Authors: Martín Luis Guzmán

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Mexican novelist and biographer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

El aguila y la serpiente, 1928 (The Eagle and the Serpent, 1930)

La sombra del caudillo, 1929

Memorias de Pancho Villa, 1938-1940, 1951 (4 volumes; Memoirs of Pancho Villa, 1965)


Islas Marias, novela y drama, 1959


La querella de Mexico, 1915

A orillas del Hudson, 1920

Javier Mina, héroe de Espana y deMexico, 1932 (biography; originally published as Mina el Mozo, héroe de Navarra)

Filadelfia paraíso de conspiradores, 1933 (history)

Apunte sobre una personalidad, 1954 (biography)

Muertes históricas, 1958 (biography)

Crónicas de mi Destierro, 1963 (biography)

Necesidad de cumplir las Leyes de Reforma, 1963


Obras completas, 1961-1963 (2 volumes)


Martín Luis Guzmán (gews-MAHN), one of the most vigorous writers on the Mexican Revolution, was born in 1887 in the capital of Chihuahua, which later became the main field of operations of the famous revolutionary warrior Pancho Villa. Guzmán’s father, a colonel of the federal army, and his mother, who was related to wealthy families of Chihuahua, moved later the same year to Tacubaya, at that time on the outskirts of Mexico City, close to the famous Chapultepec Castle. The daily contemplation of this building, so important in the political history of Mexico, gave the boy a deep sense of history that eventually oriented his literary work. In the city of Veracruz, at the age of fourteen, he continued his studies and published his first newspaper, La Juventud, a work of ephemeral importance.{$I[AN]9810000217}{$I[A]Guzmán, Martín Luis}{$I[geo]MEXICO;Guzmán, Martín Luis}{$I[tim]1887;Guzmán, Martín Luis}

Afterward, Guzmán entered the National Preparatory School and the National School of Law in Mexico City. After his marriage, he traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to fill a diplomatic post. He returned to Mexico in 1910, a crucial year for the country, for it marked the beginning of the revolution against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Guzmán joined Francisco Madero, the leader of the opposition, and participated enthusiastically in several nonmilitary tasks. In 1911, he associated with the group called El Ateneo de la Juventud, a young intellectual movement of great importance in the revival of Mexican culture. To denounce the opponents of the revolution, he founded the newspaper El Honor Nacional. After Victoriano Huerta murdered President Madero and usurped the presidency, Guzmán traveled to the northern boundary of Mexico to join the “Division of the North” that was commanded by Villa, and he eventually became Villa’s private secretary. When a schism developed between Villa and Venustiano Carranza, the new leader of the revolution, Guzmán supported Villa and was imprisoned in Mexico City. He was liberated by the Convention of Aguascalientes, when a new government appeared under the leadership of General Eulalio Gutiérrez.

A new discord between this regime and Villa ensued, and Guzmán, caught between the obedience to the Convention of Aguascalientes and loyalty to Villa, chose to expatriate himself voluntarily in 1915. He traveled in the United States, France, and Spain and finally settled in New York, where he collaborated in the publication of Spanish magazines. In 1920, he returned to Mexico. Again intervening in politics, he was appointed federal deputy and served in that post from 1922 through 1924 before political turmoil again necessitated exile, this time in Spain, where he remained almost twelve years. In 1936, he returned to Mexico and again devoted himself to journalism, publishing a weekly magazine of Mexican liberalism, Tiempo. He was elected a member of the Mexican Academy of the Language.

Guzmán’s best works center on the Mexican Revolution. As an eyewitness of many revolutionary deeds and an actor in others, Guzmán was very well qualified to write about this drama of Mexican history. The Eagle and the Serpent, La sombra del caudillo, and Memoirs of Pancho Villa constitute a trilogy of great historical density. Although the term “novel” cannot be fully applied to his works, which appear more like a series of episodes or a mosaic of short stories linked together by the common denominator of the Revolution, Guzmán’s mastery of narrative and descriptive techniques, his keenness of observation of the revolutionary leaders, especially Villa, and the dynamism and elegance of his prose make him one of the outstanding writers of Mexican literature. Whereas Mariano Azuela preferred to write about Los de Abajo (the underdogs) of the Revolution, Guzmán chose to present with great psychological acumen an intimate portrait of its leaders, with their ambition, nobility, instinctiveness, and desperation. Many historical episodes he relates are as full of suspense as fiction. His contribution was recognized when, in 1951, he was appointed the Mexican ambassador to the United Nations. In 1958, he received the Mexican National Award for Literature.

BibliographyBruce-Novoa, J. “Martín Luis Guzmán’s Necessary Overtures.” Discurso literario 4, no. 1 (Autumn, 1986).Evans, Ernestine. Review of The Eagle and the Serpent, by Martín Luis Guzmán. New York Herald Tribune, September 21, 1930.Grimes, Larry M. The Revolutionary Cycle in the Literary Production of Martín Luis Guzmán. Cuernavaca, Mexico: Centro Intercultural de Documentacion, 1969.James, Earle K. Review of The Eagle and the Serpent, by Martín Luis Guzmán. The New York Times Book Review, March 17, 1929.Leonard, Irving. “Martín Luis Guzmán, The Eagle and the Serpent.” Hispanic American Historical Review 13 (1933).Megenney, William W., ed. Five Essays on Martín Luis Guzmán. Riverside: Latin American Studies Program, University of California, 1978.Ruhl, A. Review of La sombra del caudillo, by Martín Luis Guzmán. Saturday Review of Literature 6 (1930).Sommers, Joseph. After the Storm: Landmarks of the Modern Mexican Novel. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968.Stanton, Ruth. “M. L. G.’s Place in Modern Mexican Literature.” Hispania 16 (1943).Wishnioff, Harriet V. Review of The Eagle and the Serpent, by Martín Luis Guzmán. The Nation, October 17, 1928.
Categories: Authors