The Persistence of Blood, Honor, and Name in Hispanic Literature: Bodas de sangre and Crónica de una muerte anunciada

Alexandra Fitts
University of Alaska

Gabriel García Márquez’s Crónica de una muerte anunciada and Federico García Lorca’s Bodas de sangre are in many ways markedly different works of literature. One a Columbian journalistic novel, the other an Andalusian tragedy, the two works are representative of their respective authors’ styles. García Márquez’s novel, published in 1981, is darkly ironic, while Lorca’s 1933 play is elementally and classically tragic. In spite of their obvious differences, the works have a great deal in common. Both are based on true stories of doomed love affairs. In each, a young woman is compelled by social forces to marry a man who is not her true love. Neither her husband nor society can tolerate her physical and romantic desire for an illegitimate partner, and her family must seek vengeance for the stain upon their honor that her behavior has caused. The outcome is essentially the same in both works, as a life is sacrificed to right the wrong and supposedly balance the scales of justice. In Hispanic culture and literature, honor is multifaceted and circumscribed by rules, both written and unwritten. It is a complicated weaving of social control and a construction of masculinity that is grounded on the physical restriction of women’s sexuality. These two works put on view the persistence of a code of honor that many would claim has died out. However, rather than disappearing, the honor code has merely mutated because the attitudes that underlie it persist. Both Lorca and García Márquez show us cases that seem anachronistic, but which could not have happened and been at least implicitly condoned, if the belief system had vanished. There were a number of actions that could lead to a man’s dishonor in the Golden Age period of Spain, from a public accusation of lying to the insult of beard-pulling, but the most written about was the adultery or rape of a female relative. “El marido engañado” and defense or reinstitution of honor is a recurrent theme in Spanish letters from the time of the Cid, and Golden Age writers from Calderón to Cervantes employed the theme for both its tragic and comic possibilities. There were many factors that contributed to the particularly Spanish development of the code of honor, not least of them the expulsion of the Jews and the forced conversion of the Moors in the late 15th century. The ensuing

