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Three Examples of Pre-Columbian and Early Colonial Drama, by Norine Polio


Guide Entry to 85.04.01:

The “Rabinal Achi” (Guatemala), “Apu Ollantay” (Peru), and “Gueguence or Macho Raton” (Nicaragua) are three of the few recorded indigenous dramas of the New World which survive today. They are relatively brief works with high interest/low vocabulary and are amazingly contemporary in plot line with universal themes portrayed by easily recognizable characters.

The “Rabinal Achi” develops along the lines of an interchange between two competing warriors who, although enemies, respect each other’s courage and inner drive. The “Apu Ollantay” has at its core an almost “Romeo and Juliet” theme of forbidden young love: Olantay and Cusi-Coyllur are in love but marriage is impossible because he is not of royal blood. They maintain a secret relationship when the king refuses to grant Ollantay’s wish for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Gueguence or Macho Raton is a light comedy in which the protagonist’s dialogue is a constant play on words as he feigns deafness when it suits his purposes.

Contained in this unit are the historical background of each play, plot summaries, structural analyses, technical notes on costumes and music, and lesson plans incorporating language arts skills. The teacher therefore can use the unit either in its entirety to produce a staged version of each play, or in part for simple readings.

(Recommended for Drama, Literature, and Intermediate ESOL classes, grades 6 through 12)

Horacio Quiroga: The Poe of Latin America, by Patricia A. Niece

Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937) was an Uruguayan writer renowned for his short stories. He is sometimes called the Poe of Latin America because of his obsession with love, insanity, cruelty, and death—all frequent themes in his stories. A skilled technician, Quiroga’s work is noted for its realism, intensity, and verbal economy. Most of his stories take place in the jungle and often pit rational man against irrational Nature. Quiroga is fascinated by man’s actions in the face of extremely stressful situations. This unit explores Quiroga’s life, his major themes and his stylistic principles. It then discusses two of his most masterful stories, “A la deriva” (“Drifting”) and “El hijo” (“The Son”). Both stories deal with sudden death and man’s efforts not to succumb to it. “A la deriva” begins with a snake bite. The story traces coincidentally the man’s actions to escape death and the poison’s progress throughout his body. “El hijo” is the heart wrenching story of a father’s frantic search for his son who has gone into the jungle to hunt and has failed to return. Both stories are emotionally riveting and guaranteed immediately to engage the interest of students. The accompanying exercises ask the students to use a variety of critical thinking skills to evaluate the stories and their own reactions to them.

(Recommended for Spanish II, III, or IV classes, grades 9-12)

Key Words

Short Story Quiroga Horacio Foreign Language Instruction Spanish Literature Reading

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