Love in the Time of Cholera
América Vicuña enters the custody of Florentino Ariza, her elderly relative, at the age of twelve when she moves from a small fishing village to the big city to study. At first glance she inspires lust in her lecherous guardian, who is reminded by her braid and uniform of Fermina Daza as a young schoolgirl. He doesn't exactly confuse the two, but the resemblance is pretty strong, don't you think?
When García Márquez tells us that Florentino "led her by the hand, with the gentle astuteness of a kind grandfather, toward his secret slaughterhouse," we realize how creeptastic he's become (5.139). We first take "slaughterhouse" to mean only that he deprives the girl of her virginity at the age of thirteen. When América commits suicide as a result of the heartbreak caused by Florentino's unrequited love, though, the word takes on another significance.
América Vicuña's story shows us just how much Florentino is willing to sacrifice in the name of his passionate, romantic notion of love. Not only does he neglect the young girl when he finds out that Fermina is once again single, but upon news of her death his primary concern is that she has left some clue that will make their scandalous relationship public. His lack of remorse seems really selfish, but it serves to demonstrate just how delusional Florentino has to be in order to pursue romance with his beloved. He pushes away all thoughts of death, disease, and responsibility in order to create a floating haven with Fermina that he thinks he can make last "forever" (6.239).
América Vicuña's name, like many others in the novel, seems highly significant. Could her first name be a clue as to the author's geographical focus? Does her name support the argument that Love in the Time of Cholera is a distinctly American novel? (Remember, America includes South America.) As for Vicuña, the word cuña in Spanish means "cradle," and slipping it into her last name reminds us of the extreme youth and innocence of Florentino's last casual fling. A vicuña is also a kind of South American domesticated llama. Do you think there's any significance to that?