insistence on “limpieza de sangre” or purity of blood became one of the chief components of the honor code, and women’s role in maintaining the racial cleanliness of the line was all-important. While the association of honor with female sexual purity and the family name is common, in Spain, and later in Latin America, this connection becomes extreme, or as Cervantes’ biographer William Byron calls it, “a specifically Spanish exaggeration,…a deadly serious parody within a parody” (12). Deadly serious should be emphasized here, because the ramifications of the honor code can be lethal. The Reconquista managed to establish only a tenuous imposition of the appearance of racial and religious homogeneity, and it is that very tenuous nature which led to its rigorous enforcement, often through the offices of the Inquisition. Likewise, the control of women’s sexual behavior could never be complete, and public spectacle was encouraged as an example and deterrent. Law permitted the wronged husband to kill his wife and her lover, even in cases of rape, and encouraged that the deed be done in public. For example, there are records of a case that took place in Sevilla in 1565 where a man repeatedly stabbed his adulterous wife in front of an assembled crowd. As Georgina Dopico Black points out, women’s bodies became the site where honor was played out: “in early modern Spain, the wife’s body served as a kind of Transcoder of and for various types of cultural anxieties, a site on which concerns over the interpretation and misinterpretation of signs and especially signs of Otherness—racial, religious, cultural—were at different times projected, materialized, codified, negotiated, and even contested” (4). While innumerable factors combined to produce the particularly Spanish manifestation of honor, women’s sexualized bodies became the most visible locus of control from penetration by the Other. It is not my intent to provide an overview of Golden Age honor plays, or of the extensive criticism of such works, but rather to focus on some more contemporary enactments and representations. The works being discussed here were not published in the Golden Age, but rather in the twentieth-century. The honor code may have gone underground, but I would argue that it is not gone. Even describing seventeenth-century Spain, Edward Wilson and Duncan Moir question the extent to which the Golden Age dramatists’ obsession with honor reflected the actual preoccupations and beliefs of the populace. He writes that The many honour plays which were written may not be reliable in the impression they give of a society obsessed by a fantasy; yet it is clear that in that society there must have been real problems of class, of reputation, and of self-respect…The code of honour which the plays express may not have existed, as such and in all its details, in the everyday life of seventeenth-century Spaniards, but it was compounded by real fears, real prejudices, real social values and real legal statutes. (62) Real fears, prejudices, and social values, if not legal statutes, continue to shape attitudes toward appropriate sexual behavior for women.1 While honor killings may not be everyday fare in the modern Hispanic world, they also were exemplary rather than common in the Golden Age. It is not the literal manifestations that are so important here, but rather the literary ones and the belief system that they simultaneously reflect and critique. I also do not wish to suggest that cultural practices pass unmediated from Spain to Latin America.
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The Latin American manifestation of the honor code is unquestionably affected by issues of race, mestizaje, colonialism, and nation-building linked to, but different from, issues of Spanish limpieza de sangre. The basic plots of Bodas de sangre and Crónica are quite similar. A seemingly ideal suitor, a “good catch” that no sane woman would refuse, pursues a young woman. Reluctantly, she concedes, compelled to marry by familial and social pressures. In each case, the bride’s reluctance is due to a previous love affair. In Bodas de sangre, the Novia (the characters hold emblematic titles- the Novia, the Novio, the Madre) is still in love with her former boyfriend, but he has married another. In Crónica, Angela Vicario has lost her virginity in a prior relationship and fears the wrath of her husband when he discovers the shameful secret. Despite their misgivings, the young women go through with the ceremonies, but the truth comes to light the very day of the wedding. The Novia cannot deny her pent-up desire for her former love Leonardo and abandons her new husband during the reception. Angela refuses to hide the fact that she is no longer a virgin from her groom Bayardo and he returns her in shame to her family’s doorstep on the wedding night. The wronged families (in Bodas de sangre, the Novio himself; in Crónica, the brothers of the bride) feel obliged to avenge the wrong done to their good name and seek out and kill the women’s lovers. Lest we believe that this custom has gone the way of the Inquisition or that García Márquez and Lorca have exaggerated the acceptance and even requirement of violence to punish women’s sexual transgression, we need only to be aware that both of the fictional works that I am discussing here are taken from actual events that occurred in the twentieth century. Lorca based his play on a murder that occurred in the town of Níjar (in the southern Spanish province of Almería) in 1928, in which the bride escaped with her former lover (who was also her cousin) the morning of her wedding. A cousin of the groom happened upon the fleeing couple as he rode to the wedding reception, and shot and killed the “kidnapper.” Lorca’s fictional version incorporated many of the elements from contemporary newspaper accounts of the crime, such as the details of the wedding preparation and the lover’s skill as a horseman.2 For Crónica de una muerte anunciada, García Márquez used as his inspiration a case that had taken place some thirty years earlier, in Sucre, Colombia in 1951. The young García Márquez was marginally associated with the case (as is his semi-autobiographical narrator in the novel); his family lived in the town and he was acquainted with all its participants. The publication of the novel sparked new interest in the murder, and some of the parties relived their fifteen minutes of fame. In a newspaper interview done following the publication of Crónica, the real-life “wronged” husband describes his discovery of the truth: en el momento exacto observé el detalle de que no era virgen. Entonces la sacudí violentamente y le dije: “Qué pasó?,¿qué hay aquí? Usted me ha engañado, aquí hay un hombre. ¿Quién es que no soy yo?” A pesar de la oscuridad, observé que Margarita lloraba, que sus lágrimas rodaban y no alcanzaba a hablar. Estaba totalmente transformada. No era una mujer,



