La Palabra y Hombre: Revista de la Universidad Veracruzana (in Spanish). Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana (UV). 18 (16): 19–26. ISSN 0185-5727. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Anderson, Danny J. (2002). "The Ghosts of Comala: Haunted Meaning in Pedro Páramo (Introduction)". In Rulfo, Juan (ed.). Pedro Páramo. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Austin, Texas, United States of America: University of Texas Press (University of Texas at Austin). ISBN 978-0-292-77121-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 December 2002.
  10. ^ Stanton, Anthony (1 January 1988). Alonso, Amado; Tenorio Trillo, Martha Lilia; Butragueño, Pedro Martín (eds.). "Estructuras antropológicas en Pedro Páramo" (PDF). Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica (in Spanish). Ciudad de México, Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico. XXXVI (1): 567–606. doi:10.24201/nrfh.v36i1.691. ISSN 0185-0121. JSTOR 40300774. OCLC 795935707.
  11. ^ Fajardo Valenzuela, Diógenes (1 January 1989). Valencia, Margarita; Vasquez Salamanca, Luis Eduardo; Millán de Benavides, Carmen; Hoyos, Camilo; Paredes, Julio; Mejía Muñoz, Luz Clemencia; Miranda Morales, Francisco Javier (eds.). ""Pedro Páramo" o la inmortalidad del espacio" (PDF). Thesaurus: Boletín del instituto Caro y Cuervo (in Spanish). Bogota, Colombia: Instituto Caro y Cuervo. 44 (1): 92–111. ISSN 0040-604X. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Corwin, Jay (1 May 2009). "Hispanic Writing and Culture of Central America and the Caribbean". In Bollig, Ben; Broderick, Ceire; Finnegan, Nuala; Forné, Anna; Levey, Cara; Oxford, Lori; Peate, Ailsa (eds.). Juan Rulfo: Pedro Paramo. ISSN 1747-678X. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2021. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  13. ^ Corwin, Jay (1 July 2009). Asimakopoulos, John; Márquez-Aponte, Elsa Karen; Zaidi, Ali Shehzad; Worley, Robert M.; Harden, B. Garrick (eds.). "Fragmentation and Schizophrenia in Pedro Páramo" (PDF). Theory in Action. Fair Lawn, New Jersey, United States of America: Transformative Studies Institute (TSI). 2 (3): 87–102. doi:10.3798/tia.1937-0237.09015. ISSN 1937-0229. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 September 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Rulfo, Juan; et al. (Photography by Josephine Sacabo, design by DJ Stout and Julie Savasky) (1 November 2002) [1955]. Anderson, Danny J.; Wittliff, Will (eds.). Pedro Páramo. Texas Pan American literature in translation. Vol. I. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden (3rd ed.). Austin, Texas, United States of America: University of Texas Press (University of Texas at Austin). ISBN 9780292771215 – via Google Books.


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