Rebellion of the Hanged


Rebellion of the Hanged, the 5th of B. Traven's 6 Jungle Novels, is full of emotion. This is a story of Indians in southern Mexico confronting an exhausting oppression and then crossing the bridge to rebellion. Set in the time of the Mexican Revolution the novel addresses the struggles in their individual lives as Native American mohagany workers revolt against the owners of the camps in a march through the jungle during a horrible rainy season.

B. Traven, born in Chicago in 1890, lived in Germany and in a British prison, is also the author of many other books set in Mexico. With all the many alias's he had, he managed to skip out on film apperances and interviews or whatever called for him to show his face and prove his identity. He wrote The Treasure of The Sierra Madre in 1935, his best known work made into a film directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart. Traven feels that his books are a way to express himself; they were to "...speak for him..."

Traven's writings will lead a compassionate reader to sympathize with the oppressed. He is on the side of those that are less fortunate and points out the wrongs of the state and society.


Rebellion of the Hanged focuses on the treatment of the Indians, how they were deprived of their rights and their land. They were left at the mercy of the finqueros, who force the Indian families to work endlessly on their fincas. The theme here is "involuntary servitude", a theme you would find in other books addressing native experience in Central America such as, I, Rigoberta Menchu and The Nine Guardians. The three works demonstrate a strong determination provoked by the harsh treatment the indigenous people endured. This determination teaches them to stand up against their oppressors. There is a constant struggle for the Indians to gain their place, respect, rights, and a voice throughout these works. They're fighting to hold on to their governments and their land. It's all they have.

Ownership of the land emerges as the crucial question to the problem of involuntary servitude. Menchu had seen family members tortured and mutilated right in front of her along with having to deal with the poverty and work on the plantations. She was left with huge responsibilities at a young age and felt she had stand up and do something about it. She and her people fight to have land from which they can earn their own livelihood. The Mexican Indians were persistant and determined to go through with their march for "land and liberty" no matter what was set in front of them.

Traven puts the reader to relate to those that are suffering in the story. Traven shows compassion for the indigenous people and shines light on the events outlining or leading up to the Mexican Revolution. He also demonstrates the "big hand" of the State and how the government and land owners use their power and position to treat the indigenous people worse than slaves.



One of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution was Emiliano Zapata, a peasant general. His struggle formed the historical basis for Traven's Jungle Novels. The Zapatista Movement which was also known as the Liberation Army of the South fought landholders in the predominantly native areas in the south of Mexico. The army was able to get schools started for adults and children and also some redistributing of land.

In 1993 an uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas drew on this historical legacy. Calling themselves "Zapatistas" native peasants demanded economic benefits and political self-determination from the modern Mexican state.

Traven exhibits through his portrayal of the people of Southern Mexico, resourcefulness, deligence and perseverence while struggling through many politcal and economical obstacles.





*** About B. Traven

This site gives plenty of information about the author, B. Traven. There's also a list of other publications by Traven.


A classmates page on another one of Traven's novels. Good page!


This site has small pieces of some investigations on "Traven" and also case studies.

***The Mexican Revolution

This site gives an account of the social and political structures of 19th century Mexico. How these conflicts were fought out during the Revolution.


Teaching About Central America


Teotihuacan [videorecording]: city of the gods/ Educational Filmstrips

Todos Santos Cuchumatan: This film shows life as an Indian in the Guatemala village of Todos Santos Cuchumatan, through their economic conditions, social conditions, everyday life, as well as customs and fiestas.


The Web Portal for Educators, is a great site for themes, ideas, and lesson plans with emphasis on Central American.

Research Topics:

  • The Mexican Revolution
  • Emiliano Zapata
  • Zapatista Uprising

Discussion Questions:

  • What are some of the political and economical problems the Indians faced preceeding, during and after the Mexican Revolution?
  • What do you think finally made the Indians revolt against their oppressors? Would you have?

Rebellion of The Hanged could be used in high school or college Language Arts or Social Studies.


Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

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Last Updated: 4/16