era un ente. Pero la levanté a bofetadas tratando de hacerla hablar y diciéndole, ‘Hable, hable, o la mato!’ (37) Though he gallantly insists that “upright men don’t speak poorly of women,” he does describe handing her a knife hoping that she would kill herself, as recompense for the shame that she has brought upon him and both their families. Perhaps most telling is the transformation of his bride into an “ente”; as a non-virgin, she loses not only her husband’s allegiance, but also her very humanity. García Márquez obviously had no need to exaggerate the aggressively masculine posturing of the supposed victim or his acceptance of violence as a method of setting things right. Both writers do exploit the dramatic possibilities of these singularly scandalous events, and in doing so they simultaneously expose, critique and contest the system of honor and its potentially tragic consequences. It could be (and has been) argued that they are positing this particular understanding of honor as one that has outlived its time— a medieval code of conduct that has no place in the twentieth (or twenty-first) century. 3 The question then would be: what happens to cultural practices and rituals that no longer hold their value? One might suppose that they would become merely symbolic, ritualized vestiges or that they would disappear altogether. But if this code of honor or the system of beliefs which ground it had actually ceased to retain their importance in modern times, neither writer would have had the material on which to base his story. In fact, honor, like other aspects of culture, is continually contested. In the introduction to a collection called Honor and Grace in Anthropology, the authors argue that “it is an error to regard honor as a constant concept rather than a conceptual field within which people find the means to express their self-esteem or their esteem for others” (4). They also point out that honor is “not simply a refraction or demonstration of the reality of power or precedence,” but rather that the relationship between honor and power is dialectic- concepts of honor do not merely reproduce the status quo, but help to create it. It is precisely the inherent instability of honor that renders its public enactment so vital. In Calderón and the Seizures of Honor, Edwin Honig expresses the intrinsically performative nature of honor: One aspect of honor is that it traditionally shows itself less as a private virtue than as the socially nurtured exhibition of self-esteem, which may be asserted when challenged or assaulted by some antagonist. It is the precarious just cause daily safeguarded in the cold war of social life, awaiting the trespass of a lurking enemy. One’s honor depends on someone else, as Lope de Vega pointed out. No man is honorable alone and by himself; he becomes honorable by means of another person. (12) It goes without saying that the distancing of the racial, ethnic, or religious Other is not an impulse that has disappeared from Hispanic or any other human culture. In Crónica de una muerte anunciada, the murdered Santiago Nasar is Arab, and while there appears to be some degree of acceptance of the Arab community in the town of the novel, it is implied that resentment and fear of his difference may have made him a particularly vulnerable scapegoat. It is interesting to note that Santiago Nasar’s racial and ethnic otherness is one
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that would be more expected in a Peninsular work: the fear and distrust of the “moro” that has been so present in Spanish cultural and literary history. Still, I would claim that even in Crónica, the type of purity that is most important is sexual rather than ethnic, though clearly the two are often intertwined. The control of women’s sexuality is paramount, and I believe it is for this reason that the supposedly outdated belief system retains its literary and actual urgency. In examining the limitations still imposed on women’s sexuality by anachronistic codes of honor, both Lorca and García Márquez offer a critique as well as some small possibilities of escape from the seemingly unbreakable cycle. Lorca highlights the Spanish insistence on the differentiation of women’s and men’s roles, particularly in sexual behavior. The mother of the groom (called simply la Madre) boasts about the sexual exploits of her male family members: “tu abuelo dejó un hijo en cada esquina. Eso me gusta. Los hombres, hombres; el trigo, trigo” (14). At the same time, she is concerned about even the hint of a sexual history in her future daughter-in-law. This interest extends to the dead mother of the bride, who presumably could have spread her “bad blood” to her daughter. First the Madre tells her son that she wishes that she knew something about the bride’s mother, and later she presses a neighbor for information, and is told: “A su Madre la conocí. Hermosa. Le relucía la cara como a un santo; pero a mí no me gustó nunca. No quería a su marido” (20). As it turns out, the Madre’s concern was well founded as the Novia relives the sins of her own mother. García Márquez also focuses on the sexual double standard that exists for men and women in Colombia. The young men’s exploits with prostitutes are presented as a normal rite of passage, while Angela, the bride, is not even allowed to be alone with her fiancée. Ironically, the young men of Crónica’s town, including the García Márquez character, frequent the house of María Alejandrina Cervantes and her prostitutes the night of the wedding, at the very hour that Angela is being returned to her home in disgrace for not being a virgin. In both cases, the deeper tragedy results from the inevitable responsibility that her family members must bear for the behavior of the “shamed” woman. The underlying attitude in this responsibility reflects a deep distrust of women’s moral character. On the one hand, women are seen as incapable of controlling their own desires, such that the final accountability for their behavior rests with the male family members. On the other hand, a woman’s sexual conduct is the measure by which her entire family and their all-important name will be judged. When the woman “acts out” it reflects poorly on those who should be controlling her behavior, or at the very least preventing her from having the opportunity to err. Of course, “acting out” may not be very different from simply acting, employing agency. The male characters simultaneously ignore and fear the possibility of women’s sexual desire and the female characters’ ability to engage their will by acting on that desire. As Dopico Black puts it: “(male) honor is radically dependent on (female) chastity— honor, then, as the site, localizable in the wife’s body, through which the husband’s subjectivity is vulnerable to the wife’s will” (16). This attitude is firmly in line with the Christian tradition’s portrayal of Eve as the weak-fleshed and weak-spirited victim of her desire, whose lack of will caused the downfall of Adam and ultimately of all humans. Women’s roles as perpetuators of this cycle are not absent from this equation, and in fact, it is sometimes the women characters that insist most fervently on adherence to the

