Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Cruz’s seclusion allows Fuentes to focus on his suffering protagonist’s interior life. Cruz’s memory functions as a very real place in the novel. In stark contrast to his decaying body, his memory is active, and through it readers see a number of poignant binaries: past and present, heroism and cowardice, loyalty and betrayal, love and lust, poverty and wealth, cynicism and opportunism, isolation and socialization.
Cocuya. Large estate in Mexico’s province of Veracruz with cultural ties to the nineteenth century dictator Antonio López de Santa Ana. Cruz’s mother (of African descent) was driven from this place after giving birth to her illegitimate son. This place reveals the humble origins of Artemio Cruz and may then help to explain his later drive for power and his own betrayal of the revolutionaries. Cocuya metaphorically represents the author’s view of the unfortunate, even adulterous, relationship of Mexican aristocracy with imperial forces. That relationship failed to appreciate and respect the attempted land reforms of the revolution.
*Veracruz. Mexican port city on the Caribbean coast and the place where Cruz is educated by Sebastian, who teaches him the ideals of social reform. Cruz recalls on several occasions his teacher and his ideals that seem to have become unraveled in the reality of warfare and class conflict.
*Mexico. Cruz’s flashbacks fill the novel with constant references to landscape, with such vivid images as red deserts, hills of prickly pears and magueys, dry cactuses, lava belts, limestone and sandstone cities, adobe pueblos, reed-grass hamlets, and so on. Such passages reinforce a powerful underlying motif found throughout the novel. The land that has been hoarded and fought over and promised and betrayed endures, despite the manipulative destruction of man. The landscape of Mexico functions for the author as a character-like force that stands in eternal mockery to the short-sighted and ego-driven possessiveness of man. The landscape connects mythic Mexico to the revolutionary period of the early twentieth century and finally to the modern-day society governed by growing technology and industrialization. The soul of Mexico is found in its natural order, and Cruz’s fluctuating relationship with the natural environment of his country tragically seems to become appreciative of her eternal quality only when his own life has passed its opportunity to protect and venerate the places so poignant in his mind.