In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the intrusion by foreign forces in the town of Macondo spurs into motion a domino effect of political shifts. With the introduction of political parties and the ruthless massacres by the military occupation, Macondo becomes the battleground of a colonized land. The revolution which eventually erupts from these tensions strives to overthrow colonial forces and reclaim their original identity. However, the face of the revolution Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s downward spiral towards corruption and his eventual failure in the struggle for liberation exemplify Frantz Fanon’s idea that a post-colonial nation never truly reclaims its liberty.
In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon writes: “The masses, by a kind of infantile reasoning, are convinced they have been robbed. In certain developing countries, they…realize two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: “What was the point of fighting if nothing was really destined to change?” (34). Although the immediate aftermath of independence may give the post-colonial nation a sense of long-sought-for liberty, the effects of the colonial process impacts and changes the nation too much for it to ever truly recover its original state. The influences from the colonial country seeps into the colonized nation.
In Macondo’s original pre-colonial state, the lack of a sense of political disposition is almost an attribute of Macondo “culture” or social structure. The imposition of politics by the foreign forces, however, changes this social structure. Jose Arcadio Buendia’s initial reaction to Don Apolinar Moscote’s attempt at establishing government in Macondo demonstrates that they considered politics unnecessary to them: “In this town, we do not give orders with pieces of paper…we do not need judges here because there’s nothing that needs judging” (56). His phrasing and tone suggests that it is as if the very concept of such matters is foreign to Macondo.
There are two ways by which Marquez illustrates Aureliano’s original “uncolonized” mind. One is through his response to the concept of politics. Marquez emphasizes that at this stage, before Aureliano is completely “assimilated” into the political culture, he is actually apathetic to and innocent of any knowledge of politics, and thus was initially unaware of the concept of any political sides such as the “Conservatives” or the “Liberals.” This is shown by his words, “If I have to be something, I’ll be a Liberal,” (96) – as if it is a novel concept he is just discovering and assimilating to. The second way in which Marquez establishes Aureliano’s original character pre-war is through his initial motives for joining the Liberals and inciting revolution. As Macondo was plunged into political strife, with martial law the only law, and with the military occupation inciting chaos, terror and murder throughout the town, Aureliano finally declares “We’re going to war” (100). The incidence that ultimately incites him is that of the senseless killing of a woman, for which he then gathers men and “executed the captain and the four soldiers who had killed the woman” (101). This depiction of Aureliano shows that at this stage of the colonization, he had sincere inclinations to reclaim Macondo’s “independence” and seek justice for his people. Marquez juxtaposes Aureliano’s initially “uncolonized mind” – his untainted lack of disposition towards politics – to the political opposition which he is inevitably forced to join in the face of colonialism.
The turn of the revolution, however, gradually shifts – Aureliano becomes the very enemy he is fighting against. Fanon states “What must be avoided…are the espousal by the masses of an enemy doctrine and radical hatred by tens of millions of men. The colonized peoples are perfectly aware of these imperatives which dominate international politics. This is why even those who rage against violence always plan and act on the basis of this global violence”(39). Even though Aureliano initially “raged” against the injustice of the violence around him, he gradually comes to “act on the basis” of that same violence. He senselessly sacks a widow’s house and “reduce[s] it to ashes” (165); condones the murder of a man who challenges his position and rank, who is then violently hacked to death; orders the execution of a young officer, and even orders the execution of his own long-time comrade Gerineldo Marquez, simply for objecting to him. He becomes so utterly “intoxicat[ed]” (166) by power that he is “Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction” (166). He no longer possesses any sense of direction as to what purpose he is fighting for anymore – after twenty years of revolution, he declares: “The important thing is that from now on we’ll be fighting only for power” (168). Whereas in the beginning, before he was immersed in being “colonized,” Aureliano fought for justice, rights, equality, and liberty for his people – and yet he has been so changed by the process that he has no recollection of these values and intentions, and values only power. While fighting against tyranny, he becomes the tyrant, as Gerineldo Marquez says to him: “I’d rather be dead than see you changed into a bloody tyrant” (170), and as his own mother Ursula condemns him for his decision to execute Gerineldo: “It’s as if you were born with the tail of a pig” (169). Instead of changing the colonized state of his people and achieving liberty for them as he set out to, he is the one who is changed by colonization.
The third stage of colonization Macondo endures further contributed to its transformation: the “gringos” and their banana plantations. With this new form of foreign intrusion, Macondo attempts to retain the Macondo they knew before the colonization began: “The banana fever had calmed down. The old inhabitants of Macondo found themselves surrounded by newcomers and working hard to cling to their precarious resources of times gone by…” (284). Marquez utilizes the introduction of technology, specifically the train, as a means of foreshadowing of the extent to which these final foreign forces change Macondo forever: “The innocent yellow train was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo” (222). When discord erupts between the colonized workers and the colonizing “gringos” and the workers begin to strike, the colonizer uses a summons of all workers to gather in Macondo as a means of imposing their utmost power over them. In the resulting massacre, Jose Arcadio Segundo becomes the only living witness to the truth of the colonizers’ atrocities: “He realized that he was riding on an endless and silent train…and only then did he discover that he was lying against dead people…he saw the man corpses, woman corpses, child corpses who would be thrown into the sea like rejected bananas” (307). And yet, the reality of the truth he witnesses is denied by every single person he comes across in Macondo. This scene begins to question the significance of truth as power, as Fanon relays: “Truth is what hastens the dislocation of the colonial regime, what fosters the emergence of the nation. Truth is what protects the “natives” and undoes the foreigners.” (14) This manipulation of the truth by the government, or the colonizer, to the extent that the lie becomes the truth, the reality, implies that the possessor of the truth, and thus the one to possess the power of manipulating the truth, is the one who holds the power. Because the colonized Macondo relinquished the truth, they were incapable of what Fanon calls “dislocation of the colonial regime”; because the people had come to believe the lie, they were unable to “undo the foreigner,” but instead themselves were “undone”:
“He had read an extraordinary proclamation to the nation which said that the workers had left the station and had returned home in peaceful groups…The official version, repeated a thousand times and mangled out all over the country by every means of communication the government found at hand, was finally accepted: there was no dead, the satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the company was suspending all activities until the rains stopped.” (309)
The ultimate ruin that this series of events thus leads to Macondo refers back to Fanon’s first statement: “The masses…realize two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: “What was the point of fighting if nothing was really destined to change?” (34). Ultimately, even after their attempts at revolution and independence, they never truly achieved liberty because the constant bombarding intrusions and occupations by foreign forces tainted the fabric of Macondo forever: it set off a chain of influences, one after another, that made it impossible for them to not only reclaim their culture, their identity, but also influenced it to such an extent that the true story of their people, their history, and their plight for independence was distorted into a lie – merely a legend, a tall tale.
Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Press, 2005.
García, Márquez Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper Perennial Modern. Classics Edition, 2006. Print.