code. However, while the mothers’ role in enforcement is extremely important (this is stressed particularly in Bodas de sangre), it is ultimately the men who bear the family’s responsibility for righting matters by reestablishing honor. The women’s greatest concern seems to be “el qué dirán” or the reaction of others, while the men focus on the intrinsic value of the family’s good name. In an article on Mediterranean cultures, the anthropologist María Pia di Bella discusses the connection of name, blood and honor. She states that the two main components of honor are blood and name, blood being primarily associated with women and name with men. She says that “purity of blood, owed essentially to the nature of women, and renown, due principally to the behavior of men, ensure together their collective honor which is degraded into shame if either Blood or Name is tainted. To restore it, honor must be cleansed albeit by violent action” (152). She goes on to say that “there is offense to the Blood when an outsider defiles the chastity of a woman of the group with or without her consent. Once the link between the purity of the Blood and the integrity of the Name is broken, the men, responsible in the eyes of society for their repute, are obliged, in order to efface the insult, to eliminate the woman in question” (154). The association of the female with the body and the male with the soul dates back to Aristotle, for whom “women supplied the matter, but being male meant the capacity to supply the sensitive soul” (Laqueur 30).4 The association of women with blood and men with name upholds the traditional dichotomies of male/female, interior/exterior, public/ private. Men’s responsibility is upholding the public appearance of propriety, while women’s task is keeping things clean inside the home, inside the family, even inside their own bodies. Indeed, in both Bodas de sangre and Crónica de una muerte anunciada, the women in the family enforce the code of honor inside the home, but it is the men who must go forth and protect the public reputation. The ritual aspects of blood and bloodshed are emphasized in both works. The traditional display of blood on the matrimonial sheets would have been the proof of the brides’ virginity, but in neither case may this demonstration be made. In Bodas de sangre, the wedding night never comes to pass, and in Crónica, Angela does not take her friends’ advice about how to trick Bayardo into believing that she is a virgin. The absence of this symbolic blood necessitates a different type of ritualized bloodshed. The murders represent a displacement from the realm of women’s blood and its association with virginity and the purity of the line to that of men’s blood and its connection with violence and the public arena. Symbols of virginity play key roles in both works—in Crónica, the bloody wedding sheets (or lack thereof ) and in Bodas, the azahar, or crown of orange blossoms that the Novia is to wear in her hair. In both cases, the women show themselves to be essentially honest. Angela does not feign virginity on her wedding night, though she understands the potential repercussions. When her maid attempts to place the azahar in her hair, the Novia throws it to the ground.5 In both works, the repeated mention of blood serves a number of purposes. It emphasizes the ritualized aspects of the killings, for they are clearly sacrifices, particularly in the case of Santiago Nasar, who was probably innocent of deflowering Angela Vicario. 6 They also play up the connections between violence and the family name— the



