Todas las Sangres

Last updated
All Bloods Mixed
First edition
Author José María Arguedas
Original titleTodas las sangres
Country Peru
Language Spanish
PublisherLosada (Buenos Aires)
Publication date
Media typePrint
Preceded byEl Sexto (1961) 
Followed by The Fox From Up Above and the Fox From Down Below (1967) 

All Bloods Mixed (Spanish : Todas las sangres) is the fifth novel of the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas published in 1964. It is the author's longest and most ambitious novel, being an attempt to portray the whole of Peruvian life, by means of representations of geographic and social scenes of the entire country, although its focus is on the Andean sierra. The title alludes to the racial, regional and cultural diversity of the Peruvian nation. The novel revolves around two fundamental ideas: the danger of imperialist penetration into the country through large transnational companies, and the problem of modernization of the indigenous world.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

José María Arguedas Peruvian writer

José María Arguedas Altamirano was a Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist. Arguedas was an author of Spanish descent, with a rare fluency in the native Quechua language, gained by living in two Quechua households from the age of 7 to 11 - first in the indigenous servant quarters of his step-mother's home, then escaping her "perverse and cruel" son, with an indigenous family approved by his father - who wrote novels, short stories, and poems in both Spanish and Quechua.



The novel starts with the suicide of Don Andres Aragon of Peralta, head of the most powerful family in the village of San Pedro de Lahuaymarca, in the mountains of Peru. His death announces the end of the feudal system that until then has been predominant in the region. Don Andres leaves two sons: Don Fermin and Don Bruno, enemies and rivals, who during the life of their father had already divided his vast property.

The principal conflict revolves around the exploitation of the Apar'cora mine, discovered by Don Fermin on his lands. Don Fermin, a prototypical national capitalist, wants to exploit the mine and bring progress to the region, which his brother Don Bruno opposes. Don Bruno is a traditional landowner and fanatical Catholic, who doesn't want his tenant farmers or Indian slaves contaminated by modernity, which, according to his judgment, corrupts people.

With the arrival of an international consortium - Wisther-Bozart- a dispute over control of the silver mine begins. Don Fermin cannot compete against the enormous transnational corporation, and sees himself forced to sell the mine, which then adopts the name Aparcora Mining Company. Anticipating the need for abundant water to work the mine, the company shows interest in the lands of the town and the neighboring rural communities, requiring that they be sold at ridiculously low prices; this counts on the complicity of corrupt authorities. The company acts as a disintegrating force that does everything necessary to maximize profit, without regard to the damages caused to the townspeople. Then there begins a process of unrest that leads to the mobilisation of peasants led by Rendon Willka, an Indian rebel who has lived in the capital of the country where he has learnt a lot. Under his orders uprisings explode, which are bloodily repressed by forces supporting the government, but which are the forerunners of the final rebellion.





The novel presents the image of a nation subjected to imperialist penetration and, above all, the problem of modernization of indigenous culture. Arguedas attempts to provide a comprehensive portrait of Peru by the representation of geographic and social settings throughout the country, although the narrative focus is on the sierra. The title of the novel expresses the complex national life of Peru, in which 'all bloods' intermingle and compete with each other harshly. But this fight envelops not only Peru but also an imperialist power seeking to manipulate it. [1]

The confrontation between the forces of modernity and a traditional society is the main conflict that the novel addresses. Its large question revolves around the possibility of achieving genuine national development, with the certainty that a historical era of the country has ended, and that a new homeland must be built on its ruins. The destroyed order is the old feudal order. The alternatives facing the imperialist project range from a utopian return to a feudal order, imagined by Don Bruno as a natural system presided by moral principles, to a proposal of national capitalism, as stated by Don Fermin. In the novel these options are invalidated and the moral and historical legitimacy of the other alternative, represented by the rebel Rendon Willka, is emphasized. This alternative could be summarized by his collectivist sensibility (in the social sphere), in his adherence to Quechua values (in the cultural sphere), and a cautious modernization (at both levels).

Quechua people ethnic group

Quechua people or Quecha people, may refer to any or all speakers of the Quechua languages, which originated among the indigenous people of South America. Most Quechua speakers are native to Peru, although there are some significant populations living in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Argentina.

