My novel Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar has been inspired by the Colombian classic.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the finest books ever written, in my opinion. I have read it five times and the last time through, the relationships and positions of the women started to jump to the foreground. Here's where it took me, and how some of my new novel, Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar, has been inspired by it:
Legitimacy's Paper and Cake
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's (Gabo's) novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in the town of Macondo. Pilar Tennara, the saloon keeper, and Ursula, the matriarch of the Buendia family, were among the founders of the town. They had walked through the swamp together before insisting that Ursula's husband stop their wandering and settle. Ursula gave birth on the way, so I had always assumed that the two women grew close as a result. However, after Ursula bears her other sons and her sons grow into young men who then have children with Pilar, Ursula refuses to allow Pilar to attend a founders' dinner because Pilar's children are illegitimate. I was surprised at how cruel that was, how it drove a wedge between the women, and it brought up the whole idea of how 'illegitimacy' is used to oppress people, especially women. And note the double standard: Ursula's sons can attend as the fathers of those illegitimate children but not Pilar as their mother.
Later, mothers and 'illegitimate' children show up at the Buendia door as the oldest son, the Colonel, and his army tromp through the country. I wondered, when the 17 mothers of his 17 Aureliano sons show up at the door and then disappear, where did they go?
Then there's the question of Petra Cotes. Garcia Marquez mentions that the Buendia boy only has to have her ride through his pastures to increase the fertility of his animals and I wondered "if she's had that ability all along, what did her life look like prior to meeting the Buendia family?" It's her power after all, not his.
And the little girl with extraordinary beauty: she has to be locked up and live without education because men die when they see her. But what about her tragedy? She is kept as a witless child.
Plus of course there's the mention of using/raping women everywhere the Colonel and his army went, and it sparked a question for me, especially as we are in the throes of the #MeToo movement:
What would happen if all the used and abused women got together and formed a town of their own?
Voila, Tartatenango (which means Caketown in Colombian slang), the shantytown in Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar was born.
Here are some smaller elements that crept into the narrative:
- The reference to ice that is mentioned in the first paragraph of One Hundred Years of Solitude shows up here as hail.
- The two rocks in the river that he calls eggs I describe as the breasts of a new mother in the morning.
- The loss of memory described in Jaguar Paloma is actually based on information from The Robber of Memories: a River Journey Through Colombia by Michael Jacobs and I did my research to be sure that the resulting memory loss could be caused by pesticides.
- The fecundity of Petra Cotes is an occasional gift to our heroine Jaguar Paloma.
- Gabo's Pilar Tennara has a saloon named The Golden Child, while Paloma has the Caketown Bar.
- There's a morose General, rather than Gabo's Colonel, and I try to imagine the reality of the three mistresses he brings home together.
- This is an imagining of what Gabo's exquisitely beautiful girl would be like as a woman. Orietta's beauty is a burden, but she doesn't let it keep her child-like, even though she keeps it hidden. In the end, she is seen by men to rise into heaven (though I won't say more about that without a spoiler alert.)
- Garcia Marquez actually was an illegitimate child, and he mentions that part of the rebel platform in One Hundred Years of Solitude was to honor legitimate and illegitimate children equally. There's a moment in Jaguar Paloma where that agenda is repeated by the rebels.
A feminist re-telling? An homage to Gabo's women? I hope you'll enjoy reading it and considering the questions my novel raises.