El Zarco, the Bandit Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: El Zarco: Episodios de la vida mexicana en 1861-1863, 1901 (English translation, 1957)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1861-1863

Locale: The province of Morelos, Mexico

Characters DiscussedNicolas

Nicolas El Zarco, the Bandit (nee-koh-LAHS), a Mexican blacksmith of Indian descent. Nicolas, who is infatuated by Manuela, realizes while he is imprisoned for accusing an officer of shirking his duties that Pilar is his true love. Released from jail, he joins Martín Sánchez and assists in El Zarco’s capture. When the bandit is finally executed, Nicolas and Pilar pass by on the way to their wedding.

El Zarco

El Zarco (SAHR-koh), a bandit. Taking advantage of the troubled times during the War of Reform, El Zarco leads his cutthroats through the countryside, murdering and plundering. Flattered by her devotion, he takes Manuela as his bride.


Manuela (mah-NWEH-lah), Doña Antonia’s impetuous daughter. In love with the bandit El Zarco, she refuses to believe the stories of his cruelty. After she runs away with him, she sees his sordid side, but she still remains true to him. When he is executed, she falls to the ground dead.

Martín Sánchez

Martín Sánchez (mahr-TEEN SAHN-chehs), a rancher. Enraged by the death of his father and his son at the hands of El Zarco, Martín swears to track down the bandits. At Calavera, he captures El Zarco, but the outlaw is rescued. Undaunted, Martín again captures the bandits and executes them.


Pilar (pee-LAHR), Doña Antonia’s godchild, in love with Nicolas.

El Tigre

El Tigre (TEE-gray), El Zarco’s bestial lieutenant.

Doña Antonia

Doña Antonia (ahn-TOH-nyah), Manuela’s mother.

BibliographyCastagnaro, Anthony R. The Early Spanish American Novel. New York: Las Américas, 1971. Focuses on the development of the Latin American novel since the nineteenth century. Establishes Altamirano as a precursor of the genre in Mexico.Duncan, Cynthia. “Altamirano, Ignacio Manuel.” In Dictionary of Mexican Literature, edited by Eladio Cortés. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992. A survey of Altamirano’s works; a good introduction to this author.Nacci, Chris. Ignacio Manuel Altamirano. New York: Twayne, 1970. Good introduction to Altamirano’s life and works. Presents an overview of his works, with strong biographical and historical background.Reyes, Lisa. “The Nineteenth-Century Latin American National Romance and the Role of Women.” Ariel 8 (1992): 33-44. Provides a comparative study of major nineteenth century novelists’ treatment of women in their works. Stresses the influence of the strong Latin American patriarchal social structure on the emerging novel.
Categories: Characters