Sunday, March 21, 2010

The last bit of Cien Anos de Soledad

I guess I am joining the ranks of fans of this book. I'm struck by the numerous insights this novel provides into humanity, social development, and Latin America. There are so many layers of observation in this book!

One of the things that struck me in this last portion of Cien Anos de Soledad was the foretelling that the plague of insomnia had in the novel. Without the text of Malquiades, the history of the Buendias and of Macondo would have essentially disappeared from human memory. In the end of the novel, the town of Macondo has forgotten about much of its own history, which is particularly striking considering the town has only existed for 100 years. While the forgetting induced by the insomnia plague was more extreme in that everyone forgot the names and functions of every-day things, it is quite significant that the remaining townspeople forgot the massacre of the banana workers and that eventually the town is forgotten as well. While the Buendia family's fading from prominence in the town is understandable, as most great figures or dynasties eventually do, the fact that the town seemingly disappeared from the map is of much larger significance, especially considering its contact and ties with the outside world.

The banana plantation is a realistic example of the history of Latin American political and economic realities. First the appearance of the American businessmen who run the banana company that produces bananas for export. Then the Americans' self-imposed segregation from the rest of the town, despite relying on the local workers for the success of their company. The poor working conditions and the alliance of the foreign banana company and the state's military who work together to massacre the workers in retaliation for forming a union that demanded better treatment and accountability. The state then supports the forgetting of the brutal incident. This reminds me of the numerous extractive and irresponsible foreign business operations in Latin America, such as the the infamous United Fruit Company. It also reminds me of the repressive and violent regimes in LA during the 1970s and 80s, such as Pinochet in Chile and the Dirty War in Argentina. The crimes these military governments committed against their own citizens have powerful legacies and are seen differently by those who promote remembering the violence versus those who promote forgetting in order to better 'move on'.

In the future I image that there will likely be a few physical relics left from Macondo that will be found later on, similar to the armor that Jose Arcadio Buendia found decades ago. The whole story seems quite cyclical.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed that the event of the banana company eerily symbolizes the many Latin American stories of cultural erasure and deterritorialization as big businesses invade peaceful lives in search of fabled utopias. When GGM describes the scene on the ominous night train as "los muertos hombres, los muertos mujeres, los muertos niños, que iban a ser arrojados al mar como el banano de rechazo" (p. 425), it prickled my skin. These people were nothing to those who shot them. This scene is very similar to the movie 'Rojo Amanecer'. It's about the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the 300 student protesters who were massacred and then disposed of. The games continued because it was seen as an 'isolated incident'. Bull shit. I don't understand how governments and militaries become this corrupt. Oh yah, money and the chance to be seen on a global scale.
    Sorry about the rant. I'll end off with saying that that was an excellent connection between the relics of Macondo and the rusty armor that Jose Arcadio Buendía found. Cyclical indeed! :)