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ArribaAbajo

Los baños de Argel y su estructura en cuatro actos

Alfredo Rodríguez López-Vázquez

Universidade da Coruña



Abstract: Este estudio examina la cuestión teórica de las diversas disposiciones del material escénico en la comedia cervantina. Se propone que la estética dramática de Cervantes se basa en principios de composición teatral como los que se deducen de un análisis de Los baños de Argel, obra que nos ha llegado en distintos formatos. Se propone una hipótesis en torno al uso de la fórmula de cuatro actos en Los baños de Argel y una explicación por el paso a un nuevo formato teatral de tres actos en las ocho comedias de 1615

Key Words: Cervantes (Miguel de), Vega Carpio (Lope de), Siglo de Oro, teatro, comedia



     Un problema teórico que presenta el teatro de Cervantes es el que atañe al paso del esquema de composición en cuatro actos, en el que están escritas El trato de Argel y la Numancia, a la nueva fórmula lopesca en tres, en que aparecen editadas en 1615 sus ocho comedias nuevas. Este problema, para cuya solución se han formulado diferentes hipótesis, implica ahondar en el entendimiento de la fórmula de cuatro actos, usada por Virués, Cervantes o Juan de la Cueva, y elucidar en qué medida la nueva fórmula planteada por los dramaturgos valencianos, y adoptada y popularizada por Lope representa un cambio de planteamientos teóricos y prácticos. La cuestión ha sido bien resumida por J. L. Sirera al preguntarse si el teatro cervantino significó una alternativa teatral derrotada por la fórmula teatral que impuso Lope (Sirera 18). La cuestión es importante y va más allá de la división en tres o en cinco actos: atañe a la extensión de las comedias o tragedias. Es sabido que ni Cervantes ni Virués ni Lope son los inventores de la disposición de la comedia en tres actos, que ya aparece, como señala A. Hermenegildo, en la Comedia Florisea de Francisco de Avendaño (1551). También Gabriel Lobo y Lasso de la Vega escribe con el formato de tres actos. Sucede que la Tragedia de la destruyción de Constantinopla tiene tres actos, pero un total de 1542 versos, repartidos en actos de 602, 472 y 468 versos: la mitad de los 3000 versos habituales en una comedia en tres actos de Lope.

     En el caso de Cervantes tenemos otra evidencia: los dos manuscritos que conocemos de El trato de Argel. El ms. 14.630 de la B.N. de Madrid distribuye la obra en cuatro jornadas; el ms. Sancho Rayón de la Hispanic Society la distribuye en cinco, con variantes que afectan al número de versos en una docena de pasajes, aparte las posibles omisiones aisladas de versos sueltos. Según Rey Hazas y Sevilla Arroyo (LXVI), el manuscrito americano desdobla en dos jornadas la segunda del manuscrito de la nacional, que ambos editores entienden como prioritario.

     Es una hipótesis cuya alternativa parece igual de fiable: que el manuscrito de la Hispanic Society reproduzca una primera redacción en cinco actos, y el de la B.N. una redistribución posterior en cuatro actos por un procedimiento muy sencillo: unir los primitivos actos segundo y tercero en un acto largo de 790 versos. Esto explicaría bien la observación del propio Cervantes en su prólogo de 1615 cuando señala Los tratos de Argel, que yo compuse; La destruición de Numancia y La batalla naval, donde me atreví a reducir las comedias a tres jornadas, de cinco que tenían (Cervantes 9). Cervantes no dice que haya sido el primero en reducir las comedias; sí afirma que tenían cinco actos y se atrevió a reducirlas a tres. De lo que no [208] cabe duda es de que la edición de Los baños de Argel es un formato en tres actos y que en apariencia esos tres actos no se apartan mucho de la fórmula lopesca, siempre que se considere como anecdótico el hecho de que el primer acto tenga 881 versos y el segundo 1140. Sobre la evolución teatral de Cervantes existen básicamente dos planteamientos. Hay acuerdo general sobre una primera época entre 1581 y 1587, en que usa la fórmula de cuatro actos; a partir de aquí Jean Canavaggio propone una segunda época entre 1587 y 1606, y una última, desde este año hasta la edición de las Ocho comedias nuevas (1615). Esta propuesta representa una variación flexible sobre la clásica de Cotarelo, para quien la tercera etapa cervantina sería exclusivamente la producción del año 1615. El problema de las posibles refundiciones de algunas piezas, apuntado ya por Cotarelo, complica la cronología, tanto para la hipotética segunda etapa como para la extensión de la segunda y la tercera. Sobre este telón de fondo se desarrolla una serie de problemas de mayor o menor calado, pero en todo caso imbricados en el problema de las distintas épocas, de modo que la relevancia que pueda adquirir una nueva hipótesis o una reformulación de alguna antigua, puede contribuir a aclarar el problema central, que está lejos de ser nimio. No es lo mismo hablar de dos o tres épocas en Calderón o en Lope, que en el caso de Cervantes; no es lo mismo definir la época intermedia, si admitimos tres, como una época en la que Cervantes escribe comedias en tres actos, o en cuatro.

     La hipótesis de que Los baños de Argel estaba escrita originariamente en cuatro actos (como su fuente, El trato de Argel) y no en los tres en que aparece en la edición de 1615, fue postulada por John J. Allen en 1963; Canavaggio, que se ha ocupado de analizarla en su edición de Los baños de Argel, encuentra una debilidad: además de suponer una extensión excesiva de la segunda jornada, hace caso omiso de la compleja arquitectura de la obra para privilegiar indebidamente el esquema lineal del cuento de amor (36). Hay aquí dos aspectos: uno, la excesiva duración del segundo acto propuesto por Allen (1035 versos), y otro, el problema de la compleja arquitectura de la obra. Puede que la hipótesis Allen sea correcta, y la obra haya sido escrita en cuatro actos, pero su propuesta de límites entre actos no haya sido bien planteada. Como se verá más adelante, hay una propuesta, algo más compleja, que se ajusta a la medida habitual de los actos de las comedias prelopistas. La segunda observación de Canavaggio tiene una parte sólida, pero compatible con la propuesta de Allen. La remodelación de Los baños de Argel se basa en dos aspectos esenciales: la división del personaje Yzuf de El trato, en dos: Cauralí e Yzuf, lo que ahonda en la parte ideológica de la visión de los renegados y los moros por parte de Cervantes, y conlleva una mejor disposición del material dramático, de forma que la historia del martirio de Francisquito queda también remodelada; y, segundo aspecto, que nos parece, como a Allen, Dámaso Alonso, Valbuena Prat, y otros muchos, esencial: la rearticulación de la historia amorosa de Aurelio y Silvia en El trato, en la historia, más compleja y densa, de Fernando y Costanza, en Los baños de Argel. La estructura en cuatro actos desarrolla perfectamente esta dualidad entre lo amoroso, engarzado en motivos literarios y folclóricos, y el fondo social, y expresa lo que Canavaggio llama la compleja estructura de la obra de forma más clara y mejor organizada dramáticamente que la redistribución de la comedia en tres actos. Curiosamente, es el propio Canavaggio el que admite que la obra tiene poco que ver con el modelo de Lope:

       Irreductible también a los criterios del arte nuevo resulta la construcción general de la obra. El complejo sistema que vienen a formar las cuatro intrigas de Los baños poco tiene que ver con los procedimientos que suele usar Lope para conseguir, desde el comienzo de la acción, la íntima conexión de la intriga principal con la intriga secundaria. Cada intriga sigue aquí su desarrollo propio, alternando con las demás mediante las entradas y salidas de los personajes, sin más trabazón aparente que la que nace de la coincidencia de los cautivos en el tablado, o de la complicidad que une a Zahara con Halima y Costanza. (31)

     Según esto, si Canavaggio tiene razón en sus planteamientos, nos encontraríamos [209] con una comedia originariamente escrita en cuatro actos (El trato de Argel) que habría sido reelaborada años después en tres actos sin ninguna idea clara sobre la función estética del nuevo modelo que se usa. Si la única conexión son las entradas y salidas de personajes, lo mismo da disponer el argumento en tres, en cuatro, o en cinco actos. Llama la atención que el propio Canavaggio acepta que en Los baños las acciones son cuatro, lo que apuntaría a indagar algo más en la hipótesis propuesta por Allen. Como obviamente la fórmula no es tan simplista como asignar el comienzo, el desarrollo y el desenlace de cada acción a un sólo acto, es cosa de preguntarse si hay o no alguna idea sobre este tipo de construcción.

     La sospecha de que alguna obra de Cervantes, editada como comedia nueva (en tres actos) había sido escrita con la forma de cuatro actos, y refundida luego en tres, ya había sido emitida por Valbuena Prat (17) en el caso de La casa de los celos y Selvas de Ardenia, en donde en medio del segundo acto, Cervantes habla de terminar la jornada. En la división que se propone aquí para Los baños de Argel se admite la propuesta de Allen para el primer y último acto, que parecen bien delimitados: el primero comprende los versos 1 a 626 del primer acto de la edición, y el cuarto, los versos 376-1072 de la tercera jornada de la edición. En ambos casos la división es clara y se ajusta a la idea de combinar en una unidad temporal dos acciones contrastivas dramáticamente, de modo que un meditado sistema de prolepsis y analepsis establece los engarces con las jornadas intermedias. Es en estas dos jornadas intermedias en donde se puede aportar algo para mejorar la hipótesis Allen y ofrecer una alternativa a uno de los problemas críticos más peliagudos de la cronología y articulación de la obra: lo que afecta al texto de la tercera jornada.

     Aldo Ruffinatto, autor de un trabajo sobre la relación temática, métrica y estructural entre El trato de Argel, Los baños de Argel y la comedia Los cautivos de Argel, de dudosa atribución a Lope de Vega (16), ha propuesto la posterioridad de Los baños de Argel respecto a Los cautivos, idea bien recibida por parte de la crítica y utilizada sobre todo por Canavaggio para oponerse a las hipótesis expuestas por Allen sobre la redacción primitiva en cuatro actos, y a Márquez Villanueva sobre la probable composición alrededor de 1590. Como la fecha de 1599 para Los cautivos de Argel parece bastante firme, dado que coincide el esquema métrico habitual para ese período con la referencia cronológica a Felipe II, la discusión se ha basado sobre todo en si Los baños tiene que ser posterior a Los cautivos, cosa que defienden Ruffinatto, Meregalli y Canavaggio, o bien Los cautivos puede ser refundición de ambas obras cervantinas. Un buen ejemplo de cómo el trabajo de Ruffinatto ha constituido el soporte crítico de esta interpretación es la siguiente argumentación de Rey Hazas y Sevilla Arroyo:

      Como ha demostrado Ruffinatto, se hace necesario intercalar entre las dos piezas de Cervantes la de Lope para explicar el juego de interrelaciones que existe en este caso concreto: Lope imita el tema nuclear de Los tratos, es decir, el cruce de parejas cristiano-mora-cristiana-moro, con la problemática aneja de ambos moros enamorados de sus cautivos cristianos; e introduce una serie de innovaciones que a su vez serán imitadas por Cervantes en Los baños, como la reducción del porcentaje de monólogos (43,7%, en Los tratos, 14,9% en Los cautivos y 12,9% en Los baños) la utilización de menos versos de arte mayor y más de arte menor, mayores cambios de lugar, más funcionalidad en las relaciones, la introducción del gracioso, que no existía en Los tratos... (XXII, subrayado mío)

     Ruffinatto, contra lo que creen Sevilla Arroyo y Rey Hazas, tan sólo ha propuesto una hipótesis, quizá válida para algunos aspectos generales del análisis, y discutible para otros. Metodológicamente la hipótesis es mejorable en dos puntos. Uno, la necesidad de filtrar con mayor cuidado el tercer acto para el análisis; dos, y tiene que ver con lo primero, la necesidad de incorporar la hipótesis Allen al análisis. Parece sorprendente, pero el trabajo de Allen ocho años anterior al de Ruffinatto, no está ni mencionado en su bibliografía, que sí incorpora un trabajo de A.J. Greimas traducido al italiano en 1968. Pero además, la segunda parte de la propuesta de Ruffinatto mal puede tomarse [210] como algo relacionado con la obra concreta Los cautivos de Argel, la evolución de los usos métricos en el último decenio del siglo XVII va efectivamente en el sentido que recoge Ruffinatto, pero no se debe a la comedia Los cautivos de Argel, sino al conjunto de comedias que autores como Mira de Amescua, Vélez de Guevara, Lope, Guillén de Castro y otros muchos, ponen en escena durante todo ese decenio. En cuanto al caso concreto de Los baños de Argel lo único que se puede decir es que, respecto a El trato de Argel, su evolución es similar a la de cualquier otra comedia escrita en los últimos años del siglo; el autor de Los cautivos, sea Lope o no sea Lope, tenía que conocer el tema de Los tratos de Argel, obra citada por Agustín de Rojas en 1603, y vuelta a citar por Cervantes años más tarde, lo que parece probar que había gozado de cierta popularidad; las coincidencias entre Los baños y Los cautivos son perfectamente comprensibles a partir de una fuente común, que de acuerdo con Dámaso Alonso, parece ser la obra El degollado, de Juan de la Cueva, editada en 1588.

     Pero el trabajo de Ruffinatto contiene otra sorprendente omisión: no toma en cuenta la notable diferencia métrica que hay entre los dos primeros actos de Los baños y el tercero. Diferencia que afecta a la propuesta general de modo muy directo, y que se resume a continuación:

     a) En la tabla (17) que da Ruffinatto, hay para Los baños un total de 126 versos de romance, lo que da un total de 4,1%; tenemos también un total de 376 versos en redondilla, lo que da un total de 12,1% de redondilla. Dentro de la evolución de los usos romancísticos esto situaría la obra entre el no uso de romance en Los tratos o un uso muy bajo en El laberinto de amor y La casa de los celos (2,7% y 2,9%) y el uso de El rufián dichoso (6,7%), que debe ser posterior a 1596. Que la evolución de Cervantes va en el sentido de usar cada vez más romance, es claro, ya que las cuatro obras más tardías, El gallardo español, La gran sultana, Pedro de Urdemalas y La entretenida están entre el 12,7% y el 15,6%. Nótese una incongruencia en la propuesta de Ruffinatto: Los cautivos de Argel tiene un 10,3% de romance, porcentaje muy superior al de Los baños de Argel. Según ello debería ser posterior, y no anterior, de acuerdo con los modelos de evolución polimétrica analizados por Morley y Bruerton.

     b) Analicemos ahora el acto tercero de Los baños y comparémoslo con los dos primeros actos en dos índices muy llamativos: el romance y la redondilla. En los 2.021 versos de los dos primeros actos tan sólo aparece un pasaje de romance con un total de 26 versos, es decir, algo menos de 1,3% de uso; a cambio, en el tercer acto encontramos dos pasajes de romance con un total de 100 versos, sobre 1.072 que tiene el acto: o sea, un 9,3% de uso. Lo mismo sucede en las redondillas: en el total de los dos primeros versos tenemos un sólo pasaje, de 16 versos. Porcentaje que no llega al 0,6%. A cambio en el tercer acto tenemos nada menos que cinco pasajes de redondilla, con un total de 304 versos, o sea, un 28,3%, es decir, el uso habitual de esta forma en los dramaturgos de los años 1590-1600. Hacia la época en que Cervantes edita sus ocho comedias nuevas (período 1613-1616), los usos habituales de la redondilla, según Morley y Bruerton, están entre el 40 y el 60%, y la quintilla (que en Los baños alcanza el 63,9%) está en un uso medio cercano al 10%. Es difícil admitir que Cervantes haya escrito Los baños según la fórmula lopesca de tres actos pero con la tipología métrica habitual veinte años antes.

     Así pues, parece una hipótesis razonable postular que los dos primeros actos son de redacción anterior al tercero; esta conclusión procede de trabajar con los propios datos de Ruffinatto de una forma más minuciosa. Pero, por qué serían anteriores los dos primeros actos al tercero?

     En principio, y si se excluyen los versos 1-375 del acto tercero, lo que nos queda es un conjunto que se ajusta muy bien a una reelaboración del material dramático de Los tratos de Argel a partir de la idea de El degollado de Juan de la Cueva, impresa, como hemos dicho en 1588 en Sevilla. Quizá en Madrid, en Toledo o en Valencia no se hiciera gran caso de Juan de la Cueva; pero [211] en Sevilla, donde reside Cervantes desde 1587, sí era conocido. No parece aventurado sugerir que Cervantes leyó a Juan de la Cueva por esos años o vio representar sus obras. Si las innovaciones de Los baños respecto a El trato proceden de la lectura de El degollado, y si respetamos el plan de separación en actos de Los tratos tendríamos una comedia en cuatro actos, ligeramente distinta en sus cortes a la que proponía Allen, que incluye en su primitivo esquema los versos 1-375 del tercer acto, pasaje que ha tenido que ser introducido después de 1591.

     En efecto, como apunta Canavaggio, la anécdota de la representación de una fiesta en el baño grande de Argel, con un intento de fuga por parte de los cristianos que iban a representar una comedia es verídica, y está documentada en la relación del cautiverio hecha por Diego Galán. 1591 es la fecha de este suceso, y probablemente, Cervantes, que era proveedor de la Armada, y conocía bien el mundo de los cautivos, debió de enterarse del suceso en ese mismo año o al siguiente. Y aquí encajan perfectamente dos directores de compañía teatral relacionados con Cervantes y aludidos por Allen en su hipótesis: Gaspar de Porres y Rodrigo Ossorio.

     Gaspar de Porres estuvo representando en Sevilla en el Corral de San Vicente en el año 1588, según ha documentado Jean Sentaurens (125), que también ha comprobado que Rodrigo Ossorio representó en 1592 en el Corral de Doña Elvira.

     En Los baños de Argel, los versos 1-375 contienen una novedad respecto al conjunto del material dramático de Los tratos y a los puntos en contacto con El degollado. Hay una compañía que representa una pieza de Lope de Rueda; el actor o director es un cierto Ossorio, que curiosamente no aparece nombrado para nada en los 2021 versos de los dos primeros actos. Pues bien, el 5 de septiembre de 1592 Cervantes firma en Sevilla un contrato con Rodrigo Ossorio, director de compañía, por el que se compromete a escribir seis comedias, con la condición de que si no fuesen como las mejores de sus contemporáneos, no cobraría. No se menciona título alguno, ni si había o no entremeses entre ellas; tampoco está claro si las comedias tenían la forma de tres jornadas o la de cuatro. Ya hemos dicho que Rodrigo Ossorio representó en Sevilla en 1592. No obstante conviene detallar más este punto. Escribiría Cervantes la comedia Los baños de Argel directamente para Ossorio, o bien para la compañía de Gaspar de Porres, como ha defendido Allen? La propuesta de Allen, basada en la evidencia documental de que en 1585 Cervantes y Porres firman contrato para representar Los tratos de Argel admite una formulación temporal más flexible. El argumento central es el que se refiere a la acotación escénica que sigue al verso 428 del acto segundo:

      Toma su barril y vase; salen Juanico y Francisco, que así se han de llamar los hijos del Viejo; vienen vestidos a la turquesa de gar[zo]nes; saldrá con ellos la señora Catalina, vestida de garzón, y un cristiano...

     Astrana Marín apuntó que esta señora Catalina era Catalina Hernández Verdeseca, esposa del autor Gaspar de Porres. Allen, que cree la obra escrita en 1585 señala que en esa fecha Catalina podía representar muy bien el papel de muchacho joven, mejor que en 1614, ya entrada en los cuarenta. Franco Meregalli ha objetado que no es evidente que esta señora Catalina tenga que ser la mujer de Gaspar de Porres, y que en todo caso a los cuarenta años una actriz también puede hacer ese papel. Sin embargo la referencia a Catalina Hernández es muy sólida: en la exhaustiva lista de actores y actrices que se puede encontrar en la obra clásica de F. de B. San Román tan sólo hay dos actrices de nombre Catalina: la esposa de Gaspar de Porres, y una Catalina Valcárcel que actúa ya en los años de 1612 en adelante. Pero está claro que Cervantes edita sus obras porque desde hace ya varios años los empresarios no se las piden, lo que hace pensar en unos años muy anteriores a la fecha de edición. Que Catalina Hernández era una actriz especialmente importante para la compañía de Porres lo demuestra la documentación del propio F. de B. San Román y la de J. Sentaurens, quien señala que en 1594 la comisión del Corpus de Sevilla atribua 100 [212] ducats à Catalina Hernández, femme du comédien Gaspar de Porres, en récompense pour le soin qu'elle avait apporté á la richesse et a la variété des costumes de la troupe (184). Parece claro que una referencia a una actriz por el nombre la señora Catalina alude a alguien de cierta relevancia.

     Mi propuesta es que Cervantes refundió el tema de la obra original (Los tratos) manteniendo el formato de cuatro actos y pensando en la compañía de Gaspar de Porres, entre 1585 y 1589. De la misma época, y también escritas en cuatro actos deben ser La casa de los celos y El laberinto de amor. Al llegar a Sevilla Rodrigo Ossorio, en 1592 Cervantes firma el contrato para escribir seis comedias. En principio, seis comedias parecen bastantes comedias para firmar un contrato a corto plazo. Otra cosa es si Cervantes guardaba ya, en el formato de cuatro jornadas, la mitad de esas seis, y tenía la intención de terminar otras cuyo argumento tenía más o menos avanzado. Por ejemplo, los argumentos de El gallardo español, La Gran sultana (que puede ser adaptación de la que el propio Cervantes cita como La gran Turquesa) y La entretenida.

     En el tercer acto de Los baños de Argel, Ossorio, personaje inexistente en los dos primeros actos de la obra, aparece en esa función representada en el gran baño de Argel, y vuelve a ser incorporado en otro pasaje del tercer acto (entre los moros de la música va Ossorio) a partir del verso 564, y más tarde en los episodios del sacristán y el cristiano. Sorprende que este cautivo con apellido propio, que en el tercer acto es personaje de cierta relevancia, no aparezca ni mencionado en los dos primeros. La explicación más razonable es que Cervantes, al introducir el episodio de la representación en el Gran Baño de Argel como comienzo del nuevo tercer acto, reajustó algunas escenas del antiguo cuarto acto para dar coherencia a su refundición. Esas escenas con Ossorio en el último acto fueron producto de reajustar para su compañía la comedia, pensada antes para la de Porres. En todo caso los años 1588 y 1592 y las referencias a la señora Catalina y a este Ossorio representante encajan perfectamente con la hipótesis de Allen de que la comedia había sido escrita primitivamente en cuatro actos. En 1592 las compañías ya se han adaptado al nuevo modelo de tres jornadas. A cambio, si Los baños de Argel está escrita en cuatro actos entre 1585 y 1589, nos encontramos ante una verdadera demostración de maestría técnica y de rigor en la construcción dramática. Presentada incluso en la forma de comedia en tres actos en que aparece editada en 1615, la obra ha recibido muy justificadas alabanzas. Analizada como obra en cuatro actos, una vez retirado el episodio de la representación, la conciencia dramática de este segundo Cervantes se nos aparece como algo de notable rigor y claridad. La división aquí postulada es la siguiente:

   Primer acto: Versos 1-626. La duración corresponde a una noche. La acción en España, de los versos 1 a 226, y en Argel hasta el verso 626. Expone todos los elementos del doble conflicto, sin que sepamos qué ha podido pasar con Costanza, que no llega a aparecer en escena en esta primera jornada. La jornada consta de dos subunidades: A: 226 versos, y B: 400 versos.
   Segundo acto: Versos 627-881 del primer acto, y 882-1156 del segundo acto. En Argel, pero en dos lugares dramáticos distintos: exterior e interior. Se cumple la venganza de Hazén, que da muerte a Yzuf (lugar exterior) y asistimos a la situación de Costanza como esclava de Halima y de Fernando como esclavo de Cauralí (y no Caraulí, como transcribe Ruffinatto). Zahara anuncia la muerte de Yzuf a manos de Hazén, y se establece la primera situación de enredo entre las parejas moras y cristianas, con lo que Costanza termina el acto con celos de Halima. La jornada consta de dos subunidades: A: 255 versos y B: 274 versos.
   Tercer acto: Versos 1157-2022. Historia de Francisquito, dentro del ambiente de enfrentamiento entre moros y cautivos; [213] complicación de la trama amorosa entre las dobles parejas y nueva situación, al aclarar Fernando y Costanza su situación. Aparece el tema final del fingimiento de los esclavos ante sus amos. Condena a muerte de Francisquito y Juanito, que aceptan el martirio. Este acto, el más largo de todos, consta de tres subunidades: A (1157-1497); B (1498-1857) y C (1858-2022). Dentro de B, que desarrolla la historia amorosa, se incluye una breve escena cómica de 54 versos entre el sacristán y el judío.
   Cuarto acto: Versos 2398-3094. Probablemente éste era el cuarto acto en el original de 1588-9. La escena trágica de la muerte de Francisquito en brazos de su padre es novedad respecto a El trato de Argel, y probablemente tiene que ver con la introducción de los 375 versos de la representación, en donde se reintroduce el tema por medio de un romance trágico. Si el cuarto acto original era este que postulamos la estructura es cuatripartita: A (2398-2457), con los enredos entre Zahara, Halima y Costanza; B (2458-2585), final del tema de Francisquito; C (2586-2824) tema de don Lope y Zahara, y D (2885-3094) clausura del doble tema de los cautivos y de los amores, con un final simétrico al del comienzo de la obra. Al igual que en el acto anterior hay una breve escena cómica (60 versos) del sacristán, en donde parece que Cervantes perfila una figura de gracioso que, según los críticos, estaba ausente de su primer teatro, y sería prueba del influjo de los graciosos de Lope. Es una afirmación algo arriesgada, cuando sólo disponemos de dos obras primitivas del teatro de Cervantes, una de ellas titulada como tragedia.

Sobre este cañamazo de cuatro actos, perfectamente coherente y justificado como construcción teatral, Cervantes redistribuye el modelo para la edición de 1615, pasando los tres actos iniciales a dos por el sistema de distribuir el segundo acto original entre el primero y el tercero, cortándolo por subunidades. El cuarto acto del modelo original, con el añadido previo de la anécdota de 1591, se convierte en el nuevo tercero y ha sido sin duda retocado para la compañía de Ossorio.

     Según esto, la evolución del teatro cervantino y sus relaciones con el teatro lopesco se nos presentan con nuevos matices. Analizando la relación entre Los tratos y Los baños, Edward H. Friedman apuntaba lo siguiente:

      This sense of vitality and the tendency toward more extensive action offer some parallels with Lope's comedia. The play has value a trasitional stage in Cervantes' dramatic practice; the primary emphasis remains on the panoramic vision of captivity through analogical episodes, but an evident awareness of Lope's successful formula gives him a model for certain formal modifications. Nevertheless, the essential distinction between Cervantes dramas and those of Lope remains, in the disposition of externally independents events according to a conceptual point of reference in the works of Cervantes, as opposed to a concious blending of external elements into a single unified action in Lope's plays. (79)

     Si la estética dramática de Cervantes se basa en principios de composición teatral como los que se deducen de nuestro análisis, parece claro que la poca simpatía que siempre manifestó por el modelo lopesco no proviene de avatares biográficos o psicológicos, sino de la convicción cervantina de haber desarrollado un modelo de notable rigor conceptual y escénico a partir del formato de cuatro actos. La hipótesis que proponemos implica que Cervantes usó la fórmula de cuatro actos para la mitad de las Ocho comedias nuevas (La casa de los celos, El laberinto de amor, Los baños de Argel y El rufián dichoso), anteriores a 1600, y que el formato de tres actos usado para la edición de 1615 procede simplemente de una redistribución de este material. [214]



OBRAS CITADAS

     Alonso, Dámaso. Los Baños de Argel y La Comedia del Degollado. Revista de Filología Española 24 (1937): 213-18.

     Allen, John James. The division into acts of Cervantes Los baños de Argel. Symposium 17 (1963): 42-29.

     Canavaggio, Jean. Cervantès dramaturge. Un théâtre à maître. Paris: P.U.F. 1977.

     Cervantes, Miguel de. Los baños de Argel. Pedro de Urdemalas. Ed. Jean Canavaggio. Madrid: Taurus, 1992.

     Fothergill-Payne, Louise. Los tratos de Argel, Los cautivos de Argel y Los baños de Argel: tres 'trasuntos' de un 'asunto'. El mundo del teatro en su Siglo de Oro: Ensayos dedicados a John E. Varey. Ottawa: Ottawa Hispanic Studies, 3, 1989: 177-84.

     Friedman, Edward H. The Unifying Concept: Approaches to the Structure of Cervantes Comedias. Spanish Literature Publications, 1981.

     Hermenegildo, Alfredo. La tragedia española en el Renacimiento. Barcelona: Planeta, 1973.

     Lobo y Lasso de la Vega, Gabriel. Tragedia de la destrucción de Constantinopla, Ed. Alfredo Hermenegildo. Kassel: Reichenberger, 1982.

     Meregalli, Franco. De Los Tratos de Argel a Los Baños de Argel. Homenaje a J. Casalduero. Madrid: Gredos 1972, 395-409.

     Morley, Sylvanus Griswold y Bruerton, Courtney. Cronología de las comedias de Lope de Vega. Madrid: Gredos 1968.

     Rey Hazas, A., y F. Sevilla Arroyo, eds. Teatro completo de Cervantes. Barcelona: Planeta, 1987.

     Ruffinatto, Aldo. Funzioni e variabili in una catena teatrale. (Cervantes e Lope de Vega). Torino: Giappichelli, 1971.

     San Román, Francisco de Borja. Lope de Vega, los cómicos toledanos y el poeta sastre. Madrid: Imp. Góngora, 1935.

     Sentaurens, J. Séville et le théâtre de la fin du Moyen Age à la fin du XVII siècle, (vol 2). Bordeaux, Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 1984. 2 vols.

      Sirera Turo, Josep Lluis y José Luis Canet Valles y Remei Miralles Tomas. El teatro en el siglo XVII ciclo de Lope de Vega. Madrid: Playor, 1982.

     Tubau-Bensoussan, Mathilde. Sur la chronologie de Los tratos de Argel, Los baños de Argel et El cautivo. Cahiers d'Études Ibériques 3 (1968): 29-32.

     Valbuena Prat, Ángel. El teatro español en su Siglo de Oro. Barcelona: Planeta, 1969.

     Vega Carpio, Lope Félix de. Obras de Lope de Vega. (Obras Dramáticas) Tomo 4, Ed. Armando Cotarelo. Madrid: Tip. de la R. A. B. M., 1917. 13 tomos.

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ArribaAbajo

Subtextuality in Elena Poniatowska's Hasta no verte Jesús mío

Claudette Williams

University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica



Abstract: This study employs a critical approach grounded in psychoanalytical theory to explore the complex construction of the identity of the protagonist-narrator Jesusa in Elena Poniatowska's testimonial novel Hasta no verte Jesús mío (1969). Such analysis exposes the contradictory, ambiguous, silent, or hidden elements in her self-representation, which appears on the surface to be coherent and transparent.

Key Words: Mexican novel, 20th century, Poniatowska (Elena), Jesusa Palancares, Lacan, psychoanalytical theory, ego and unconscious, subtextuality



     During the last two decades critical attention has turned increasingly to women writers in Spanish America and the articulation of gender issues in their work. Along with Isabel Allende of Chile and Luisa Valenzuela of Argentina, Mexico's Elena Poniatowska is part of what might well be termed an emerging canon of Spanish American women writers. Her testimonial novel Hasta no verte Jesús mío (1969) is based on material gathered in a series of tape-recorded interviews, from which she produced a written version of the life of a real working class Mexican woman whose fictional name is Jesusa Palancares and who is the narrator of the story.

     Poniatowska's declared interest in the feminist appeal of Jesusa's story is an indication of the ideological imperative that guided the interview and editorial processes (17). She presumably prompted her subject in ways that allowed her to emerge as a non-traditional woman, an extra-textual consideration that would justify a gender analysis of the novel. However, Hasta no verte Jesús mío is open to interpretation from a variety of perspectives. For example, in addition to the feminist implications of its subversion of gender norms, Jesusa's character can be understood in socio-economic terms. As pointed out by Poniatowska, her testimony, albeit not consciously so, is the testimony of millions of Latin American men and women who live and die without hope, trapped in the eternal cycle of poverty and political oppression (Davis 227). Bell Gale Chevigny, on the other hand, highlights Jesusa's role as rewriter of the official version of Mexican history (Chevigny 55).

     Readings of this novel that have focused on issues of social-class, genre or gender, have tended to be illustrative and appreciative (18). Although these analyses have covered important critical ground offered by the work, they mainly attempt to establish a coherent framework for understanding its meaning. In the process, they do not explore the novel's subtext -the areas of silence and contradiction, the relationship between the conscious and unconscious motives of the protagonist-narrator, which can elucidate the complex process of construction of her identity. (19)

     In order to explore this hidden dimension of the novel, it is useful to refer to the theories about the nature and development of human subjectivity elaborated by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan based on his reading of Freud. Lacan posits the notion of the human subject as constituted by a split between the ego (consciousness) and the unconscious (repressed desire). One of the functions of the ego is to provide the human subject with an illusorily integrated self-image; the ego misrecognizes itself. In order to maintain its dominance the ego [216] must constantly repress the refractory unconscious impulses that constantly threaten to disrupt the imaginary unity of the individual's selfhood.

     Psychoanalytical theory has displaced the ego as the center of self and has postulated the primacy of the unconscious in human behaviour, despite the fact that it functions at imperceptible and deeply subliminal levels of the psyche. According to Lacan, the unconscious is that part of the concrete discourse... that is not at the disposal of the subject in re-establishing the continuity of his conscious discourse (49). The linguistic implications of this discontinuity is that in speaking of the self the I that the subject pronounces (the perceived I) is to be distinguished from the I that does the pronouncing (the I that perceives). This revisioning of subjectivity has led to the current view of the human individual as not coherent and harmonious but rather plural and contradictory.

     An examination of the identity and character of the protagonist of Hasta no verte Jesús mío in psychoanalytical terms reveals the subliminal realities that her ego either represses or ignores in her self-representation. Displacing the Jesusa's ego as the center of critical focus and resisting the notion that her character is intelligible only in the terms in which it is constructed by her conscious self makes it possible to demonstrate the complex process by which she both conceals and reveals her identity. This critical approach exposes the contradictory, ambiguous or hidden elements in a narrative that presents itself as coherent and transparent.

     Poniatowska has created a narrator-protagonist who projects a very credible illusion of self-effacement. The novel appears to afford the reader unmediated access to Jesusa's psyche. Jesusa provides the center of consciousness through which reality is constructed and filtered to the reader. The entire narrative is centered on her ego. Hers is the vantage point from which the story is told, hers the consciousness that controls the discourse; hers are the world view and sensitivity that inform the work.

     Jesusa is a self-reflexive protagonist-narrator: in recounting her life experiences she is also concerned with defining herself and establishing the authority of her narrative voice. In so doing she attempts to restrict the reader to that angle of vision from which she appears in a unified, non-contradictory light. Her will to harmonize the conflicting aspects of her character and to preserve the unity of her selfhood is outstanding.

     Jesusa's self-representation often takes the form of self-affirmation, as when she boasts of her incredible strength:

      ... yo era fuerte, de por sí soy fuerte. Ya mi naturaleza es así. El cuerpo está acostumbrado a la necesidad de la vida... Si no comía, pensaba: Bueno, pues al cabo yo no tengo hambre. (109, emphasis mine)

She likewise asserts the magnitude of her will-power:

      Yo tengo la voluntad muy fuerte... Cosa que decido que nunca voy a volver a hacer, nunca la hago... Me costó dejar de pelear y dejar de beber, pero teniendo buena voluntad no hay vicio. (254)

She expresses her strong will to resist domination: Por eso yo soy sola, porque no me gusta que me gobierne nadie (153). She maintains this resistance most stoutly in the face of male domination:

      Los hombres son siempre abusivos. Como si eso fuera ser hombre. Esa es la enfermedad de los mexicanos: creer que son muy charros porque se nos montan encima. Y se equivocan porque no todas somos sus yeguas mansas. (177-78)

This rebellious spirit endures even in her old age: Con todo y lo vieja que estoy, todavía no me dejo de los hombres (213). In addition, she underlines her spirit of independence and self-reliance, her self-acceptance and resilience, and is careful to emphasize her liberal understanding of those individuals considered deviants by society, as in the case of the homosexual Manuel and the transvestite Don Lucho (186-88).

     On some occasions, however, Jesusa's declarations about herself appear to be self-criticism. She lays no claim to goodness, [217] confessing, in her wryly humorous manner, that she is exceedingly vengeful: Por mi cuenta soy rencorosa, hasta las cachas. El que me hace, me la paga. Y con todo y réditos, porque en eso de los odios soy muy usurera (197). She passes negative judgement on her tendency towards aggression: Yo era un animal muy bruto, una yegua muy arisca (161), and in speaking of her past she notes that hers was la vida de la víbora (177). The harshness and emotional austerity of her character are also frankly admitted: Yo no soy querendona, no me gusta la gente. Mi carácter ha sido muy seco. Nunca me aquerencié con nadie. Soy muy regañona, hablo muy fuerte (282).

     Jesusa constructs much of her identity in both oppositional and hierarchical terms. Her comparisons of herself with others constantly underscore difference. She is especially insistent in her assertion that she is not only different from but also superior to traditional women, and she expresses contempt for the stereotype of the passive Mexican woman (which Octavio Paz describes so well in El laberinto de la soledad):

      Desde que vine a México se me quitó lo tarugo. Dije: Bueno, relativamente mientras más se deja uno, más la arruinan. Y las que se sigan dejando, pues eso y más se merecen, que las pongan como burras enquelitadas. (154)

     In other instances Jesusa's declarations about herself take the form of ironic self-deprecation that translates into oblique self-affirmation. One example is her representation of her powers of perception and observation as a shortcoming: yo tengo el defecto de que todo lo que oigo se me queda en el pensamiento (161). A similar impulse underlies her comparison of herself with Doña Adelina:

      Doña Adelina era una señora muy melosa con los clientes y la mera verdad yo no. Era de las que les gustan los bufidos de los hombres... Yo tenía mi carácter y no me dejaba de nadie. (173-74)

Through irony she also expresses an inverted pride in her rejection of the role of submissive wife, subverting thereby the traditional model of the good woman:

      Pedro se volvió más bueno desde que lo balacié... De por sí, yo desde chica fui mala, así nací, terrible, pero Pedro no me daba oportunidad... Cuando Pedro me colmó el plato ya me dije claramente: Me defiendo o que me mate de una vez. Si yo no fuera mala me hubiera dejado de Pedro hasta que me matara. (101)

Such statements are expressions of calculated irony that depends for its effectiveness on complicity between narrator and reader who both know that the narrator means the opposite of what she says about herself. This underlying ironic intent resolves the apparent ambiguity of self-affirmation and self-criticism, so that these ostensibly self-deprecatory statements do not violate the imaginary unity of Jesusa's self-image.

     As the putative source of truth, Jesusa constructs for herself an essential and unalterable identity. With the exception of the brief period when she admits to playing the role of the submissive, abused wife of Pedro Aguilar, she strives to maintain the integrity of her image as a woman endowed with a genetic inclination to resist domination. In reporting her stepmother's response to a complaint made by Jesusa's employer about the latter's recalcitrance even as a child, she further reinforces this self-constructed image: Pues así es, señora. Nació para no dejarse (59-60).

     For Lacan, speech and, in particular, what it silences, is the fundamental medium of psychoanalysis. He characterizes as empty that kind of speech where the subject seems to be talking in vain about someone who, even if he were his splitting image, can never become one with the assumption of his desire (45). Jesusa's descriptions of herself may be viewed in this light. They succeed in creating an illusion of candour and comprehensive self-knowledge, and impose an image of the speaker as a model of the non-traditional woman. But the suspicious reader will seek to question the truth-value of her version of reality, especially the adequacy of her self-understanding and self-representation.

     By probing beneath the textual surface of the novel and integrating Jesusa's silences into her narcissistic discourse, we are able to produce a version of her identity [218] that is somewhat less coherent than she imagines. The displacement of her ego as the only source of truth becomes the means, therefore, of disrupting the unified image, of releasing her unconscious or submerged impulses and enabling the emergence of her refractory identity which refuses containment in a single mould.

     One area of silent operation of the unconscious is Jesusa's interaction with Poniatowska as interviewer. In the interview process, Poniatowska plays an active mediating role as interrogator, prompter and interlocutor, but she is also involved as listener. One possible effect of this more subtle form of mediation is that, despite the apparent freedom of her narration, Jesusa might have felt constrained by her consciousness of her interlocutor to express particular views and ideas and to stifle or conceal others. The virtual effacement (or illusion of effacement) of the author encourages the reader to accept Jesusa's story as the truth of the text, but does not preclude either a questioning of what she presents as truth, or a recognition of the divergence between Jesusa as speaking subject and Jesusa as presented by herself.

     There is an apparently unconscious irony in the work involving complicity between the author and the reader. Both can perceive a reality of which the speaker is not aware and which is the opposite of what she states. In the text one finds gaps, contradictions, ambiguities, indications of unconscious motivations and desires, which belie Jesusa's explicit statements about herself and which are symptomatic of her misrecognition (or misrepresentation?) of her own identity.

     Certain strategies of self-presentation recur in Jesusa's narration: overemphatic denial or assertion and its opposites: evasion, flippancy and silence. The resisting reader, refusing to be induced to accept the narrator's version of truth, will look with suspicion upon her motivation for using these strategies. For example, in her account of her actions she presents herself repeatedly as one who is ruled by reason rather than emotion. This is apparent early in the novel when she is abandoned by her father. Despite the close relationship that had developed between them, she describes her response as one of cold practicality (56). This seems designed not to affirm her emotional strength but also to preempt any impression of weakness.

     Unconscious motivation also seems to determine Jesusa's judgement of her physical appearance and racial identity. As a mestiza she displays an unconscious rejection of the Indian side of her ancestry. In tracing her family history she dwells on the French origins of her father while glossing over the Indian roots of her mother (220-21). Racial self-hatred also manifests itself in her eagerness to establish that she is not dark-skinned: Petra era trigueña, más prieta que yo. Yo tengo la cara quemada del sol pero no soy prieta pero ella sí era oscura de cuerpo y cara. Salió más indita que yo (31). On the occasion that she refers to herself as Indian, she does so in derogatory terms: Siempre que me peleaba con Pedro le decía: -Siquiera cuando se meta a hacerme guaje, búsquese una cosa buena, que no sea igual a mí de india... Una cosa que costiée[sic] (104, emphasis mine) (20). Another of her references to her physical appearance expresses the self-contempt of non-white peoples who have internalized the ideology of white aesthetic superiority (Fanon 42-43):

      Yo no era bonita, era lo que menos tenía y he tenido. Que me dijeran reina de Sóchil era un dicho, una plática, pero que no me echaran flores ni que me chulearan nada porque me daba vergüenza. (70)

Such a frank admission appears to be a sign of both Jesusa's ability to confront the reality of her selfhood and her deviation from stereotypical female vanity, which serves to enhance the credibility of her self-representation. Taken in the context in which it is uttered, however, this aesthetic self-devaluation may also be interpreted as a subliminally apotropaic gesture, a strategy for protecting herself from sexual interaction with men. This view gains strength from her repeated and insistent desexualization of her relationships with the other sex, which she construes as an unwillingness to submit to [219] male domination. Jesusa also expresses her desire to be a man, attributing it to her recognition of the social advantage enjoyed by the male (186). But again this expressed desire appears as a mere camouflage for her fear of intimate relationships with men. Emphatic denial in this case functions as a pre-emptive gesture and a strategy for the continued repression of a disquieting psychic truth.

     Because of the overriding concern with maintaining the integrity of her self-proclaimed identity, Jesusa must frequently resort to disguise and pretense to conceal or repress desires which she finds disturbing (21). This is evident, for example, in her account of her experience of sexual intimacy with her husband:

      Yo nunca me quité los pantalones, nomás me los bajaba cuando él me ocupaba, pero que dijera yo, me voy a acostar como en mi casa, me voy a desvestir porque me voy a cobijar, eso no, tenía que traer los pantalones puestos a la hora que tocaran: Reunión, Alevante!, pues vámonos a donde sea. Mi marido no era hombre que lo estuviera apapachando a uno, nada de eso. Era hombre muy serio. (86)

Ostensibly, she seems to be pointing to, and even protesting, her husband's lack of affection and her sexual objectification in the marriage. But simultaneously she seems anxious not to pass judgement on her husband. In fact, she mitigates her criticism by attributing the unceremonious nature of their sexual activity to the exigencies of the wartime situation. Her unconscious motive appears to be to subtly dispel the implication that she yearned for this affection. To admit to this need would be to admit to feelings of sexual desire, and it is this that Jesusa would deny at all costs.

     On a subsequent occasion she refers to the absence of love in her sexual relationship with her husband, but again she is eager to pre-empt the idea of lament on her part:

      Nunca anduvo [Pedro] con esas adulaciones de que mi vidita yo te quiero, que mi vida, que mi vidita yo me muero. Ay, esos disparates que les dicen ahora! Tampoco me besó. No estoy acostumbrada a los besuqueos pues sólo Judas besó a Jesucristo, y ya ve lo que resultó. Qué figuretas son ésas! Qué hagan lo que tanto les urge pero que no lo adornen! (108)

What strikes the reader in this revelation is not so much Jesusa's awareness of lack of affection from her husband but her pretense that she is not disturbed by this knowledge and her claim of her own aversion to demonstrations of affection. Despite her cavalier dismissal, however, one apprehends a yearning for this very love and affection lurking beneath the surface of her words. Her scoffing reference to displays of love as disparates and figuretas is one indication of the discomfort that she feels with intimacy with the other sex. But by representing her response as a conscious one she succeeds in both suppressing her secret desire and affirming her agency and control.

     The discomfort and ambivalence displayed in these instances are symptoms of Jesusa's repressed sexuality. A dream in which she marries a bullfighter (188) subverts her declared lack of sexual interest in men (156). This dream makes manifest the conflict between her ego and her unconscious, and is a classic illustration of the Freudian theory of dreams as symbolic fulfillments of unconscious desires.

     The variability of Jesusa's references to her educational deficiency is another indication of her tendency towards prevarication. In acknowledging her lack of formal education she both simulates and rejects the perceptions of others, describing herself as burra pero muy contenta (202). By disclaiming discontent with her educational status despite its inadequacy, Jesusa establishes some degree of control over her situation. But the stability of this consciously assumed position is undermined by her earlier inadvertent admission of remorse over her educational deficiency (52).

     Jesusa's declarations serve equally to reveal and to mask aspects of her character. But occasionally the mask is lowered to reveal another side of her person. This is the case in her lengthy confession of her feeling of marginalization and exile in Mexico City: [220]

      ... yo no tengo patria... No me siento mexicana ni reconozco a los mexicanos. Aquí no existe más que pura conveniencia y puro interés. Si yo tuviera dinero y bienes, sería mexicana, pero como soy peor que la basura, pues no soy nada... Soy basura a la que el perro le echa una miada y sigue adelante... Soy basura porque no puedo ser otra cosa. Yo nunca he servido para nada. Toda mi vida he sido el mismo microbio que ve... Aquí se me ha dificultado mucho la vividera. Pero no estoy triste, no. Al contrario, vivo alegre. Así es la vida, vivir alegre. (218)

Significant in this utterance is the incongruity between Jesusa's admission of feelings of victimhood and dispossession, on the one hand, and, on the other, her relentless attempt to gloss over these feelings in order to convince her interlocutor, and more so herself, that she is happy.

     The reader who is attentive to that image of the self that Jesusa consciously projects might, with reason, decry rather than admire those attributes and attitudes that separate her most clearly from the traditional woman. Jesusa, in fact, not only stands out because of her strength but qualifies as a female macho driven by a desire not only to resist domination but also to dominate others: a mí que me gusta gritar yo, no que me griten a mí (153); Yo los acostumbro a todos, a los niños, a los animales, a los policías (182). Her tendency to control natural impulse, to deny emotion and other traditionally held indices of female weakness, her propensity to physical violence, her cold practicality and apparent hardheartedness are characteristics that make her appear less than human. However, the disclosure of other underlying dimensions of the narrator's personality leads the reader to modify this impression.

     Jesusa's caring side which her ego seeks constantly to deny, asserts itself in actions such as her treatment of and attachment to an assortment of animals (114, 182-83, 295). Her repeated expressions of empathy with the suffering or misfortune of others, especially those whom society ostracizes or neglects (184, 185, 273, 284), also conflict with the image of aloofness that she consciously projects.

     Several subtle indicators show that Jesusa wears a psychological mask for the purpose of the interview. Her actions often show that the reality is the opposite of what she states. Jesusa is not only capable of feeling but she is capable of feeling deeply:

      A la mamá de Prisca... la quise muchísimo... La he extrañado todos estos años y la extraño hasta la fecha, pero no podemos ser amigas de nuevo porque yo no sé rogar con amistad. Hasta la fecha no sé por qué nos apartamos... No necesito de ella porque si estoy enferma me atranco bien atrancada y aquí me estoy revolcando, sola, solita. (306-07)

Conflicting desires collide in this account. Firstly, Jesusa demonstrates her capacity for emotional engagement with another woman, which she elsewhere denies (Yo no tengo amigas, nunca las he tenido ni quiero tenerlas (182). Her cynicism, one may conclude, is born out of bitter experience rather than natural antipathy or aversion. Secondly, and even more surprisingly, her protestations notwithstanding, she betrays her need for friendship. Thirdly, her confession reveals how excessive pride leads to repression of this psycho-emotional need and to consequent loneliness which is, nevertheless, an option she claims to have chosen. Such as affirmation of self-sufficiency may be attributed to her deep psychological need to appear to conform at all times to that narcissistic image of strength that she has created.

     Nowhere is the stark opposition between the text and the subtext, between ego and unconscious more dramatically illustrated than in Jesusa's attitude toward children and her relationship with them. Not only is she childless but she professes an aversion to children bordering on hatred: Lavar es pesado, pero según yo, es más pesado cuidar niños. A mí, los niños nunca me han gustado. Son muy latosos y muy malas gentes (280). She expresses her aversion with even more emphatic violence:

      ... esta vecindad está llena de criaturas, gritan tanto que nomás me dan ganas de apretarles el pescuezo. Lo malo es que como en todas partes hay niños, yo no puedo acabar con ellos. Pero ganas no me faltan. (173)

But a large gap exists between these expressed [221] pressed sentiments and Jesusa's unacknowledged desire to love and nurture children. This nurturing instinct is possibly her strongest unconscious motivation. Time and again, and spontaneously, she assumes responsibility for disadvantaged or motherless children. In one instance her maternal concern outstrips that of the natural mother (213). Yet, in characteristic fashion, she conceals her maternal feelings in her version of her mothering experience.

     Signs of these feelings appear, for example, in the vocabulary of her account of her custody of Ángel, the little son of her neighbor. Her description of his death betrays her emotional attachment to the child: Se nos murió de pulmonía fulminante. Y ya no tuve muchachito (182, emphasis mine). But her rationalistic ego immediately asserts itself to smother this eruption of unconscious desire: A mí no me dio tristeza de que se muriera... Ni me sentí sola. Ni eché de menos la lata porque a mí nadie me da lata (182). However, the essentially caring Jesusa is the image that endures in her final comment: Me quedé con tres camisitas de ese niñito Ángel. Todavía las tengo (182). What is evident here is the conflictive relationship between Jesusa as narrator and Jesusa as protagonist/actor. In admitting to those feelings which she has already defined as weak, Jesusa as narrator would be seen to do violence to her ego-identity. When Felícitas dies Jesusa takes on the responsibility of caring for her children, but she represents this as a moral duty: Qué hago? Ni modo de echarlos a la calle! (276). Refusing to admit to deriving any emotional benefit from this arrangement, she advances instead a pragmatic explanation: Estaban chiquillos, necesitaban calor y se acercaban los dos a mí (277).

     The most moving episode in the work is the account of her relationship with Perico, the shiest of Felícitas' children, whom she singles out for special attention and eventually rears as a son. Again, in playing the role of mother, Jesusa is reluctant to acknowledge her own emotional interest in the relationship. This is evident in her version of the development of the bond between them: Se me engrió el pinacate (272), which signals her denial of her own agency and her projection of her unconscious desire on to the child. She offers instead a completely altruistic version of her motives (280, 312).

     Nevertheless, Jesusa's account betrays definite signs of a deep and sensitive love for Perico. One measure of this is the effort and sacrifice she puts into giving him an education to make him better than herself. It is an education which, though harsh by some standards, seeks to inculcate the values of discipline, good manners, independence and self-reliance, to make him un hombre de vergüenza (288). The bond between them is reciprocal: Jesusa's self-denial in rearing Perico is matched by his devotion to her.

     Jesusa's account of the manner in which she is eventually abandoned by Perico is filled with pathos:

      Me regresé con Tránsito y Perico se quedó afuera en la banqueta. Cuando salí lo alcancé a ver a media cuadra. Luego dio vuelta y allí voy yo siguiéndolo, detrás, detrás. Dije: Pues ya me esperará a la subida del camión. No me esperó ni vi por dónde se metió. En ninguna puerta lo encontré escondido. Pensé: se iría a pie... Después de un rato tomé el camión. Llegué a la casa, me estuve esperándolo, me dieron las once de la noche, las doce y la una, hasta que me acosté. Ya vendrá, pensé. Pues no vino. Yo me acordaba todo el tiempo del pastel: Ya vendrá a comérselo en la noche. Pues no volvió. (292).

However, in order to preserve a façade of emotional strength she suppresses any demonstration of mourning and presents instead a picture of dispassionate disengagement:

      Seguí trabajando de lavandera. Aunque me haiga puesto triste, qué gano? Él andaba divirtiéndose. Me caigo para atrás? Pues no. En la casa arreglé un veliz con ropa. Dije: Ya no quiere estar conmigo, que se vaya. Se me quedó la ropa y poco a poco la fui vendiendo. (293)

The Perico affair constitutes the strongest challenge to the unified self-image that Jesusa has constructed. The true feelings she conceals are betrayed by many tell-tale signs, such as the fact that even after [222] Perico's disappearance she follows his movements and waits for the return of the proverbial prodigal son. She admits to continuing to remember him but stoically denies that this causes her anguish:

      En las noches en mi cuarto me acordaba de Perico, pero con un recordatorio natural... Yo no tenía por qué estar triste... Yo nunca le dije que fuera triste, le dije que era triste la vida que he llevado, pero yo, no. La vida sí, la vida sí es pesada pero yo triste? (294-95).

As in the case of little Angel, Jesusa's too insistent disavowal of emotional pain functions counterproductively to cast doubt on the sincerity of her claim. And so, in spite of her determination to defend the integrity of her self-created image of emotional strength, what Jesusa betrays is precisely her emotional vulnerability.

     When Perico returns, Jesusa feeds him and eventually takes him in again. She even allows him to exploit her, although she is well aware of the opportunism in his motives. At the same time, she subordinates her feeling of profound hurt and disillusionment to her frustrated desire for revenge: Yo le tengo cariño, sí, pero ya sé que él no me buscó porque me quería... No me pesa darle la tortilla, lo que me pesa es ver la ventaja que lleva (313, emphasis mine). Here Jesusa reveals her very human need to be loved for herself. This unfulfilled desire, residing in the dim recesses of her unconscious, haunts her but surfaces as anger: Sé que está aquí por mis pertenencias, no porque me quiere. Me acuesto pero no me duermo. Siento coraje. Todo viene de muy lejos de muy dentro (314, emphasis mine). She insists that she is happy with her solitary mode of existence: Soy muy feliz aquí solita. Me muerdo yo solita y me rasguño, me caigo y me levanto yo solita. Soy muy feliz. Nunca me ha gustado vivir acompañada (295). Yet she seems to harbour Perico with the hope of restoring the old bond.

     Despite such incontrovertible evidence of her willingness and ability to assume the maternal role, in reflecting on the Perico affair Jesusa claims: Yo nunca he deseado hijos, para qué? Si con trabajos me mantengo yo (312). The maternal desire she denies here emerges paradoxically in an incident in which she rejects, with unexpected violence, the offer of a gift on Mother's Day by a girl for whom she had become surrogate mother (304-05). In characteristic fashion she rationalizes her response:

      Yo lo hubiera recibido si desde niñas agarran la costumbre de darme aunque fuera un plátano... Ya tenía veintidós la muchacha cuando se acuerda de venir a darme coba... Y nada menos que el día de la madre. De la madre seca, porque yo fui como las mulas! (305)

     This over-reaction appears to be less an index of a genuine aversion to being cast in the mother role and more an involuntary expression of the deep anxiety Jesusa feels because of her barrenness.

     By refusing a position of complicity with the narrator, the reader is able to foreground other textual indicators of the psycho-emotional aspects of Jesusa's personality which she does not choose to highlight because they conflict with the dominant image she seeks to project. Such an instance is the deep love for her brother which is manifested in her reaction to his death (62-63). She also discloses, somewhat more ambiguously, her experience of an emotional outpouring of cathartic proportions, the significance of which is hidden from her consciousness: Lloré mucho allí en Pocito, lloré como sólo Dios sabe. Tenía sentimiento, no sé qué cosa tenía, que tanta agua me subió a los ojos. Lloré mucho (257, emphasis mine). The deceptive placement of this outstanding example of the eruption of the unconscious in the context of a spiritualist session is further evidence of the extent of Jesusa's lack of understanding of the psychic tension arising from her repression of desire. Other indications of the limits of Jesusa's self-understanding are present in the narration. She traces the origins of her unaffectionate personality to her emotional deprivation during her early development: Pedro no se casó conmigo porque yo le gustara... No nos hablábamos. [223] Por eso no reconozco cual es el amor, nunca tuve amor (108). She is, of course, not capable of recognizing in Lacanian terms that the root of her psychic dilemma is the struggle between ego and unconscious desire.

     Jesusa's psychology may bear the affects of socio-economic deprivation insofar as her preoccupation with surviving has made work the dominant imperative in her life and caused her to relegate her emotional needs to the margins of her consciousness. She has developed an extraordinary degree of self- control and her tendency to restrain natural impulse makes her appear hard. It is also tempting to view Jesusa as an embodiment of androgyny, implying thereby the harmonious coexistence within her of both stereotypically male and female traits (e.g. strength and tenderness) (22). But to maintain such a view is to de-emphasize the conflict underlying the harmonious façade. Her unified identity is no more than a fragile illusion that she has created. The complexity and contradictions of her psyche are a more reliable index of her human identity. In the final analysis, Jesusa Palancares may be memorable for those exemplary feminist values and attitudes that she proclaims and exhibits, but no less so for the human feelings, yearnings and anxieties that she seeks to hide.

     Both the reader and the author of this novel share a privileged position in relation to the character-narrator, insofar as they perceive both textual and subtextual discourses as well as their ironic relationship to each other. Subversion appears on various levels in Hasta no verte Jesús mío. Jesusa's narrative is subversive of the official version of Mexican history. Jesusa's voice is the voice of the lower class woman who has been silenced both socially and in the high literary tradition. No less significant is self-subversion -the subversive effect of her unconscious desires on her self-constructed image.

     A psychoanalytical reading of Hasta no verte Jesús mío does not compete with feminist or sociological readings, but rather complements both, thus expanding the range of meanings in the novel. The vigilant critic will disclose, by probing beneath the surface of the ego, which the text privileges, the unconscious that lies concealed in the subtext, thereby providing a more complete sense of the complex nature of the truth of the work.



WORKS CITED

     Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice. London: Methuen, 1980.

     Chevigny, Bell Gale. The Transformation of Privilege in the Work of Elena Poniatowska. Latin American Literature y Review 26 (1985): 49-62.

     Davis, Lisa. An Invitation to Understanding Among Poor Women of the Americas: The Color Purple and Hasta no verte Jesús mio. Reinventing the Americas. Comparative Studies of Literature of the United States and Spanish America, ed. Bell Gale Chevigny and Gari Laguardia. New York: Cambridge [224] UP, 1986. 224-41.

     Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Markmann. New York: Grove, 1967.

     Fernández Olmos, Margarita. El género testimonial: Aproximaciones feministas. Revista/Review Interamericana 11 (1981): 69-75.

     Hancock, Joel. Elena Poniatowska's Hasta no verte Jesús mío: The Remaking of the Image of Woman. Hispania 68 (1983): 353-59.

     Kerr, Lucille. Gestures of Authorship: Lying to Tell the Truth in Elena Poniatowska's Hasta no verte Jesús mío. MLN 106 (1991): 370-94.

     Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock, 1977.

     Lagos-Pope, María Inés. El testimonio creativo de Hasta no verte Jesús mío. Revista Iberoamericana 140 (1990): 243-53.

     Paz, Octavio. El laberinto de la soledad. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1976.

     Poniatowska, Elena. Hasta no verte Jesús mío. Mexico: Ediciones Era, 1990.

     Steele, Cynthia. Politics, Gender and the Mexican Novel. 1968-1988: Beyond the Pyramid. Austin: U of Texas P, 1992.

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Representing the mulata: El amor en los tiempos del cólera and Tenda dos milagres

Steven V. Hunsaker

The Pennsylvania State University



Abstract: Critical studies of El amor en los tiempos del cólera have not focussed on issues of racial representation. This study compares El amor en los tiempos del cólera with Tenda dos milagres, a work that has been repeatedly criticized for its portrayal of the mulata woman, in order to investigate similarities in the use of the mulata stereotype between the two novels. The representation of the three mulata women in El amor en los tiempos del cólera and at least two of the many mulata women in Tenda dos milagres reflects that stereotype. The image of the endlessly seductive mulata empowers the men within the novel and has extratextual implications as well.

Key Words: Colombian novel, 20th century Latin American fiction, Brazilian novel, García Márquez (Gabriel), El amor en los tiempos del cólera, Amado (Jorge), Tenda dos milagres, representation, sexuality, mulata



     Responding to a poem by Rubén Darío, Antonio Olliz Boyd observes of the literary mulata that She is often a sex object or a symbol of primitivism, and she yearns for sexual union with the white male (67). The degradation of black women and the self-flattery of white men that Olliz Boyd finds in the stereotype of the black female surface repeatedly in descriptions of this image. Teófilo de Queiroz Júnior similarly characterizes the mulata in Brazilian literature, noting such traits as o colorido da pele... o bem torneado de braços e pernas... a cintura fina, o busto insinuante e bem moldado, a boca sensual, de dentes sadios, iluminados por sorrisos fáceis (30). David Brookshaw makes a related observation. She [the mulata] is not allowed to exist either as a wife or as a mother, for she is a symbol of sexual license. She is respected neither as a woman nor as an individual. Her function is to attract men, to be exploited by them, and to exploit in turn by obtaining her own ends through sex (164) (23). Finally, Richard L. Jackson has shown that, at times, the black woman in Latin American fiction becomes a sexually uninhibited amoral animal full of sensual jungle rhythm, oozing sex through animal eyes, sensual voice, and inviting flesh (46).

     While it has become a critical commonplace to criticize Jorge Amado's use of this racial and sexual stereotype (Brookshaw 154, Chamberlain 100), it has provoked little discussion in García Márquez. Examining racial and sexual stereotyping in Tenda dos milagres (1969) and El amor en los tiempos del cólera (1985) is an approach that brings literature back into touch with its sociological and historical context and helps account for ideologies and myths present in literary works (Moura 533).

     The presence of the mulata reflects, to some extent, a historical reality of both countries. Although the imprecision of racial and ethnic terms clouds the picture, it is interesting to note similarities in the racial compositions of Brazil and Colombia. Approximately ten years after the publication of Tenda dos milagres the population of Brazil was reported as 54.8% White, 38.4% Mixed, 5.9% Black, 0.6% Yellow, 0.3% Unstated (Brazil: A Country Study 338). This breakdown is preceded by the warning that Brazilian racial categories are anything but unambiguous (105). Similar, though less exact data present a comparable picture of Colombia around the time of the writing of El amor en los tiempos del cólera. No official [226] figures were available, but according to rough estimates in the late 1980s, mestizos (white-Indian mix) constituted approximately 50 percent of the population, whites 25 percent, mulattoes (black-white mix) and zambos (black-Indian mix) 20 percent, blacks 4 percent, and Indians 1 percent (Colombia: A Country Study 74).

     Working in a mixed racial environment, Amado attacks racism throughout Tenda dos milagres. A few examples of these attacks are evident in the portrayal of Nilo Argolo, the professor whose works describe the degeneration caused by miscegenation (246), in references to Hitler (36), and in allusions to racial conflict in the United States during the 1960s (128). There is in El amor en los tiempos del cólera no comparable concern over either Colombian or world racism. Consciousness of race appears to be much less prominent in Colombia than in Brazil. Interestingly, García Márquez portrays mulata women with stereotypes with no surrounding concern for racial matters while Amado resorts to the mulata stereotype despite his condemnations of racism.

     More particularly, the comparison will show that in the large black presence (Bryan 5) of García Márquez' novel one finds the repressive power relations of the mulata stereotype. In other words, contrary to Bryan's reading of the novel, there is much less irony and humor (6) than power and violence in the representation of the mulata in El amor en los tiempos del cólera, and in this respect, it is quite comparable to Tenda dos milagres.

     In the two novels the mulata stereotype empowers both the male characters, and by implication, their authors, at the expense of mulata women. The power of white males in the novels is evident in three elements found in every representation of the mulata and her white lover. First, the mulata may exceed the restrictions of the stereotype, but the apparent escape ironically reinforces male power. This ironic twist occurs as follows: when the mulata passes beyond a level of activity that limits her to promoting the pleasure of men, she is held in a non-threatening identity such as that of the grandmother (24). Secondly, a character created following the standard mulata image may turn that cliché against the sexually predatory white male. Sadly, however, the use of stereotype as a weapon requires tacit acceptance of external definition. Thirdly, the author maintains the power to determine the success of a character's resistance of defining images. The author may, for example, present episodes that demonstrate successful resistance of stereotypes only to reveal profound conformity with them at a later, and more decisive, point in the narrative.

     Of the five mulata women who form the basis of this study, only Leona Cassiani and Rosa de Oxalá are not identified specifically as mulata. Given the absence of this detail, one might expect a different representation. Leona and Rosa stretch the limits of the stereotype more than do the other women, but, as is later evident, Amado and García Márquez finally locate them within the bounds of the stereotype. In other words, despite the slight difference in the terms used to present the women, the general effect is the same. Additionally, since negra refers to both complexion and genetic composition, we can not know that Rosa and Leona are of pure African descent. The absence of the term mulata in the descriptions of the two women does not mean that they are not of mixed racial heritage. In fact, such a pure identity would contradict the tenor of Tenda dos milagres, which celebrates the vitality and the extent of racial mixture within Bahia and within Brazil. There is no corresponding reason to asume that Leona is a mulata woman, but, by the same token, there is no need to assume that she must not be treated as such. I use, therefore, black and mulata interchangeably throughout this study.

     The mulata women in these novels are specifically, and in most cases exclusively, sexually attractive black women. The prominence of Ana Mercedes and Rosa de Oxalá in Tenda dos milagres, for example, comes through their highly charged sexual roles. Rosa, the mais bela negra da Bahia [227] (240), dramatizes what appears to be the novel's thesis -that race relations in Brazil can only improve through miscegenation- by bearing a child to a white man. Ana Mercedes, meanwhile, mestra da fornicação (55), sets in motion many of the forces that control the novel by seducing Dr. Levenson. A similar focus on sexuality controls the presentation of two of the mulata women in El amor en los tiempos del cólera. The sexuality of Leona Cassiani and Bárbara Lynch helps to develop the two major male figures of the novel, Juvenal Urbino and Florentino Ariza. A third mulata woman appears in the opening episode. Her portrayal depends less on sexuality than do the presentations of the other two mulata women, but it is a sexual relation with a white man that makes her introduction necessary. García Márquez presents almost all of the characters in El amor en los tiempos del cólera in sexual relations and situations, but the three mulata women, unlike the white men and women, would disappear if stripped of their sexually charged roles in the novel.

     Bárbara Lynch, the mulata character that García Márquez presents most vividly, captures doctor Juvenal Urbino and leads him into a brief but torrid affair. The narrator describes Bárbara Lynch as una mulata alta, elegante, de huesos grandes, con la piel del mismo color y la misma naturaleza tierna de la melaza... Parecía de un sexo más definido que el del resto de los humanos (Amor 263). As if this were not enough to stir in the reader mental comparisons of Bárbara Lynch with the stereotypical mulata, the narrator states that

      la señorita Lynch era de una belleza interminable. Todo en ella era grande e intenso: sus muslos de sirena, su piel a fuego lento, sus senos atónitos, sus encías diáfanas de dientes perfectos, y todo su cuerpo irradiaba un vapor de buena salud... (265)

     The beauty and the allure of Bárbara Lynch change doctor Juvenal Urbino from el médico mejor calificado del litoral del caribe into a man atormentado por el desorden de los instintos (265). The narrator expresses the inability of the doctor to resist the delights of this criatura de maravilla in terms of the relentless power of the attractor, not in terms of the choice or weakness of the attracted. In other words, Bárbara Lynch becomes an object that oozes sex through animal eyes, sensual voice, and inviting flesh.

     The fleshy description of the topographical marvels of Bárbara Lynch borders on the farcical, prompting questions regarding the motives of García Márquez. Does irony control the presentation of this woman? If so, what clues direct us to an ironic reading? The observation of Queiroz that o senhor branco soube recorrer ao argumento da irrestibilidade e à amoralidade da mulher de cor como eficazes elementos justificadores de impulsões extraconjugais masculinas (26) heightens the tension if read against Juvenal Urbino's protest that La ética... se imagina que los médicos somos de palo (265). As seen in the following passage, surrender to desire locks Juvenal in a battle between panicked pleasure and fear of detection.

      La seguía jadeando hasta el dormitorio, empapado de sudor, y entraba en estampida tirándolo todo por el suelo, el bastón, el maletín de médico, el sombrero panamá, y hacía un amor de pánico con los pantalones enrollados en las corvas, con el saco abotonado para que le estorbara menos, con la leontina de oro en el chaleco, con los zapatos puestos, con todo, y más pendiente de irse cuanto antes que de cumplir con su placer. Ella se quedaba en ayunas, entrando apenas en su túnel de soledad, cuando ya él estaba abotonándose de nuevo, exhausto, como si hubiera hecho el amor absoluto en la línea divisoria de la vida y la muerte, cuando en realidad no había hecho sino lo mucho que el acto de amor tiene de hazaña física. (268)

     Given the history of the clichéd perception of and reaction to black beauty, we must ask if García Márquez uses that stereotype to mock Juvenal Urbino, or if he has, like the doctor, been trapped by the false image of the endlessly seductive mulata. The question of how to read and react to the portrayal of sex and race relations in El amor en los tiempos del cólera has attracted the attention of at least one critic. In his study of the novel, T. Avril Bryan recognizes the clichéd images of black women, but he looks beyond them, defending the [228] novelist by arguing that García Márquez presents the value judgments of his society with irony and humor (6). According to Bryan, the three black women of the novel advance an ironic critique of the sexist and racist values of the novel's bourgeoisie. Though this thesis offers an interesting possible reading, the text itself suggests that García Márquez portrays black women much less neatly than Bryan suggests. The definition of black women as exclusively sexual beings makes an ironic reading difficult to defend.

     Bryan further finds in this episode a criticism of Urbino's failure to appreciate Miss Lynch as more than a sexual object, while the text offers little more than a passing criticism of Urbino as an inconsiderate sexual partner. Bryan argues that It would be a grave mistake if the reader were to simply take this at face value and accuse the novelist of not being more positive in addressing the issue of racial discrimination (8), but the irony necessary for this reading remains elusive. The text does not offer an ironic path out of this scene. On the contrary, García Márquez presents a detail which directs us toward a racist reading of this episode. Bárbara Lynch is at the same time doctor Bárbara Lynch -a doctor of theology. We might well ask why García Márquez makes this woman a doctor of theology, and how this detail directs our interpretation. Being a doctor of theology does not mean that Bárbara. Lynch must never experience sexual desire or temptation, but the title does carry certain connotations of spirituality, morality, and ethical conduct. Rather than open an ironic route through which to escape a sexist or racist reading of this episode, the identification of Bárbara Lynch as a doctor of theology forces that reading. The narration suggests that the mulata, even as a doctor of theology, cannot resist sexual desire (which is not to suggest that doctors of theology exist asexually). The union of the two doctors presents a synopsis of the power relations in the novel. Juvenal Urbino is a doctor, an intellectual, a traveller, a son, husband, and father as well as a man tormented by sexual desire. Bárbara Lynch, on the other hand, is a doctor in name alone. Her title brings with it no evidence of intellectual accomplishment. There is brief mention made that she is a daughter and that she is a divorced wife, but she is not a mother. She is, despite the title, little more than an object of sexual temptation and gratification for the white doctor. We may read the detail of Bárbara Lynch's doctorate as an indication that she escapes the stereotype of the sexual mulata, but ultimately the stereotype persists.

     Although she presents herself much more aggressively than does Dr. Bárbara Lynch, the Brazilian character Ana Mercedes looks much like her Colombian counterpart. She draws the attention of Dr. James D. Levenson, a Nobel laureate, with her stunning entrance. Muito sexy, a minissaia a exibir-the as colunas morenas das coxas, o olhar noturno, o sorriso de lábios semiabertos, um tanto grossos, os dentes ávidos e o umbrigo à mostra, toda ela de oiro (Tenda 25). Whenever Ana appears, she exhibits herself, deliberately and skillfully drawing attention to the charms of her body. Having captured the attention and the imagination of Levenson with those charms, Ana Mercedes describes herself in terms of the mulata stereotype. Vamos ver, seu Gringo, se você presta para alguma coisa ou é só fachada -dissera ela na primeira noite, arrancando a pouca roupa. -Vou lhe ensinar o que vale uma mulata brasileira (76). Whereas Bárbara Lynch is silenced, Ana Mercedes teaches Levenson. But, not surprisingly, all she can teach is sex.

     The aggressive sexuality of this scene does nothing to liberate Ana Mercedes from the mulata stereotype, but it does allow her a degree of power. Queiroz observes of Ana that é por seu físico e por sua sensualidade gritante que se impõe e consegue o que pretende (107). Ana Mercedes exploits the mulata stereotype and the breathless reaction of men to her. That this recognition allows Ana to manipulate men becomes evident in the publication of her poetry. Fausto Pena (one of the narrators of the novel, an editor of a poetry column [229] in a newspaper, and a sometime lover of Ana Mercedes) insists that Ana's body, rather than her mind, produces poetry, but nonetheless, no domingo lá estreava ela, a ocupar sozinha a Coluna da Jovem Poesia, entre elogios (Tenda 56). When Fausto Pena reveals that he has published Ana's poetry without being allowed to go além de uns beijos, da mão nos peitos e de promessas (56), the cunning, skill, and, most importantly, power of Ana Mercedes become obvious. This power, turned successively against Fausto Pena, Ildázio Taveira, and Toninho Lins, receives further emphasis when Fausto Pena moans Três poemas meus, cinco de Ana Mercedes-imaginem! (256), upon examining the recently published Antologia da Jovem Poesia Baiana.

     Although we would do well to remember Fausto Pena's unreliability as a narrator (Fitz 312), there is no evidence that Ana Mercedes possesses any skills as a poet. David Brookshaw notes that her extrasexual talents are ridiculed (165), but we must remember that Jorge Amado, and not Fausto Pena ultimately dictates that ridicule. Furthermore, the author determines Ana's success in turning the mulata stereotype to her advantage. Amado allows Ana some power through her manipulation of the mulata stereotype, but that power comes at the price of submitting to definition as an object of sexual fantasy and pleasure for men. Whatever victories Ana Mercedes achieves, the dominion of men over her remains constant, since Ana can only gain power by promoting the pleasure of men. Daphne Patai extends the range of this pleasure by connecting the men within the novel with the male readers of the novel. She says: Male readers may be reassured by Amado's evident commitment to the status quo in that most fundamental of issues: men's domination of women... In addition, without a doubt Amado's graphic depiction of sex must appeal to some readers (138).

     In contrast, García Márquez presents the anonymous mulata lover of Jeremiah de St. Amour without graphic descriptions of her body or heated responses to it. The love between Jeremiah de St. Amour and the anonymous mulata is an abiding, although clandestine, devotion. This strong, poor, and nameless mulata has, in defiance of the social norms around her, loved and been loved by St. Amour for several years. We meet her shortly after the death of her lover.

      El portón se había abierto sin ruido, y en la penumbra interior estaba una mujer madura, vestida de negro absoluto y con una rosa roja en la oreja. A pesar de sus años, que no eran menos de cuarenta, seguía siendo una mulata altiva, con los ojos dorados y crueles, y el cabello ajustado a la forma del cráneo como un casco de algodón de hierro. (Amor 20)

[Juvenal Urbino] [l] a miró de frente con los cinco sentidos para fijarla en su memoria como era en aquel instante: parecía un ídolo fluvial, impávida dentro del vestido negro, con los ojos de culebra y la rosa en la oreja. (22)

The pagan and animal imagery in these passages depict the mulata as an exotic creature, a mysterious being as beyond the comprehension of Dr. Urbino as any jungle animal. However, sexuality does not control the description. The revelation that St. Amour enjoyed a sexual relationship with the mulata actually surprises -and offends- doctor Juvenal Urbino, who had supposed that la invalidez de Jeremiah de St. Amour no era sólo para caminar (21).

     Devotion transforms the love between Jeremiah de St. Amour and the anonymous mulata from a clichéd encounter between types into something very different than that which we find in other relationships between white men and mulata women. Without sex there can be no relationship between Ana Mercedes and James D. Levenson, or between Juvenal Urbino and Bárbara Lynch. Furthermore, the reader's interest in the relation of Florentino Ariza and Leona Cassiani depends on sexual tension. In the relationship between Jeremiah de St. Amour and the anonymous mulata, love includes sexuality without being swallowed by it. However, this anonymous mulata is only present in the novel as a kept woman. In other words, even though she has exceeded the bounds of the stereotype, she has only been moved to a non-threatening identity that promotes the sexual pleasure of her white male lover. [230]

     Ironically, this most tender and enduring of the three mulata/white relationships presented in El amor en los tiempos del cólera receives the greatest censure. It is here that the thesis of Bryan works well. The shocked reactions of the bourgeoisie to the revelation of this secret love demonstrate a narrow concept of propriety that insists on racial and class purity. Bryan observes that García Márquez is secretly laughing and scoffing (6) at the surprise of the offended doctor. By showing his reader a ternura sumisa (Amor 21) that rejects the fussy morality of the bourgeoisie, the author sets this episode in an ironic frame. Jeremiah de St. Amour and the anonymous mulata mock racism and celebrate genuine love in defiance of the mulata stereotype.

     In Tenda dos milagres, Rosa de Oxalá escapes that stereotype through a different kind of love. For Rosa, maternal love weakens the myth of the sex-starved mulata. Prior to her motherhood, this beautiful mulata frequently visits the Tenda dos Milagres. Dancing in front of Lídio Corro and Pedro Archanjo, she embodies the mulata stereotype.

      Milagre é isso, meu amor -Rosa ali dançando, a saia branca, rodada, as sete anáguas, os braços e os ombros nus sob a bata de rendas, os colares, as contas, as pulseiras, o riso agreste. Dizer como era Rosa, Rosa de Oxalá, a negra Rosa, descrevê-la com as chinelas de veludo, seu olor noturno, esse cheiro de fêmea, esse perfume, a pele negro-azul em seda e pétala, seu poderio inteiro, da cabeça ao pés, a profunda bizarria, a prosopopéia, os balangandãs de prata, o langor dos olhos jorubas; ah, meu amor, para fazê-lo, só um poeta de provada fama, de lira e de melenas, e não os trovadores da ladeira, em sete sílabas, violeiros bons no desafio, mas para Rosa, ah muito pouco! (Tenda 96)

As Amado moves Rosa de Oxalá from the Tenda dos Milagres to a relationship with Jerónimo de Alcántara Pacheco, a wealthy white man, the mulata body continues to control her representation, but the reaction to that body becomes more threatening. Mesmo quando a uni-los só restou a filha e, ferida de morte, Rosa impôs-se livre, em certas noites ele vinha alucinado em busca do corpo inesquecível, vinha feito doido, capaz de matar para tê-lo se preciso fosse (240). Miminha, the child of Rosa de Oxalá and this white lover, initiates Rosa's departure from the stereotype.

     The simple fact that Rosa has a child distinguishes her from the majority of the mulata women in Tenda dos milagres. Furthermore, the expression of maternal concern for her child requires an identity more ample than that available in the sex-dominated mulata cliché. Pacheco, however, does not recognize the expanded identity because for him there has been no change. There has been no disturbance of his perception of Rosa's existence as dedicated wholly to his pleasure. Rosa, however, recognizes the discord between stereotype and reality. She says para ele eu só prestava para cama, não servia para criar minha filha (236). Because he considers Rosa unfit to raise Miminha, perhaps because he cannot see her as anything but a sexual object, Pacheco demands that his sisters care for and educate the child. Rosa's submission to this arrangement prompts her to a conscious separation from the mulata stereotype. Dismissing the notion that her color makes her incapable of honoring this agreement, she says: Nem por ser negra sou falsa e sem palavra (236).

     An additional step away from restrictive external definitions links much more obviously to the sexually dominated mulata image. In an effort to make herself worthy of the grandchildren that she eagerly anticipates, she gives up the festive, promiscuous life of the Tenda dos milagres. Rosa de Oxalá explains to Pedro Archanjo that she must behave differently because the marriage of her child has altered her identity.

      -Lídio lhe disse?
-O quê?
-Nunca mais vou voltar na Tenda, nem para dormir nem de passagem. Nunca mais, Pedro, se acabou.
Ele adivina o motivo mas pergunta:
-E por quê?
-Agora, Pedro, sou mãe de mulher casada, da esposa do doutor Altamiro, sou parenta dos Lavignes. Quero ter direito à minha filha, Pedro, a frequëntar sua casa, a me dar com sua gente. Quero poder criar meus netos, Pedro. (241)

     This departure from the mulata stereotype, however sharp, brings no liberation. [231] Having shrugged off the cliché that could only present her as an object of physical gratification, Rosa has not escaped definition by others. The shift from a woman of the street to a mother anticipating grandchildren brings not freedom, but further demonstration of the extent of male power over the mulata in Tenda dos milagres. