This is the fourth book in a series of six books by B. Traven called The Jungle Series. The novels in the series, including this one, give the reader a view of Mexico and its people in the years leading up to the Mexican Revolution during the Diaz regime (1876-1910). Set in the mahogany plantations of Chiapas, Mexico, this novel explores the relationship between the landowners and the Indians that worked for them. Readers are exposed to the horrors that the Indians experienced in the forests of Mexico while cutting and transporting trozas (one ton logs) of mahogany for the owners of the monterías. The forests are full of snakes, ticks, flesh-eating flies, and other malevolent beasts. Not to mention the capataces that drive the Indians day and night to produce much more than they are capable of. The Indians are treated with more disrespect than the oxen that haul the logs. This novel definitely shows the darker side of human beings in terms of the ways in which they are capable of treating other humans.


There are some striking similarities between this novel and both I, Rigoberta Menchu (see Lanette Grate's discussion by clicking the link)--the testimony of a native Guatemalan woman and her people--as well as The Nine Guardians (see Kendra Matko's discussion on this text by clicking the link) by Rosario Castellanos. B. Traven relates the story of the Indians in much the same way that Castellanos does because he provides both perspectives of colonialism. In terms of structure, this novel reads much the same way that Castellanos' novel does. But, I think that The Nine Guardians is more balanced in terms of the emotion that it elicits than is Trozas.

In Castellanos' novel, the reader is allowed to see the impact that colonialism has on both sides. In terms of the emotion the novel elicits in the reader, there is more of a balance than in Traven's novel. Traven tends to pull the reader's emotions more toward the Indians than to the landowners in an effort to show the pain and torment the Indians had to endure each day. In that respect, Traven's novel is comparable to Menchu's testimony. Menchu gives a mostly one-sided explanation of colonialism in telling how her people were tortured and taken advantage of by the landowners. Each of these three books, though, seem to have the same motivation behind them, and that is to make the world aware of the injustices that were forced upon the Indians in Central America.


There are some critics who question whether or not the atrocities that Menchu talks about in her account actually happened to her and her family. Just how valid is her testimony? That is the burning question. Did she embellish a bit in order to sway readers into taking her side? I must say that I don't think that what B. Traven and Rosario Castellanos are doing in there novels is much different. The message is just conveyed through a different genre.

As I have already mentioned, all three of these storytellers had the same goal in mind; they all wanted to bring an end to the atrocities suffered by the Indians in Central America. B. Traven was not, by any means, an advocate of the capitalist and imperialist mentality that he saw in the government in Mexico at the time. He felt that the Indians should fight for their freedom any way they could. I think that Menchu and Castellanos were saying the same.

If one thing can be learned from all of this, it is that the unspeakable horrors that these authors speak about did in fact happen everyday. The question as to whether or not they actually happened to any one specific individual is irrelevant.






Teaching the Traven novels should be done with great care in considering the history that surrounds them. There are many books available on B. Traven himself, and there are also quite a few books that cover the Diaz regime, which is when the stories take place. The events that led up to the Mexican Revolution are what Traven was writing about in the Jungle novels. Without gaining an understanding of that time period, it may be a bit difficult to fully understand what Traven is saying.

Traven is said to have claimed Mexico as his homeland when he moved there in 1924. Some good questions for students to consider while reading and researching any of the six Traven novels might be:

What was the political climate like when Traven arrived in Mexico?

Had it changed at all since the end of the Diaz regime?

What prompted Traven's move to Mexico and why did he decide to write on the time period presented in the Jungle novels?

How effective is Traven's writing style, is it believable?

Those are just a few simple questions that could be presented to a class. A good thing to do would be to have the students work together in groups while reading the chosen novel. Each group could pick a block of time during the Diaz regime, research it, and apply it to Traven's writings. This would culminate in a series of group presentations in which the class teaches the novel--and the history surrounding it--to the class. Of course the instructor would fill in any large gaps. I feel this would prove to be an extremely effective learning experience for the students as well as the instructor.


Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

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Last Updated: 9 March 2002