Sexual Fables
This article accompanies the fable
A Tale of Two Women

Cervantes and Pedro de Urdemales

Pedro is a mysterious figure who gets very little credit in the stories of the Conquest but he certainly got around.  Even if the historians ignore him, he appears in Latin American folklore all the way from New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Guatemala to Argentina and Chile, where he is known as a trickster figure, an artful dodger, a man of many masks and he remains relatively popular today in rural folklore.  Yet he has almost entirely disappeared from Spain, where this picaro with a taste for the theatrical got his start in popular folklore and the writings of Cervantes and his predecessors.  Cervantes was very fond of Pedro -- c.f. his play, Pedro de Urdemalas, which appeared in 1615 in Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses.

The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part.

We don’t know where Pedro came from – perhaps southern Castile (La Mancha, Extremadura), as Cortés and Don Quixote did, or even Andalucia?  Certainly many of the conquistadors in the New World were from the South and very few of them were from the upper nobility.  Never one to miss out on the action, Pedro had gone to the Americas in the company of Cortés and the conquistadors.  He wrote about his experiences as a conquistador in the “Narrative of Some Things of New Spain and of the Great City of Temestitan, México” (mis-spelling the Aztec capital), which he published anonymously.  He returned later to Mother Spain to fight the Muslims and it was only toward the end of his life that he put in an appearance in Don Quixote as Master Pedro of the puppet theater, where he stands accused of “Moorish puppetry.”  Before he died this late Renaissance man completed a humorous memoir of his exploits but the manuscript is believed to have been lost.


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