One hundred years of Solitude

Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcádio Buendía, the founders of Macondo. Illustration by Carybé, 1971


The fabulous city of Macondo: an allegory of Latin America

In 1989, in an interview about the launch of The general in his labyrinth, to the newspaper Week, Gabriel García Márquez revealed that his commitment to the Colombian people and, more generally, Latin American people, was not only aesthetic, but fundamentally ethical. Tired of the official versions of history, he considered the possibility of investing all the money he would receive from the sale of the book in creating a foundation, aimed at young historians, not yet contaminated by dominant ideals, who would write the “true” history of history. Colombia, “in a solo volume (…) that reads like a soap opera”.

What García Márquez calls “true” is the history of dispossession and exploitation of the Latin American people, which does not appear in school textbooks, but needs to be rescued, reflected on and repeated, before it is erased from memory and disappears in a gust of dust and wind, as happened with Macondo.

And this is exactly the proposal One hundred years of Solitude (1967), a fundamental work by García Márquez and already recognized as a classic of world literature, written as a novel, in a single issue, which encompasses the entire history of Colombia, and more broadly of Latin America. The English pirate Francis Drake's plunder of Riohacha in 1596, which symbolizes the exploitation suffered by Latin America during the period of European colonization. The divergences, only apparent, between liberals and conservatives, which characterize the Latin American political situation, but are also a reference to the Thousand Days War in Colombia and its end with the signing of the Treaty of Netherlands, in 1902. The installation of United Fruit Company in several countries in Latin America, at the beginning of the 1928th century, and the Banan Tree Massacre in XNUMX. The work also allows us to reflect, not only on these dated events, but, above all, on the socio-historical processes of construction, destruction and reconstruction of numerous Latin American cities.

The fantastic language used by the author, far from being pure invention just to deceive and make the world more palatable, is a way of knowing and understanding reality in a critical way, in its most painful aspects.

The author and his work

Since its launch, One hundred years It proved to be a publishing phenomenon, as its initial 8.000 copies were sold quickly. It was cataloged as one of the most important works in the Castilian language during the IV International Congress of Spanish Language (2007), included in the list of “100 Best Soap Operas in Spanish of the XNUMXth Century” by the Spanish periodical El Mundo, from the French daily’s “100 Books of the XNUMXth Century” Le Monde and in the “100 Best Books of All Time” by Club of Books from Norway. Translated into more than 40 languages, with more than 30 million copies sold and fully praised by general and specialized critics, it ended up winning, in 1982, the Nobel Prize for Literature for Gabriel García Márquez.

For Latin Americans, One hundred years It has an even greater weight: it is the reconquest and understanding of one's own identity. In this sense, for Cobo Borda (1992), thanks to the book, Latin Americans finally know who they are and where they come from. Just as the Melquíades scrolls revealed the identity of Aureliano Babilônia, One hundred years unveils Latin American identity. The inhabitants of Macondo were saved thanks to Melquíades, and readers can also save themselves by reading One hundred years, states Zuluaga Osorio (2001). For Gustavo Bell (2001), García Márquez went beyond negative international stereotypes to reveal the greatness and cultural richness of Colombia. In this way, the Colombian author marked an entire generation, profoundly influencing the mentality of an era.

This charisma is not only due to García Márquez's literary talent, but also to his socio-historical commitment. In addition to the proposal to create a foundation to write the “true” history of Colombia, he created, in July 1994, the Foundation for a New Latin American Journalism, based in Cartagena, for the training of good and true journalists, where ethics would be the main ingredient.

The ideas launched in One hundred years cover the entire literary production of García Márquez. Before 1967, his work was composed of a constellation of discourses, involving family memories and creative fantasies, converging to the crystallization of the Macondian world. An example of this is the story The return of Meme (1950) or La casa de los Buendía (1950), or even, Isabel's monologue coming to life in Macondo (1955). However, it would be the short stories published in “La Girafa”, between 1950 and 1952, that would reveal some characters and themes from his master work. After One hundred years, the themes and characters remained in García Márquez's production, surviving the apocalypse of the last pages. As in The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) Chronicle of a foretold death (1981), or even, in The general in his labyrinth (1989)

The author himself admitted the painful pregnancy of One hundred years. He began writing the work when he was just 18 years old, but at the time, with little literary maturity, he was unable to solve the problems to carry out the ambitious project he imagined. Just 22 years later, García Márquez was already 40 years old, the work was published (Márquez, 1994).

Biographical data about the author appear throughout his production and clarify many aspects of One hundred years. His maternal grandparents, who raised him until he was eight years old, were fundamental in building his character and permeate his entire production: “Doña Tranquilina was a very imaginative and superstitious woman”, and his grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Márquez, “the most important figure in my life”. By decision of his parents, he was separated from his grandparents to study in a “cold and sad” boarding school in Barranquila, after Zipaquirá, where his only consolation was reading in the library (Márquez, 1994). For Lepage and Tique (2008), due to these strong influences from his family experience, García Márquez represents himself, in all his works, aspiring to the utopia of eternal childhood, in a very interesting version of the Peter Pan syndrome, with a confusion between person and character. With One hundred years García Márquez recovered the essentials of literature in general, the art and pleasure of telling and, most significantly, received the status of the voice par excellence of Latin America.

