Places: Broad and Alien Is the World

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: El mundo es ancho y ajeno, 1941 (English translation, 1941)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: 1912-1926

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Andes

*Andes. Broad and Alien Is the WorldGreat mountain range that runs through Peru and the other countries of South America’s west coast. Within the novel, the mountains’ peaks are personified by the indigenous peoples: Urpillau, Huarca, Huillac, Puma, Suni, Mamay, who are inextricably tied to nature. Geography is always a silent presence in the novel. At times, it is almost a dominant character, reflecting the importance of geography in Peru’s culture: the lofty Andean sierra with its crisp, thin air, its gaunt landscapes, sparse vegetation, and rocky soil. Ciro Alegría was born and reared on a hacienda in the same region in which he sets this novel.


Rumi. Small Peruvian Indian village in which the novel is primarily set. The village is physically defined by Lombriz Creek, the plateau of El Alto, Lake Yanañahui, and the cliffs over Yanañahui; its space defines its inhabitants’ sense of self and order. Rosendo Maqui, the mayor, represents the inhabitants of Rumi at their best at the same time as the Rumi community, people and space, represents the ideal of nature. Rumi is a pastel-colored place, with cobbled, windswept streets and huddled houses. Its people grow potatoes and tend their llamas. They chew coca to cope with hunger and the cold, and their chests are like those of pouter pigeons since their high-altitude air has little oxygen.

Umay Ranch

Umay Ranch. Private ranch adjoining Rumi that is owned by Don Alvaro Amenabar, a greedy and unprincipled patrón who uses force and legal trickery to wrest the best farmland of the villagers away from them. His greed diametrically opposes every tenet of the Rumi community’s philosophy and practices. Amenabar represents the worst of the latter-day conquerors.


Yanañahui (yah-na-NYAH-wee). New and higher altitude location to which Rumi’s people move their village after Amenabar forces them off their original land. After going through great suffering and loss to rebuild in this location, they eventually lose even this less desirable space, as the conquerors’ space has no room for them, physically or psychologically. Nowhere under the Peruvian flag is there a place that is not hostile to Indians.


Cities. The large Peruvian cities that figure into the story, such as the provincial capital, Trujillo, and Lima, the national capital, are centers of primarily European institutions: banks, a law school, the seat of government. Imposed upon the landscape, rather than integrated into it, the cities represent not only the continuing physical and mental encroachment of the descendants of the original conquerors upon the indigenous inhabitants but also the unbridgeable gap that still separates them.

Jungle plantations

Jungle plantations. Rubber tree collecting camps and coca plantations in Peru’s jungle backlands are perceived by Indians as places of hope where they can earn money; however, they prove to be hellholes. Both courageous and cowardly Indians try to bridge the gap between the cultures or escape their fate in their communities by taking jobs on the plantations. However, these profit-making enterprises–like the cities–are imposed on, not integrated into, nature, and the Indians who work on them are generally overwhelmed.

Suggested ReadingsAldrich, Earl M., Jr. The Modern Short Story in Peru. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966. Historical survey introducing major writers, styles, and themes of the Peruvian short story of Alegría’s day. Alegría’s short story production is analyzed within the context of the author’s literary contributions.Early, Eileen. Joy in Exile: Ciro Alegría’s Narrative Art. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1980. Survey of Alegría’s short stories and novels. Traces Alegría’s major literary motifs within the context of Peruvian literature.Flores, Angel. “Ciro Alegría.” Spanish American Authors: The Twentieth Century. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1992. Surveys Alegría’s production, including bibliographical sources. Written primarily in Spanish. An excellent starting point to Alegría’s works.Foster, David William, and Virginia Ramos Foster. “Alegría, Ciro.” In Modern Latin American Literature, edited by David William Foster and Virginia Ramos Foster. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1975. Excerpts from critical studies. An excellent starting point to Alegría’s best-known works.González-Pérez, Armando. Social Protest and Literary Merit in “Huasipungo” and “El mundo es ancho y ajeno.” Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center for Latin America, 1988. Alegría’s two most well-known novels are analyzed in terms of his ideological views. Alegría is presented as an influential intellectual who participated in social movements that promoted the advancement of the indigenous population.
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