The setting of The Pearl is La Paz, Mexico. La Paz is located on the Baja Peninsula on the western portion of the nation. The time period of the novel is never explicitly given, but based on context clues, one can conclude that it is roughly the early 1900's. There are no cars present in the town and the pearl divers do not use any modern equipment.
Division of Social Classes
The characters of the story can be separated into two main groups of social classes: the Native Mexican population and the Spanish Mexican population that can trace their roots to Spain. Below is a chart that categorizes the characters.
Historical Background and Social Culture
At the time the story takes place, the Indians of Mexico had already been under the domination of people of Spanish descent for 300 years. The governing class was primarily made up of those of Spanish descent and the Roman Catholic Church who, together, kept the Mexican Indians at the bottom of the social hierarchy or social ladder. In most cases, the Indians were not allowed to attend school or own land. (Keeping people uneducated and dependent keeps them oppressed). Although Spanish culture and Catholic rituals were forced upon the Indians, they fiercely held onto many of their spiritual beliefs, cultures, and customs of their various tribes. WATCH FOR EVIDENCE OF THIS IN THE NOVEL!
For additional background on the native populations and colonization of Mexico, check out the videos below.