purification of one kind of blood through the shedding of the other. The seeming inevitability of the deaths furthers this sense of ritualized sacrifice. In Bodas de sangre, the reader is aware of impending doom from the opening scene and the Madre’s insistence on talking about blood— both in the sense of the family line and of violence. The first dialogue in the play is about knives; the Novio’s father and brother were both killed by them, and she worries that her only remaining son carries one. Later she describes their deaths by saying: Es tan terrible ver la sangre de una derramada por el suelo. Una fuente que corre un minuto y a nosotros nos ha costado años. Cuando yo llegué a ver a mi hijo, estaba tumbado en la mitad de la calle. Me mojé las manos de sangre y me las lamí con la lengua. Porque era mía. (181) The two meanings of blood are mixed here—the red, liquid blood that is a physical manifestation of violent masculinity, and the sense of the family’s honor as it resides in and is represented by the blood. The play is also full of references to blood in this more figurative sense. In the same opening dialogue, the Madre refers to the Novio’s father, saying “Eso de buena casta. Sangre” (14). Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Leonardo’s family was responsible for the deaths of the father and brother. Though Leonardo himself was only eight years old at the time, the Madre distrusts him because of his bad blood. She says, “¿Qué sangre va a tener? La de toda su familia. Mana de su bisabuelo, que empezó matando y sigue en toda la mala ralea, manejadores de cuchillos y gente de falsa sonrisa” (180). The reader also has an impending sense of doom from the first page of Crónica de una muerte anunciada, but in this case we don’t need foreshadowing to clue us in. García Márquez tells us immediately that Santiago Nasar is going to die, and in fact he is already long dead by the time of the narration. The suspense of the novel is maintained as we await the death, which doesn’t occur until the last page. The death itself is quite gory— we are treated to descriptions of Santiago Nasar staggering into his kitchen with his intestines in his hands, a scene that was mirrored earlier in the book when Santiago watched sickened as the cook fed the entrails of a rabbit to the dogs in the same kitchen. The ritual aspect is again highlighted, as the whole town forms a horrified circle of spectators watching the sacrifice. In fact, the townspeople function as a tragic chorus, much in the same way that the various mujeres do in Bodas de sangre. While the two works are markedly divergent in terms of style—the mere fact that one is a play and the other a novel is sufficient—they do share a use of chorus-like elements to comment on and judge the action, and to foreground the ritualized, classic nature of the sacrifices that are enacted. Lorca utilizes many elements of classic drama in his trilogy, and here he employs the chorus, in the form of the “leñadores,” “muchachas,” amd “mujeres” to fill in information, describe what has happened, and judge the behavior of the principals. García Márquez’s version of a chorus is more post-modern. He relies on a plurality of voices throughout the novel, a tactic that not only furthers the undecideability of the text (none of the characters can agree on even the most basic facts), but also heightens the fatalistic character of Santiago Nasar’s death.7 The many voices that have spoken come together at the final moment to serve witness to Nasar’s murder. Still, their