Willka's project, however, has some components which are more idealistic than realistic, and contains perhaps an insurmountable failing: it is a project limited to the rural highlands, that distrusts and even rejects participation of the proletariat and calls into question the service of political parties. It is a project more cultural than social (although it brings into relief the importance of collectivist organization under the model of indigenous community), and more ethical than political.

The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.

In any case, during the course of the novel a consistent reflection on many aspects of Peruvian reality unfolds: in this process, precisely because it is reflective, the novel observes the impossibility of understanding the national dynamics, made up of familiar oppositions, at the margins of the overall structure of the contemporary world. [2]

Controversy over the work

In 1965 the Institute for Peruvian Studies (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos) organized a series of roundtables to discuss the relationship between literature and sociology. The second of these, held on June 23, devoted itself to the discussion of the novel Todas las sangres, with the participation of Arguedas himself. This event was extremely important because it signified the incorporation of Arguedas' narrative into a discussion of the literature of his time.

The roundtable consisted of leftist intellectuals who were admirers of Arguedas. All of them, some cautiously and others openly, criticized the work because it was thought to be a distorted version of Peruvian society: starting with the description of a caste system which had long disappeared in the whole of the Peruvian Andes, and a primitive and caricatural view of social mechanisms. These reviews were devastating for Arguedas, who, according to Mario Vargas Llosa, wrote later that night these heartbreaking lines:

Mario Vargas Llosa Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, and essayist

Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, 1st Marquess of Vargas Llosa, more commonly known as Mario Vargas Llosa, is a Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, essayist and college professor. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America's most significant novelists and essayists, and one of the leading writers of his generation. Some critics consider him to have had a larger international impact and worldwide audience than any other writer of the Latin American Boom. In 2010 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."

... it was almost proved by two wise sociologists and an economist, [...] that my book Todas las sangres is detrimental to the country, I don't have anything to do in this world anymore. My forces have declined, I think, inevitably. [3]


According to Vargas Llosa, the criticisms that were made regarding the work during the roundtable of June 23, 1965 would be valid from a sociological point of view. Obviously, another point of view would be an analysis of the novel as literary fiction. Vargas Llosa argues that the work is also flawed in this respect, that the description of Peruvian society is profoundly false and unconvincing, not because of distance from objective truth, but because of a lack of internal force emanating from the intricacies of the fiction. [4]

By contrast, the British critic and poet Martin Seymour-Smith praised the novel highly:

"Those who by temperament reject the horrors of machinery and man's misuse of it will find rich reward in this, the most poetic of all novels about 'savages'. If Levi-Strauss is a great thinker, and he is (at his best), then what can Arguedas be? Something infinitely larger, certainly." [5]


Arguedas' novel reveals his proposed solution to indigenous problems: Andean culture must not be destroyed, as part of some or other form of modernization that assimilates. Harmonious thinking with nature is accepted, in order to develop a revolutionary mindset that projects a future of well-being and freedom. The national ideal is that of multivariate Peru, with ecological, multicultural and multilingual diversity. [6]

The Peruvian nation can be seen as being more than a national project; it can be said that there are several national cores, but they are not geographically localizable. In the intellectual underworld of Peru, bound to political power, is a subsidiary Western worldview, strongly refuted and distorted by current social historical reality.

Film adaptation

The film adaptation of the novel was directed by Michel Gomez in 1987. The actors Richardo Tosso, Rafael Delucchi, Pilar Brescia, Andres Alencastre, Oswaldo Sivirichi and Juan Manuel Ochoa appear in the cast.


  1. Jessica Tapia Soriano, reader's guide in El Comercio.
  2. Antonio Cornejo Polar, pp. 130-131.
  3. Vargas Llosa 1996, pp. 261-263.
  4. Vargas Llosa 1996, p. 264.
  5. Martin Seymour-Smith, The New Guide to Modern World Literature (New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1985) p. 950
  6. as witnessed in the Peruvian Constitution of 1993, which aims to preserve diversity of customs, alternative medicine, languages etc.

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