The economic and political takeover of Macondo by the banana firm, the strike by field workers, and the military repression and massacre that García Márquez covers in One Hundred Years of Solitude are closely based on events from 1900–1928 in rural Colombia. From modest Colombian holdings, the United Fruit Company of Boston grew into a virtual state-within-a-state in a zone stretching from coastal Santa Marta to Aracataca (the author's hometown). As in Macondo, the firm had separate American-style residential compounds, company stores for foodstuffs, and it's own irrigation system and water policy. Because the United Fruit Company of Boston hired field hands only through subcontractors to avoid Colombian labor legislation, they consistently claimed that United Fruit Company had no employees. Similarly, the six lawyers in the novel argue that "the banana company did not have, never had had, and never would have any workers in its service," and the court establishes "in solemn decrees that the workers did not exist." (p. 320) Indeed, they truly did not.
Seen through the eyes of José Arcadio Segundo and the small child he picks up and cares for during the melee, the struggle for human rights and dignity in the novel takes on a very human face. Though he has been through the massacre himself, when José Arcadio Segundo steps away from the dead that lay strewn in the streets, they disappear. "The streets were deserted under the persistent rain and the houses locked up with no trace of life inside." (p. 331) He, as the sole survivor of the massacre, is told by a villager: "You must be dreaming. Nothing has happened in Macondo, nothing has ever happened, and nothing will ever happen. This is a happy town." (p. 333)
In this, the most brutal, political episode in Gabo's novel about life in Latin America, the author makes a bold statement with unbelievable grace and style. As a young boy, Gabriel García Márquez saw his town, his family and his life blown to the four winds by the real banana strike. As a man, he comments on it with powerful melancholy and truth, showing clearly how events can be manipulated, revised and excised by those in power. Even the Buendía family, who held every ounce of power at the beginning of the novel, find themselves helpless in the face of powerful entities from outside their culture.
In this instance we begin to truly understand the Buendías solitude, their loss, their helplessness, their grief. It is here that our hearts connect to what this family has lost, what they cannot regain, and what it feels like to be the oppressed.
Use these questions to discuss pages 315–The End with your book club or answer some questions on your own!
How does this relate with the author's message of solitude? Find out!