Places: The Itching Parrot

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: El periquillo sarniento, 1816 (English translation, 1942)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Picaresque

Time of work: 1770’s to 1820’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedCollege of San Ildefonso

College Itching Parrot, Theof San Ildefonso (eel-DAY-fohn-soh). College in Mexico City at which Pedro Sarmiento (also called “Poll”) does not learn to behave but picks up the rude habits of his classmates, even though he eventually is awarded a bachelor’s degree. In his satire of the university system, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi demonstrates that a college degree is neither difficult to obtain nor, ultimately, useful.

Januario’s hacienda

Januario’s hacienda. Country estate owned by the father of Pedro’s classmate Januario, whom he visits after he obtains his degree. Unable to ride a horse or fight a bull, he makes a fool of himself in front of Januario’s family and is sent back to the city.

Monastery of San Diego

Monastery of San Diego. Franciscan monastery that Pedro enters to avoid having to learn a trade. However, he soon finds that he cannot stand the monks’ life of religious devotion and sacrifice and is glad when his father’s death gives him an excuse to leave the monastery. He then returns to a life of gambling and debauchery.

Prisons

Prisons. Penal institutions in which Pedro is imprisoned for petty crimes and misdemeanors several times. Lizardi provides an unflinching description of the colonial prisons’ hellish conditions. While incarcerated, the prisoners continue to gamble and steal. Lizardi exposes the corruption of the penal system through the character of Don Antonio, an innocent man who has been unjustly convicted.

*Tula

*Tula. Village outside Mexico City to which Pedro flees after failing in brief and disastrous apprenticeships, first for a pharmacist and then for a physician, whose uniform and diploma he steals. He then pretends to be a physician and sees several patients die. When a plague hits Tula, he gives up and moves on to his next adventure.

Church of San Miguel

Church of San Miguel. Church in which Pedro serves briefly as sacristan–the person in charge of watching over the church’s most sacred objects–after finding nowhere else to turn. Blinded by greed, he finds nothing sacred and is caught trying to steal jewelry off a corpse.

*Tixtla

*Tixtla. District in whose government Pedro becomes a government subdelegate, or representative. There he abuses his authority to such an extent that he is arrested and sent back to Mexico City in a vignette that satirizes the unscrupulous Spanish authorities who indulge their own desires to the detriment of others.

*Manila

*Manila. Spanish colonial capital of the Philippines, to which Pedro is sent after being sentenced to eight years of service in the army. Far from the corrupting forces of his native city, Pedro finally becomes an honest man here. He earns the trust of the colonel and becomes his clerk. He is also able to stockpile a small fortune before he finishes his sentence and makes his way back to Mexico City.

Island

Island. Remote Pacific island on which Pedro takes refuge after his ship sinks in a storm and he loses his entire fortune while returning to Mexico. On the island he is befriended by a wealthy man who takes him in. Because his island host does not know Western ways, Pedro tries to convince him of his noble status. The institutions of the West, and the abuses of power in New Spain, surprise and confound the islander.

San Augustín de las Cuevas

San Augustín de las Cuevas (auh-guhs-TEEN deh las KWAY-vahs). Beautiful country house to which Pedro retires and leads a respectable life after marrying the daughter of Don Antonio. There he raises a family, surrounded by a well-cultivated orchard in a setting that contrasts starkly with the grime of Mexico City. With this ending, Lizardi suggests that reform is possible, and rewards wait for those who live an honest life.

BibliographyBell, Steven M. “Mexico.” In Handbook of Latin American Literature, edited by David William Foster. 2d ed. New York: Garland, 1992. The section on The Itching Parrot shows that Fernández de Lizardi did not seek to entertain the colonial nobility in his novel but instead to enlighten the masses.Cros, Edmond. “The Values of Liberalism in El Periquillo Sarniento.” Sociocriticism 2 (December, 1985): 85-109. Studies the relationship between the Spanish colony of New Spain and its metropolis through the relationship between father and son, which the first-person novel relies upon as a guiding theme.Franco, Jean. An Introduction to Spanish-American Literature. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1969. The section on El periquillo sarniento argues that Fernández de Lizardi represents a new type of Spanish American, one for whom the newspaper served as a weapon, and contends that Poll is too passive a hero to be sympathetic to the modern reader.González, Aníbal. Journalism and the Development of Spanish American Narrative. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993. The section on El periquillo sarniento argues that the main character is an allegory of the journalist and of the duplicitous nature of writing.Vogeley, Nancy. “Defining the ‘Colonial Reader.’” PMLA 102, no. 5 (1987): 784-800. Argues that Fernández de Lizardi’s aim in writing the novel was to challenge readers’ expectations that a literary work should follow European standards and have an elevated style. Argues that Fernández de Lizardi created a new genre and a new readership.
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