Interestingly, his wife Mercedes is not personified in any of his characters. In the few moments that she appears in her plots, she has the same identity: her name is Mercedes and she is a pharmacist, both in One hundred years, as the secretive fiancée of Gabriel, a friend of Aureliano Babilônia, as in the two times she intervenes in Chronicle of a foretold death (Márquez, 1994).

One hundred years realizes a question, practically obsessive throughout García Márquez's fictional production, about time and history. His characters are unable to live their time, and end up living in a cyclical time of wear and death. It is the time of myth, irrational and fabulous and not the grid of calendars. The repetition of names (José Arcádio, Aureliano, Úrsula, Amaranta, Remédios), in all seven generations of the Buendía family, is an example of this permanent repetition, as if the world was turning in on itself.

García Márquez began his activities as a journalist after the events that led to the “bogotazo”, in 1948. After the assassination of liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, the population of Bogotá began a spontaneous and disorderly revolt, with several deaths, a large number of looting and fires. Soon, the movement would spread to several important cities in Colombia. Gaitán’s murder was the last straw for the country to enter the period known as “The violence".

In fact, since the mid-1940s, the rise of a conservative minority to presidential power has disgusted a large portion of the Colombian population. Presidents Mariano Ospina Pérez (1946-1950), Laureano Gómez Castro (1950-1953) and Roberto Urdaneta Arbeláez (1951-1953) introduced terror and violence, eliminating pockets of liberal resistance. Only after the rise of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, through a coup d'état, in 1953, did the liberals achieve a truce and the guerrillas diminished. Disputes between conservatives and liberals, violence, repression, electoral fraud by conservative governments and the rise of the military to power are political elements of Colombian history that emerge in One hundred years, even if in a fantastic way.

For Bensoussan (1995), Gabriel García Márquez became a sovereign master and a true Creator, with capital and majesty, of a world inscribed in history. One hundred yearsLike Bible, has four major moments: exodus of the founders, genesis, development and apocalypse of Macondo, narrated in a magical time, where the past appears after the present and the future before the past.

These four great moments can also be associated with the image of life and human history: childhood, maturity, old age and death, which appear in a magical and sacred universe. In this work, continues Bensoussan (1995), García Márquez put all of his Colombian experience and sensitivity and, above all, the most complete reality of the Latin American universe. One hundred years It is a kind of synthesis of García Márquez's entire production and fertile and disorderly imagination. It is a work that reveals the entirety of its author's thinking, dreaming and writing spirit.

The fantastic realism of One hundred years of Solitude

Cousins ​​who fall in love and are disturbed by the curse of having children with pig tails. A strong and determined woman who lived more than a hundred years trying to prevent relationships between cousins, to avoid the curse. A beautiful and disturbing young woman with no commitment to earthly matters who ascends to heaven. Another young woman seeks to overcome her fears and desires by eating dirt and lime from the walls. An enterprising man, fascinated by knowledge, chemical experiments and inventions, who goes crazy and is tied to a chestnut tree.

A colonel who survived fourteen attacks, seventy-three ambushes, a firing squad and a suicide attempt, had seventeen children with seventeen different women, all of whom were murdered. His brother went around the world sixty-five times in a dozen years. Another young woman talked to her own death and has since sewn her own shroud, because she knew exactly the day and hour she would die. They are all inhabitants of Macondo, a city that cried yellow flowers upon the death of its founder and where butterflies of the same color accompanied a man in love. They are all characters from the fantastic realism of Gabriel García Márquez in One hundred years of Solitude.

Fantastic realism is a literary school typical of Spanish America that emerged at the beginning of the 1950th century. However, it would be in the 1960s and 1949s that the expression would take on greater momentum with the works of García Márquez. In XNUMX, the Cuban Alejo Carpentier, in the kingdom of this world (1985), considered himself a supporter of magical realism. Fantastic realism and magical realism thus became close and similar terms, but not synonymous, retaining their specificities. However, both emerged from the confrontation between the culture of technology and the culture of superstition, typical of Latin America in the mid-XNUMXth century. They also emerged as a form of reaction, through words, against the dictatorial regimes of that period. In works of fantastic realism, the unreal or the strange appear as common and everyday elements, a privileged space to better express emotions and thoughts in the face of the reality of the world.

García Márquez's language is, to say the least, engaging. Its fantastic realism enchants and takes the reader through the intricacies of the human soul, not just the Buendías, but all of us. With this work, García Márquez repudiated the Bogotanian mentality, which gave the capital of Colombia the title of “South American Athens”. Contrary to current academicism, García Márquez chose to reveal the problems and conflicts of a people oppressed by the succession of authoritarian and tyrannical presidents. He chose to reveal the popular culture of a people born from miscegenation, valuing the coastal culture of the Caribbean and Afro-Latin America.