role is confined to that of spectators and commentators, rather than actors. Only one character in the novel takes any steps to prevent the murder, and the inactivity of the rest of the town renders this one attempt futile. The two works also employ foreshadowing and symbolism to focus the reader’s attention on one particular moment of the text, in Bodas the tragedy that results from the predictable betrayal by the Novia, and in Crónica the much foretold death of Santiago Nasar. We, like the participants in the dramas, know what is going to happen, but can do nothing to prevent it. Like them, we are drawn along to the inevitable end. Lorca and García Márquez do not merely describe the code of honor; they subvert it. In both works, the men who are responsible for carrying out vengeance are reluctant, if not unwilling to comply with their prescribed roles. This is particularly obvious in Crónica de una muerte anunciada, as Angela’s brothers Pedro and Pablo Vicario do almost everything that they can to avoid going through with the murder. As one of the characters in the novel puts it as she tries to persuade the mayor to arrest the young men before the murder that everyone knows is going to occur: Es para librar a esos muchachos del horrible compromiso que les ha caído encima. Pues ella lo había intuido. Tenía la certidumbre de que los hermanos Vicario no estaban tan ansiosos por cumplir la sentencia como por encontrar a alguien que les hiciera el favor de impedírselo.(61) Santiago Nasar’s death would seem a comedy of errors if it weren’t so tragic. As potential assassins, Pedro and Pablo Vicario do nothing that would logically enable them to carry out the murder and everything possible to get caught; yet they are dragged along by their destiny to its inevitable end. The town watches in disbelief, but no one does anything to intervene. In fact, in a clear example of women’s role in enforcement and maintenance of the convention, Pedro Vicario’s fiancée later states that she supported his actions and that she not only was in agreement with the murder, but that she wouldn’t have married him if he hadn’t fulfilled his obligation like a man. In Bodas de sangre it is also a woman who urges the killing— the Madre. Her son the Novio has been presented as a gentle young man; his innocence is highlighted by her proclamation that he is still a virgin.8 In the first scene he tries to nudge her from her dogged fixation on the family vendetta, urging her to move on from the past. When it is discovered that the Novia has disappeared during the wedding reception, the bridegroom is not even a party to the discussion. It is his mother who proclaims to the Novia’s father that “ha llegado otra vez la hora de la sangre. Dos bandos. Tú con el tuyo y yo con el mío” (91). The Novio does take up the pursuit, declaring that he is no longer acting for himself, but for his dead father and brother. Like Pedro and Pablo Vicario, he has ceased to be an individual acting of his own volition. He is now the representative of his family’s honor, and its power is greater than his own. An important plot twist of the two works is that both women live after bringing such shame to their families. Though the Novia in Bodas de sangre claims that they won’t take her alive, they in fact do. She then offers herself to the Madre to be killed, but the older woman won’t oblige, washing her hands of her new daughter-in-law. Though she is
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destined to a life of shame, she at least has her life. In Crónica, Angela Vicario fares even better. In fact, she is perhaps the only character who comes out of the incident enhanced. Before her wedding, she was presented as weak-willed and without the strength to stand up to her parents when they insisted that she marry a man she didn’t love. However, the disgrace of her wedding night strengthens her. She becomes a forceful, independent woman, and even gets her man. She decides that she did love Bayardo after all, and years after the disastrous wedding the two middle-aged lovers reunite. If it is indeed an accepted part of the honor code that a woman could, and even should, be killed for committing adultery, then one could perhaps think that the women’s physical salvation in these works represents a measure of progress. However, though the women’s survival does grant them a certain amount of power and an obvious advantage over the men, the fact that the men must die is actually in keeping with the traditional view of women implicit in the code of honor. If a woman can’t be trusted to rein in her instincts and control her own behavior, she can hardly be held solely responsible for her downfall. She only did what was in her nature— the man involved with her supposedly had more restraint and should have shown more respect —not necessarily for her, but for her family name, or rather, for the men in her family. Though the woman’s behavior has precipitated the tragedy, once it enters the public arena, she loses her central place in the drama and it becomes an issue of name rather one of than blood. The true drama plays out among the men, revealing that it was really all about men in the first place. The woman’s role, and her fate, is all but forgotten. There is no need to physically annihilate her, because her importance has been so forcefully negated. In Murder and Masculinity: Violent Fictions of Twentieth-Century Latin America , Rebecca Biron writes of the complex nature of masculinity and the need to repudiate the feminine in order to shore up an uncertain and shifting masculine. She writes that masculinity always functions as an ambiguous standard against which to measure people and their actions. The degree to which one does or does not measure up accounts for one’s social status. If males possess masculinity inherently, through having a penis or through overdetermined hormonal or psychological structures, then the fact that they must also earn it through prescribed behaviors and rituals of initiation poses a serious contradiction. Is it a birthright, or is it an elusive sign that men are obligated to obtain in order to bear meaning in the social order? (11) The answer, at least in these two works, seems clear. The insistence on the ritualized performance of masculinity, and its related negation of feminine will and desire represents a desperate attempt to reinforce a failing conception of male domination. García Márquez has stated that he wrote Crónica de una muerte anunciada in part as a denunciation of machismo, which he defines not as merely the aggressive assertion of one’s own privileges, but as “ la usurpación del derecho ajeno. Así de simple” (Olor 159).9 Likewise, Lorca’s Andalusian trilogy (with Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba, of which Bodas de sangre represents the first part) has been characterized as a critique of the rigid roles forced on both sexes, but particularly on women, in Spanish society. Clearly, both

writers seek to condemn codes of conduct that stifle sexuality and human expression. They show us a definition of honor that is continually contested and in flux, but this mutability has not weakened it of its power to produce tragic results. While honor killings like the ones fictionalized in these works certainly do not happen every day, these particular cases would not have such literary and cultural importance if they did not resonate with persistent beliefs and traditions. Through the tragic horror of their works, Lorca and García Márquez expose some of the cracks in the wall of honor and lay bare the hypocrisy of a practice that sacrifices real family for the family name.

Legal statutes that touch upon women’s sexuality are undiminished in the Hispanic world and elsewhere—one has only to consider the laws concerning abortion, rape, birth-control and prostitution. The Center for Reproductive Rights says, in reference to women’s legal status in Mexico, “ ‘Women’s sexual honor’ provides the basis for significantly diminishing the murder of women and authorizing the dismissal of military personnel. Women’s ‘sexual honesty’ continues to be protected by the crime of adultery and the reduced penalty for abductions for sexual reasons…” (77–8). The same report notes that García Márquez’s home country of Colombia is making progress in regards to legal statutes affecting women’s sexual freedom, but: on the other hand, the court maintained the constitutionality of a minimum age of marriage of 12 years for women and a maximum age of 14 for the victim of the crime of ‘violent carnal access.’ Also, the court interpreted the laws so that the husband of a minor under the age of 14 and over the age of 12 cannot be accused of committing the crime of violent carnal access because the context of marriage implies that the girl has the freedom to decide matters of sexuality. (61)
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See Ian Gibson’s biography of Lorca for details of the newspaper articles about the crime in Níjar. He also points out the fact that Lorca heightened the drama of the tale by changing the moment of the bride’s escape. In reality, she left before the wedding, but Lorca “probably realized that, given the musical, choreographic and stage-design potential of the play, his lovers’ flight simply had to take place after the ceremony, in the midst of the merry-making back at the bride’s cave” (338).

Luis Eyzaguirre makes the claim that feminist critics in particular have highlighted the fact that “los personajes femeninos tienen en esta novela roles que, por lo general, no tienen en la vida real” (37). This assertion seems overly optimistic to me—while the male/female dichotomy is emphasized, the women’s roles of mother, daughter, sister, and girlfriend do not seem particularly farfetched. Laqueur provides a fascinating history of the social construction of women’s bodies and sexuality and of the imposed dichotomy between male/ female that is so clearly reflected in these works.
5 4


The notion of honor is again thrown into question by the women’s honesty. Both follow their hearts and find themselves unable to lie in order to continue with the lives of hypocrisy and deceit that seem laid out for them.

6 The ultimate power in the novel lies with Angela Vicario and her ability to speak, and to name her partner.

Her seemingly random selection of Santiago Nasar’s name seals his fate and that of her brothers. Angela remains firm throughout the novel in her naming of Santiago, but the narrator continually throws doubt on Santiago’s guilt. The real mystery of the novel is the identity of the man who took Angela’s virginity, and the reader never discovers this truth.
7 In her article on Crónica, Louise Detwiler discusses the polysemic nature of the text, making the claim that its decentering of truth is ultimately rendered ineffective by the overriding masculine presence of the narrator.



8 For Carlos Feal, this insistence feminizes the Novio, assessing his honor on feminine terms rather than masculine terms. His death later in the play serves to make him a man: “El Novio, muriendo, derramando su sangre virginal, se hace hombre” (279). 9

García Márquez’s feminist credentials are open to question, here and elsewhere. Detwiler makes the strong claim that it is an overwhelmingly male novel, whose own “cult of masculinity” destabilizes any feminist critique it might aspire to. She says, “although one perhaps could argue that the narrator merely reports on the male culture that predominates in this small South American town, the fact remains that he seems delighted to be a part of its inner circle” (44) and that his own sexual interest in a school-girl (who becomes his fiancée) is proof that “the narrator plays into the cult of virginity as much as the other characters do” (47).

Works Cited
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