The Underdogs

The Mexican Rotation College

Environmental determinism claims that a society’s physical environment predetermines its social and cultural development. Naturally, environmental determinists would argue that Mexico’s appreciation of nature and agricultural roots influence its circular outlook and thus determine its laidback mentality. Mariano Azuela’s The Underdogs tells the story of Demetrio Macías, a rebel, who becomes a general in Pancho Villa’s army during the Mexican Revolution. Although Azuela rapidly relays the events of the Revolution, he describes Mexico’s landscape with vivid detail. The novel ends in the same sierra it began with Macías and his men still fighting the Federalists. Despite a lack of progress, The Underdogs is seen as one of the greatest novels of the Mexican Revolution because its preoccupation with nature brilliantly encompasses the cyclic nature of Mexican society.

Mexico’s environmental memory has been reinforced through decades of ritual and sacrifice. In the ancient world, the Aztecs believed in a deep connection between the human body and their chinampa agriculture. The different crops they grew had different representations: “human flesh being equated with maize, vegetable foods and the earth itself; human blood with rain and...

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