However, the option for fantastic realism is not just political in García Márquez, it is also affective. His grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán Cotes (surnames of two strong women in One hundred years), who contributed decisively to the construction of his character and personality, had an exceptional ability to treat extraordinary events as natural facts, to tell the most fantastic and unlikely events, as if they were irrefutable truths. Her house was full of ghost stories, premonitions, omens and prophecies. When reading Franz Kafka, García Márquez found the same spirit. The author told things the same way as his grandmother, only in German. With Kafka, García Márquez realized that there were other possibilities of literary narrative, in addition to the rationalist and academic ones, which he had learned about in manuals. For him it was like “take off a chastity belt” (Márquez, 1994, p. 40).

It's practically impossible to read One hundred years only once. After knowing the entire trajectory of seven generations of the Buendía family, their encounters and disagreements, it is necessary to go back to the beginning, to at least try to decipher and better understand the intricacies of the family tree of this complex and seductive family, which is confused between Josés Arcadios and Aurelianos.

The hundred years of solitude are not just a reference to the parchments written by the gypsy Melquíades and only deciphered by the penultimate of the Buendías, but it accompanies all generations of this family marked by fate, karma and the heredity of fate, sown between adventure, impulsiveness and tragedy of Josés Arcadios and introspection and lucidity of Aurelianos. Everyone in the Buendía family is lonely and misunderstood. Using solitude as a refuge, they have secret fantasies and desires that they cannot expose or satisfy. And loneliness is not just theirs, it also belongs to their families. Pilar Ternera, Rebeca, Santa Sofia de la Piedad, Fernanda del Carpio, Petra Cotes, Maurício Babilônia, all marked by loneliness.

Without a doubt, the theme of loneliness is a common thread in One hundred years, but not the only one. Memory, with its memories and forgetfulness, arbitrarily or not, is present throughout the narrative and accompanies all the characters. José Arcádio would pass on to all his descendants, genetically, the memory of Melquíades. His younger brother, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, would remember, in front of the firing squad, the day he met ice. His wife, Remédios, would be remembered, by all the Buendías, as the great-grandmother-child who never turned 15. The twins José Arcádio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo would change identities so many times that they would forget who they really were.

The first generation of Buendías had already faced the plague of insomnia and its evolution towards oblivion: first of childhood memories, then the name and notion of things, until the forgetting of one's own identity and awareness of being, turning people into “ idiots with no past.” Trying to fight against the erosion of memory, patriarch José Arcádio Buendía placed plaques everywhere to remember the name of things and their usefulness. If it weren't for Melquíades and his memory recovery elixir, the inhabitants of Macondo would have lost themselves in their own memories, which would have been nothing more than oblivion.

The discussion about memory takes on a practically scientific approach in the chapter in which the massacre at the train station is narrated. It is the moment in which García Márquez, even with a certain dose of fiction and exaggeration, elements typical of his narrative, provides us with elements of how to think not only about the fundamental characteristic of memory (remembering and forgetting), but, above all, how memory can be constructed, modified, distorted, culminating in the construction of another history, the official one, in accordance with the wishes of the ruling class. It is the most impactful chapter of the work and will be analyzed further below.

Macondo – from foundation to destruction

The city of Macondo may be a reference to Aracataca (Colombia), the city where García Márquez was born and lived part of his childhood. Near Aracataca there was a banana plantation called Macondo, which, in the Bantu language, means banana. But, as it is on the banks of a river, Macondo could also be a reference to Barranquilla, the Caribbean city where García Márquez lived as a youth and where he completed his first years of secondary school.

Macondo is, above all, an invented city, but with strong historical and social links, without a defined place or time, which makes it possible to travel anywhere, at any time. It is a city like so many around the world, which began as a small town, thanks to the persistence and will of its founders, grew and developed, experienced progress and prosperity, oppression and tyranny, and then soon lived periods of barbarism, until it was forgotten and disappeared in a gust of dust and wind.

The city's origins lie in a curse and a deep pang of conscience on the part of its founders. José Arcádio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán were cousins ​​and, therefore, were guilty of a murder. Previously, Úrsula's aunt had married José Arcadio's uncle and they had a son with a pig's tail, closer to an iguana than a human being. Úrsula's surname thus has a double meaning: it is the surname of García Márquez's grandmother and a derivation of iguana.

Blood relations are a constant in One hundred years, a curse for the Buendías and what will determine the end of the family. In addition to José Arcádio and Úrsula, Rebeca and José Arcádio (son of the founders), third cousins, cannot resist their passion and get married, but do not have children. Aureliano José and Amaranta, nephew and aunt, live a torrid passion, never physically consummated. José Arcádio (5th generation of the family), dies remembering the affection that his great-great-aunt Amaranta gave him during his baths. The blood relationship only occurs with Aureliano Babilonia and Amaranta Úrsula (nephew and aunt), who will have a son with a pig's tail. The curse that gave rise to Macondo also determines the end of the Buendía family and the city itself, in a circular story.

Afraid of giving birth to iguanas, Úrsula did not want to consummate the marriage, until popular wisdom detected that something was wrong with the young couple, who did not yet have children. Prudencio Aguilar, after losing a cockfight to José Arcádio, shouted for everyone in the city of Riohacha to hear, that Úrsula remained a virgin, even after almost two years of marriage. In a fit of fury, José Arcadio killed him. From then on, the couple began to be haunted by Prudencio's soul. They decided to flee Riohacha, in an attempt to forget the past and found a new city, far from everything and everyone, where everything should be created, as in the first days of the world.

