Study Guide

One Hundred Years of Solitude Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

  • Nothing great comes out of killing Mauricio Babylonia, as Fernanda learns a year later when Meme's son is brought to her.
  • Whoa, hang on, Meme's son?
  • Okay, time to backtrack.
  • Fernanda flips out when she finds out about Meme and Mauricio.
  • After he is shot, Meme stops speaking and becomes a catatonic automaton, which is fine for Fernanda, who packs up her daughter and takes her by train to a convent.
  • Aureliano Segundo kind of wants to rescue his daughter, but Fernanda shows him a form that Meme signed saying the convent was her choice, so he just washes his hands of the whole thing and goes back to Petra Cotes' house.
  • Fernanda then writes a letter to Meme's brother José Arcadio (III), telling him that his sister is dead. Man, this woman is out of control.
  • When Fernanda comes back from dropping off her daughter, she can tell that something tense is going on in town. Something of the soldiers-with-guns-all-over-the-place variety.
  • Turns out José Arcadio Segundo (who is, remember, working as a foreman over at the banana plantation) is getting everyone psyched to go on strike.
  • Their main demand is not to have to work on Sundays. This seems reasonable to everyone, but still, there is an attempt on José Arcadio Segundo's life.
  • Úrsula is worried because this kind of thing is exactly what happened to Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
  • Fernanda wants the invisible doctors to do their telepathic operation, but they tell her that she has to wait because of all this restlessness in Macondo. (And just so we're all on the same page, obviously she is crazy and there are no invisible doctors. You got that, right?)
  • One fine day, a nun shows up with a basket. Inside is Meme's son. Apparently she was pregnant when she was confined to the convent. They named the boy Aureliano for her (surprise, surprise).
  • Fernanda's first instinct is to drown the baby, but she can't bring herself to do it. Instead, she hides him in the house and tells everyone that she found him floating in a basket, Moses-style.
  • Amazingly enough, Santa Sofía de la Piedad and little Amaranta Úrsula totally buy this.
  • The workers are increasingly agitated by the conditions at the plantation.
  • One big issue is that there is no medical care. Another is that they aren't being paid in cash, but in scrip. Scrip is kind of like monopoly money: a fake currency that can only be used in a specific place and isn't legal tender anywhere else. The workers can use the scrip only in the banana plantation's own store. This is all well and good if they want to buy Virginia ham, for example, but they can't use the money for rent or anything else. (Imagine being really hungry, but all you have is a gift card for Old Navy. Kind of useless.)
  • So the workers decide to corner Mr. Brown with their demands and get the courts involved. Every time they find him, though, his lawyers talk their way out of the situation. Almost magically, actually.
  • So after all that fails, it's strike time.
  • Strikes are terrible for agriculture, since production is so time-sensitive.
  • The government sends out soldiers to establish order. But when they come, instead of mediating between the bosses and the workers, the soldiers just start doing the work at the plantation themselves. Basically, the soldiers turn into scabs.
  • The workers then start to sabotage the soldiers.
  • Finally, authorities announce a huge gathering for all the workers: a military leader will come and fix the situation.
  • Everyone is psyched, and three thousand people gather in the square in front of the railway station to hear the guy talk.
  • The streets around the square are blocked off by soldiers with machine guns.
  • A train comes, but the leader isn't on it. Instead, someone reads an official decree that all these workers are hoodlums.
  • They are given five minutes to disperse.
  • No one moves.
  • Five minutes go by. The captain gives the order to fire.
  • The soldiers start to systematically gun down every single unarmed person in the square. Men, women, little kids, old people. It's really horrific.
  • José Arcadio Segundo is wounded and falls unconscious.
  • When he wakes up, he is on a train… in the middle of many, many dead bodies.
  • Apparently they loaded all the dead onto the train to carry them away.
  • He manages to jump off the train and starts to slowly make his way back along the tracks.
  • Okay, time for a little historical brain snack. This all sounds like yet another crazy thing from the wacky imagination of our friend Gabriel García Márquez, doesn't it? Well, what would you say if we told you that this massacre actually happened for real?
  • In 1928, about 2000 United Fruit Company workers in Colombia were massacred by the Colombian army during a peaceful strike. It's hard to know how much the United Fruit Company knew and when they knew it, but it doesn't seem like anyone's hands are all that clean in the story. Oh, and you may know the United Fruit Company as Chiquita. Ever wonder where the term "banana republic" comes from? The United Fruit Company would interfere in the politics of every country where it grew its products and basically function as a colonial power there.
  • So back to the story.
  • José Arcadio Segundo makes it back to town and realizes that no one knows about the slaughter. Not only that, but every person in Macondo accepts the official announcement that the workers got what they wanted and then happily went home. And that also, because of the rainy weather, the banana company would stop operations for a while.
  • Even as the government is pushing this message, it is slowly assassinating all the leaders of the protest.
  • José Arcadio Segundo only manages to survive because, when the soldiers come for him, he hides in Melquíades' room and is magically protected from being seen.
  • The rainy weather lasts for months. José Arcadio Segundo spends six months in Melquíades' room. When Aureliano Segundo finally finds him there, all he can do is repeat that there really were three thousand people killed.
  • Ugh.

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