Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Spanish and Latino Studies
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Roger A. Zapata
I picked this novel as a thesis not only because it gives an interesting picture of the life of the Buendia family but also because of its political aspects relating to Latin America and especially Colombia. It describes the Civil Wars in Colombia from 1885 to 1902 in which the liberal and conservative parties played an important role. The novel gives a fascinating account of the massacre of the banana strikers as a result o f the strike against the American United Fruit Company and the members of the Buendia family involved in it.
The Buendias’ genealogy begins with incest, a curse and a murder. Incest expresses the historical condition of social isolation as well as a mythical and personal attitude. Although supernatural events occur, no divine force is responsible for them. Religious taboos are violated, but no divine retribution follows. Superstitions and curses take the place of religious belief.
On a psychological level the theme of incest dominates throughout the novel, be it in the relationship of Aureliano Segundo with Petra Cotes or of Aureliano Buendia with Remedios. All the actions take place in the Buendia house where Ursula is the matriarch and the focus of life. The house is a bastion against all interference from the outside world. Úrsula has a tremendous fear of a curse as a result of an incestuous relationship: that a child could be born with a pig’s tail. This becomes reality at the end of the novel when Aureliano and his aunt Amarante Úrsula engage in a sexual act.
Another interesting reality is that of religion. In this novel the town of Macondo is a pleasant place compared to the Garden of Eden in the bible. Also the flood in the bible is compared to the rains in Macondo which lasted almost five years. We also read in the bible of the sign on the forehead of the faithful. Likewise the seventeen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia have a sign imprinted on their forehead. In the Apocalypse the end of the world is preceded by earthquakes while the end of Macondo comes about by the force of a cyclone.
The mythical reality appears in the novel in incidents in the bible like the Seven Plagues, but also in the novel in the genealogy o f the Buendia family, and especially in Melquíades’ manuscripts which reveal the whole history of the Buendia family from the time of Sir Francis Drake to the last Aureliano. Melquíades serves as a messenger between the living and the dead. Other characters in the novel are reminiscent of mythical heroes like José Arcadio Buendia, Rebecca, Remedios the Beauty and Amaranta.
In historical reality we find the flight of the Buendias from the pirate Drake and the story of Macondo from its founding to its destruction as predicted by Melquíades. We encounter the strained relations between Church and State and the struggles between the liberals and the conservatives. When José Arcadio and his men explore the land, they find a Spanish galleon which dates back to the time of the conquistadores. This galleon is a symbol of piracy and conquest, and also of elegance and magic. We relive the horrors of the civil wars in which Colonel Aureliano Buendia distinguishes himself. We witness the massacre of the banana strikers and finally the unfolding of Melquíades’ manuscripts which are deciphered by the last Aurelianos.
There are also numerous incidents of humor in the novel. The opening of a coffin reveals the body of Fernanda’s father. Also: the purchase of seventy- two chamber pots by Fernanda. Remedios the Beauty ascends into the air taking Amaranta’s bedsheets with her. The magistrate, Don Apolinar Moscote, orders all the houses to be painted in blue in honor of the Conservative party.
Social reality centers around the house of the Buendia family where Ursula occupies herself with the physical and existential space of the house. She is openminded regarding other cultures and changing customs and has a warm hospitality to outsiders. Úrsula serves the Buendia family as mother figure with a moral and common sense force. Social life also involves other women: Amaranta and Rebecca, Fernanda and Remedios the Beauty, Santa Sofia de la Piedad, Meme and Amaranta Úrsula. Their common bonding is their marriage to or parenting of Buendias. We find in the novel various sorts of entertainment such as dancing parties, orgies and an eating contest.
In this novel the most important reality is the political reality. The political theme serves as an organizing principle for the work. This theme provides the structure of the two central sections of the book. An important aspect is the struggle of the Conservative party of the government versus the Liberal party representing the opposition. One of the most outstanding fighters for the liberals was Colonel Aureliano Buendia who fought thirty-two battles against the conservatives and lost them all. A second important aspect was the activities of the North American United Fruit Company. This company brought with it foreign imperialism, domestic injustice and military repression after the workers wanted justified improvements of their working conditions. The strike of the workers against the company was brutally dealt with by the company and numerous workers lost their lives. At the end the workers’ demands were reduced to only a small part o f what they requested.
Cien anos de soledad fascinated me from the beginning to end because of the roles the various members of the Buendia family play in the historical perspective of Colombia.
Zimmerman, John, "Las formas de la realidad en Cien años de soledad" (2008). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1360.