Úrsula and José Arcádio were accompanied by 20 other couples, traveling towards the West, in search of the sea. After two years of a difficult journey through the mountains, sick and tired, they camped next to a river, where they founded a village. José Arcádio, the leader, was then a young patriarch with an entrepreneurial character. He was the one who laid out the streets so that everyone, equally, had the same facilities and the same problems. Macondo quickly became the most industrious and organized village, “where no one was over 30 years old and where no one had yet died” (Márquez, 1977, p. 15).

Far from everything, with no post office, telegraph or train station, Macondo would have remained isolated if it weren't for contact with gypsies, including Melquíades, who brought new inventions, but, mainly, stories from other worlds and information from other locations, which filled those souls isolated from dreams and perspectives.

Although José Arcádio was the family's adventurer, it was Úrsula who opened the city's doors to new inhabitants, who brought new impetus to the old residents. Macondo is no longer a small village, becoming an active town, with shops and craft workshops. The city became part of the Arab trade route and stopover for foreigners, allowing the population access to the most varied types of goods. Even with the growth of the town, José Arcádio maintained his position as patriarch, redrawing the position of the streets and houses for the benefit of everyone.

However, it is a pseudopatriarchy. Although it was the strength of José Arcádio that led those hungry people through the labyrinths of the mountain, it was the strength of Úrsula Iguarán that defined the direction of the town and saved the family, for more than a century, from destruction, as she possessed the memory of family history. She was active, petite, severe, determined and fearless. Still young, she united the founders of Macondo against the desires of their husbands, forcing them to stay in the village they had founded, going against her husband's feverish dreams of conquering new places. It was she who, during the war, removed her grandson, Arcadio, from power, for governing under the basis of terror, and began to command the city. It was she who ensured the survival of the strain by preventing relationships between cousins ​​and, consequently, the birth of children with pig's tails.

Only after his death was this prophecy fulfilled. No one ever realized that she was blind due to cataracts. For decades she refused to age and died at over a hundred years old, yet she remained lucid, dynamic and whole until the end. In contrast to the patriarch, who died at a young age and had to be tied to a chestnut tree, due to bouts of madness.

In this sense, it is pertinent to mention that the origin of human sedentarization and, consequently, the emergence of cities, are associated with the actions of women. They were, in nomadic societies, responsible for collecting fruits, learning, more easily than men, the cycles of nature and, later, developing planting and harvesting. They were also the ones who felt the need to stay in the same place for a long time, during pregnancy and the first months of their children's lives.

Macondo was a peaceful town, where weapons were prohibited, and there was no need for a delegate, which is why they did not accept Apolinar Moscote's authority. They also did not accept the authority of Father Nicanor Reyna. They had spent years “arranging the affairs of the soul directly with God” (Márquez, 1977, p.83), without baptizing their children, nor sanctifying the holidays, and without the need for any intermediary. It was actually a pagan village. In the Buendía house, only after the arrival of the fervent Catholic Fernanda del Carpio, wife of Aureliano II, fourth generation of the family, were the bouquets of aloe vera and bread, symbols of abundance, hanging on the landmark of the city's foundation, exchanged. for a niche of the Heart of Jesus.

The city experienced days of panic and shock due to the war between liberals and conservatives. Macondo was a city without political passions, with peaceful people, but who did not approve of violence, much less arbitrariness. Therefore, when they realized that the conservatives were manipulating the elections and, above all, the facts, they declared war. All 21 sons of the founders were implicated in the liberal conspiracy, without knowing exactly what it meant. Even Aureliano Buendía, who just wanted to make gold fish in his workshop in peace, became a colonel in the revolutionary army. Not because he was a supporter of liberal causes, but because he did not admit that violent atrocities against the population were committed by conservatives.

The war lasted decades. In the end, conservatives and liberals no longer had divergent desires. Wealthy land-owning liberals entered into an agreement with wealthy land-owning conservatives to prevent the review of property titles. Only Colonel Aureliano Buendía and his faithful friend Gerineldo Marquez, the only survivors of the 21 intrepid young descendants of the founders, continued to believe in their libertarian ideals and did not wage war just for power. Colonel Buendía fought for definitive victory against the corruption of the military and the ambitions of politicians from both parties. What excited him was the possibility of unifying federalist forces, with the aim of exterminating conservative regimes across America.

In this sense, the character of Colonel Aureliano Buendía may have been inspired by Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967), a guerrilla fighter that García Marquéz admired and for whom he spared no praise. Like Che Guevara, Aureliano fought against oppression and the freedom of people, believing in the possibility of a union between all Latin American countries. After a motorcycle trip with his friend Alberto Granado in 1951, which was decisive for his political formation, Guevara realized that not only oppression, but above all poverty and disease, were realities shared by all Latin American countries, a situation which should be fought and changed with everyone’s unity.

It was a feeling of Latin American identity that was growing in Guevara, and not just Argentine. In addition to the proximity of ideals, there is also the temporal issue. One hundred years it was written between 1965 and 1966 and released in May 1967, that is, before Che Guevara's death. During this period, he was involved, in Bolivia, with guerrillas that sought the unification of Latin America, a proposal of the imaginary colonel Aureliano Buendía.

Even though he had lost the war, already old and tired, the colonel still caused panic among conservatives, revealing that liberal ideas were not subdued. During a carnival, decades after the war had ended, someone innocently shouted in the middle of the party: “Long live the Liberal Party! Long live Colonel Aureliano Buendía!” (Márquez, 1977, p. 195), joy turned into panic. The government acted drastically with rifle fire, which left dead and injured in the square.

Some time later, after new arbitrariness by the powerful (who murdered a child and his grandfather, because the boy, by accident, spilled a drink on a police corporal's uniform), the colonel himself warned: “one of these days, I'm going to arm my boys to put an end to these shitty Yankees!” (Márquez, 1977, p. 230), referring to his seventeen children, with seventeen different women, all with the name Aurelino and the mother's surname. The government's action was fulminant, all of the colonel's children, who lived in different locations, were murdered on the same night, with a shot in the forehead.

Only Aureliano Amador, hiding in the forest, survived the massacre, only to be murdered decades later, when Macondo was already lost in the dust, at the door of the Buendía house. In other words, even after the colonel's death and the fading of libertarian ideals that could provoke a new revolution, the Buendía house continued to be watched by the authorities. This precaution was unnecessary. No one remembered Colonel Aureliano Buendía and his thirty-two armed revolutions against tyranny. His name would be remembered only as a street name, without any reference to the person himself or his achievements. The population would come to believe that it had never existed and was nothing more than a government invention, a pretext to eliminate the liberals.

The battles between liberals and conservatives are an explicit reference to the turbulent years experienced by the Colombian population in the transition from the 1940s to the 1950s. And they are also a reference to the War of a Thousand Days, which lasted between October 1899 and November 1902, ending with the signing of the Treaty of Neerlândia, exactly as described in One hundred years. This war is considered the largest civil conflict in Colombia, devastating the nation and leaving more than a thousand dead. The war was not restricted to Colombia, extending to neighboring countries, such as Venezuela and Ecuador.

After the end of the war, Macondo underwent a new process of progress. The school, former liberal barracks, was repeatedly bombed and recovered. Bruno Crespi built a toy and musical instrument store and founded a theater, which Spanish companies included in their itineraries. Macondo already had contact with the world. But progress actually only happened in Macondo, when Aureliano Triste, one of the colonel's seventeen children, took the train tracks to Macondo. From then on, the town was amazed by the electric lamps, the gramophone, the telephone and the cinematograph: “Macondo (lived) in a permanent back and forth from uproar to disenchantment, from doubt to revelation, to the point where no one could anymore know, with certainty, where the limits of reality were. It was an intricate jumble of truths and mirages” (Márquez, 1977, p. 217).

The train tracks, a symbol of modernity and synonymous with speed, placed Macondo on the route of traders and foreigners. The city quickly grew, houses were built and streets were opened. New habits and values, added to new inventions, began to permeate the air and changed the appearance of the old city. These changes, which occurred in Macondo, effectively happened in many Latin American cities, which witnessed the development boom of the mid-1950s. Contradictorily, the same train that brought advances and prosperity also brought the end of the city. It was there that Mr. Herbert arrived and soon after Mr. Jack Brown's banana company. After them, Macondo would never be the same.

The banana company in Macondo is a reference to the installation of United Fruit Company, a North American company, in several Latin American countries, for the exploitation of bananas and pineapples. As in Macondo, in every country where it established itself, the company exploited local labor, financed the overthrow of democratic governments and promoted the installation of repressive dictatorships, granting powers to local leaders who favored their economic interests. In 1969, the company was purchased by Zapata Corporation, a company close to Georg HW Bush, and changed its corporate name to Chiquita Brands. The name has changed, but the practices have remained the same. The company was involved in several massacres of trade unionists and peasants in Latin America.

The banana company plague – the construction of memory and the distortion of history

The banana company massacre, illustration by Carybé, 1971.

Mr. Herbert arrived in Macondo as just another outsider and decided to investigate the place further, after eating a bunch of bananas and meticulously analyzing a specimen of the fruit with various types of equipment. The character embodies not only the neoliberal capitalist, but above all, the denial of knowledge in favor of the pragmatism of having. Attracted by his easy business information, Mr. Jack Brown arrived in the city, accompanied by his lawyers in black costumes, more like vultures, a prelude to the catastrophe that would strike the city.

The fertility of the land, the favorable climate and the kind and hard-working population attracted capitalist speculators, who saw the opportunity for easy gains. The lawyers dressed in black had already appeared before in the narrative, when they harassed Colonel Aureliano Buendía to formulate a peace agreement between the liberal troops and the conservative government. Lawyers, defenders of the interests of the ruling class, appear in the narrative directly associated with oppression and speculation. It is no coincidence that García Márquez calls them “legal illusionists”.

Quickly, in a tumultuous, untimely and incomprehensible invasion, the Americans, with their families, settled in Macondo and tragically changed the lives of its inhabitants. They built their houses on the other side of the train tracks and surrounded the place with a metal net, not only for protection, but, above all, in a clear separation from the local population, with whom they did not want to coexist, maintaining the same customs of their land. Christmas. They brought new habits and enchanted the younger generations. They removed the city's former founders from power and placed in their place outsiders who did not know the values ​​and needs of the population.

They installed fear, oppression and violence. They employed countless people, based on labor exploitation. Workers were subjected to unsanitary homes, farcical medical care, terrible working conditions and even the absence of wages, as what they received were vouchers, which could only be exchanged for Virginia ham in warehouses. of the company. It was a period of rapid change, in which the inhabitants themselves no longer recognized their city.

Even nature, the Americans changed: “they changed the rain regime, accelerated the harvest cycle, and took the river from where it had always been and placed it with its white stones and its icy currents at the other end of the town” (Márquez , 1977, p. 220). When the book was published in 1967, these changes could be identified as belonging to García Márquez's magical realism. Currently, it is known that technological and industrial advances, in addition to bringing enormous benefits, also have negative aspects, including altering the rhythm of nature. We experience periods of intense and unseasonable rain, heat and cold, as a result of excessive pollution. Hormones accelerate the growth of animals, so they can be slaughtered more quickly. Territories of former settlements are expropriated for the construction of dams. It is the advancement of capitalism that respects neither nature nor humanity.

The now old and observant Colonel Buendía immediately realized that something strange had happened to the population of Macondo, which would determine its end. Increasingly, the inhabitants assumed an attitude of subservience towards outsiders, losing all the courage of the city's founders.

For Brazilians, Americans' interest in bananas has a special connotation. After a successful career in Brazil, in 1939, Carmen Miranda set out to conquer the United States. After a year, the singer and actress, who wore tropical fruit ornaments on her head, notably bananas, was enthusiastically applauded by ordinary audiences and celebrities. Even the then American president, Franklin Roosevelt, couldn't resist her actress charms.

Between 1942 and 1953, he acted in 13 Hollywood films and in the most important programs on radio, television, nightclubs, casinos and theaters in North America. Of all the films, the most successful was Between the blonde and the brunette (The gang's all here, 1943) directed by Busby Berkeley. In the film, there is a musical that begins with beautiful dancers lying on what would be an island with banana trees. Carmen Miranda enters the stage sitting on leafy bunches of bananas, transported in a cart, suggesting that they have just been harvested. She sings in English, in an un-Brazilian rhythm, her own story: the fascination that the girl with fruit on her head has on people. Bananas are the highlight of the musical.

They are not only in the ornament that Carmen Miranda wears on her head, but also in the decoration of the set and are transformed into a musical instrument. In an extremely coordinated ballet, which, as Sigfried Kracauer (2009) rightly compared, looks more like a mathematical demonstration, without grace, in a sequence of repetitive and tiring acts, the dancers dance holding giant bananas in their hands. Regarding this issue, it is also worth remembering the famous carnival march by Alberto Ribeiro and João de Barro, created in 1937, which is still hugely successful today:

Yes, we have bananas
Banana to give and sell
Banana, girl has vitamin
Banana makes you fat and grows

Artists such as Carmen Miranda, Alberto Ribeiro and João de Barro benefited from the Good Neighbor Policy, which prevailed in relations between the United States and Latin America between 1933 and 1945. This policy, despite valuing many artists, was far from be a benefit to Latin America. While the artists were successful in theaters, on the radio and in concert halls, their countries were invaded by the North American way of life, which in the vast majority of cases erased local traditions, replacing them with other customs, with which the population had no history or identification.

In Macondo it was no different. Meme, fifth generation of the Buendía family, daughter of Aureliano II and Fernanda del Carpio, easily integrated into North American customs. She learned to swim, play tennis, eat Virginia ham and pineapple, and speak English. She forgot that she was a Buendía, that she had been born in Macondo, in short, she lost her identity.

After the arrival of the Americans, different social classes began to exist in Macondo. The equality of rights and conditions, outlined by José Arcádio Buendía at the founding of the city, were forgotten in the past. With the Americans and their capitalist company, the inhabitants of Macondo experienced slums, poverty and chronic diseases, the result of poor hygiene and health conditions.

The urbanization of Macondo under the auspices of the banana company is a deceptive progress, as it brings with it the signs of economic dependence. This pseudo-progress is not unknown in many Latin American cities, especially coastal ones. Small subsistence fishing and craft communities, which lived with sufficient food and housing, went through false development processes with the arrival of large companies. They bought properties at low prices and installed large hotel and leisure complexes, just for tourists to enjoy the natural beauty and riches.

From self-sufficient fishing communities, they became landless, homeless, without work and without dignity, banned from tourist centers and joining the large population that lives below the poverty line. Macondo symbolizes all these cities that have become just another cog in the wheel of underdevelopment. It is the metaphor for the advance of capitalism in Latin America.

Faced with the terrible working and living conditions imposed by the banana company, the workers' strike broke out in Macondo. José Arcádio Segundo, until then foreman and defender of the company's practices, joined the workers and boosted the movement, with the same energy and determination that years before his great-uncle, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, had led an armed war against the conservatives. The Americans, owners of the banana company, quickly organized a counter-reaction and their attorneys, black lawyers, took the case to the supreme courts.

Mr. Jack Brown, now Dagoberto Fonseca, appeared with dyed hair, speaking fluent Castilian, claiming to have been born in Macondo and to be a seller of medicinal plants, having no contact with the banana company. The “legal illusionists” showed the death certificate of the “real” Mr. Brown, authenticated by consuls and chancellors. They also managed to prove that the claims were unreasonable, because the banana company had never had employees, as it only hired labor sporadically. Finally, they managed to get the courts to sentence and proclaim in solemn decrees the nonexistence of the workers.

To contain the crowd of workers dissatisfied with the court's rulings, the army took over the negotiations and scheduled a meeting in the train station square. More than three thousand people attended, workers, women and children, including José Arcádio Segundo. In a quick statement of eighty words, the strikers were classified as a gang of criminals and the army had the right to shoot them dead. As the crowd did not leave the station and protested indignantly with shouts and curses, fourteen machine gun nests fired at them as they tried to flee defenseless.

This is a reinterpretation of the performance of the United Fruit Company in Colombia. In 1928, exactly as described in One hundred years, in the face of worker demonstrations for better working conditions, the company ordered the authorities to repress the protesters with gunfire. The event became known as the Banan Tree Massacre. In One hundred years, The dead were placed on a long train with more than two hundred wagons, which left Macondo surreptitiously at night, without any lights and escorted by soldiers, probably heading to the sea, where it would throw its dead weight, exactly as it did with the discarded bananas. José Arcádio Segundo managed to escape the massacre and terror of the wagons.

Returning home, he spoke to several people, all of whom told him that nothing had happened in Macondo (Márquez, 1977, p. 294): “(…) they had read an extraordinary national communication, to inform that the workers had obeyed the order to evacuate the station and headed home in peaceful caravans. The communication also reported that the union leaders, with a high patriotic spirit, had reduced their demands to two points: reform of medical services and construction of latrines in homes. (…) The official version, repeated and repeated a thousand times throughout the country through whatever means of publicity the Government found within its reach, ended up prevailing: there were no deaths, the satisfied workers had returned to their families, and the banana company suspended its activities until the rain passed”.

It would rain in Macondo for four years, eleven months and two days. At the end, no one remembered the banana company anymore. False prosperity would be washed away with the rainwater. In the Buendía house, abundance and cleanliness belonged to the times of Úrsula and Santa Sofia de la Piedad. Aureliano Babilônia, sixth generation of the family and who would decipher the Melquíades parchments, after a hundred years of solitude, even without knowing that he was a Buendía, was the only one who believed and repeated his great-uncle's story: “Macondo had been a prosperous and well-run place until it was disturbed, corrupted and exploited by the banana company, whose engineers caused the flood as a pretext to escape their commitments to the workers” (Márquez, 1977, p. 331).

Only his best friend, aptly named Gabriel Márquez (great-grandson of Gerineldo Márquez, who had fought for the liberals, alongside Colonel Aureliano Buendía) believed his version. Everyone in Macondo repudiated the story of the massacre and the dead workers thrown into the sea. They repeated what they had read in court texts and learned at school: the banana company had never existed.

The banana company massacre had been practically erased from memory, leading to the rise of an official story, which transformed the massacre into just another discord, easily resolved, between employers and employees. From being usurpers, the banana company's capitalists began to be remembered as do-gooders and promoters of Macondo's progress. Over the years, even this version imposed by conservative governments was replaced by a more efficient one for the ruling class, that of the non-existence of the banana company. Erasing from history and suffocating the memories of the capitalist company, all its arbitrariness, all corruption and all labor demonstrations made against it were also erased. The entire regime of violence he imposed, not only on his workers, but on the entire population of Macondo.

Destructive capitalism and the Macondo apocalypse

After the advance of capitalism, represented by the banana company, Macondo became a city of survivors of chaos. The city was left in ruins, with dusty and lonely streets, a dead town, depressed by dust and heat. Nature itself forgot the city, blowing an arid wind that petrified the lakes, suffocated the plants and forever covered the tin roofs and solitary almond trees. Not even the birds were able to fly in the city, losing their way, crashing against the walls, until they forgot to fly over Macondo. The inhabitants were consumed by forgetfulness and dejected by their few memories, they continued inertly through the dusty streets and ruined houses. Not even the train stopped at the station anymore. Dust covered everything: houses, furniture and people.

In the Buendía house it was no different. The walls were cracked, the furniture was wobbly and faded, the doors were uneven. Termites, moths and red ants continued at their devastating pace, destroying everything. The only two members of the family, José Arcádio and Aureliano Babilonia (uncle and nephew), were possessed by a spirit of resignation and disgrace. Amaranta Úrsula, great-great-granddaughter of the founders, small and dynamic like Úrsula Iguarán, recently arrived in the city after 10 years of absence, undertook a journey to save the house and the community, in vain. She also would not survive the catastrophe that befell the city.

The waters of the flood would also carry away the last fragments of memory. No one would remember the founders of the city or who had planted the almond trees, which, although in the beginning they made the city cooler with their shadows, were no longer more than broken branches and dusty leaves. Because cities that do not preserve their memory, nor write their own history, are doomed to oblivion and destruction.

With the example of Macondo, One hundred years of Solitude reflects on the trajectory of several Latin American cities, which have become yet another victim of the advance of capitalism. Dispossessed and exploited, it was unable to survive the tyranny of commodity fetishism. Many others succeeded, but they were never the same, they integrated themselves into the competitive and superficial world of barbarism. Capitalist rules are destructive, both of cities and their inhabitants. They destroy natural resources, altering their cycles, and historical architectures, to the benefit of an increasingly wasteful society. They impose superficiality and competitiveness in human relationships.

But, One hundred years It's not just death and destruction. It defends, above all, the thesis that the stories of tyranny of fascist governments, of revolutions that resisted oppression and violence, of workers' struggles for better working and living conditions, of capitalist plunder and expropriation cannot be forgotten, not They cannot be erased from memory, nor can they be transformed into another story.

Considering that literature has a language that articulates the mythical, the historical and the wonderful, every literary work has its own way of producing meaning. Fictional par excellence, literature recreates a reality with innovative diction. In this sense, in One hundred years of Solitude, fictional discourse emerges as a privileged place for socio-historical truth, as it delegitimizes and demoralizes official versions of memory and history.

*Soleni Biscouto Fressato holds a PhD in social sciences from the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). She is the author, among other books, of Soap operas: magic mirror of life (when reality is confused with the spectacle) (Perspective).


Gabriel Garcia Marquez. c. Translation: Eliane Zagury. Rio de Janeiro, Record, 1977, 448 pages. []


BELL, Gustavo. “Speech by the Señor Vice-President of the Republic, First International Forum on the work of Gabriel García Márquez.” In: Gabo, rhythm, percussion and vocals. Colombia, Fundación Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata: Ministry of Culture, 2001.

BENSOUSSAN, Albert. “Presentation.” In: MÁRQUEZ, Gabriel García. Hundreds of years of solitude. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1995.

BORDA, Juan Gustavo Cobo. “Cien years of solitude: a quarter of a siglo.” In: Gabriel García Márquez, testimonies about his life, essays about his work. Santafé de Bogotá: Siglo del Hombre Editores, 1992.

KRACAUER, Sigfried. The ornament of the dough: essays. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2009.

LEPAGE, Caroline. TIQUE, James Cortes. Read A hundred years of solitude. Voyage en pays macondien. Paris: CNED, 2008.

MÁRQUEZ, Gabriel García. The odor of guayaba. Barcelona: Mandadori, 1994.

OSÓRIO, Conrado Zuluaga. “The social function in the work of García Márquez.”In:Door open to Gabriel García Márquez. Barcelona: Casiopea, 2001.

RODRIGUES, Marly. The 50s. Populism and developmental goals in Brazil. Principles Collection. São Paulo: Ática, 1996.

the earth is round there is thanks
to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles


  • Reasons for the end of the strike at Federal Universitiesbenches 16/05/2024 By TADEU ALENCAR ARRAIS: The Federal Government's new proposal announced on May 15 deserves debate on whether or not to continue the strike
  • How to lie with statisticschair 51 18/05/2024 By AQUILES MELO: The numbers presented by the federal government to education employees on strike confuse more than they explain, thus demonstrating a lack of interest in resolving the problem
  • “Multipolarity” and the chronic decline of the WestJose Luis Fiori 17/05/2024 By JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI: The defense of multipolarity will increasingly be the banner of countries and peoples that are currently rising up against the global military imperium exercised by the West
  • The strike at universities and federal institutes does not…path time 17/05/2024 By GRAÇA DRUCK & LUIZ FILGUEIRAS: The left-wing and democratic forces need to get out of passivity, as if waiting for Lula and his government, as well as the STF, to resolve the political impasses
  • The Caramel horsecaramel horse 15/05/2024 By LEONARDO BOFF: We must admit that we have not respected the rights of nature and its intrinsic value, nor have we controlled our voracity to devastate it
  • The operational universityMarilena Chauí 2 13/05/2024 By MARILENA CHAUI: The operational university, in university terms, is the highest expression of neoliberalism
  • Fake freedom and the Marquis de SadeEugenio Bucci 18/05/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Fake freedom, sadistic freedom, which in essence is the denial of all freedom, is leading Brazil to total shipwreck
  • SUS, 36 years old – consolidation and uncertaintiesPaulo Capel Narvai 15/05/2024 By PAULO CAPEL NARVAI: SUS was not the “stillbirth” that many predicted. Almost four decades later, the SUS is institutionally consolidated and has developed a notable process of republican governance
  • From Hermann Cohen to Hannah Arendtsail boat culture 18/05/2024 By ARI MARCELO SOLON: Commentary on Miguel Vatter’s book
  • Environmental denialism and the flooding of Porto AlegrePorto Alegre airport flooded 14/05/2024 By CARLOS ATÍLIO TODESCHINI: Porto Alegre has the best flood protection system in Brazil. It is considered a “Dutch mini-system”. Why did this system fail in its function of preventing the city from being flooded?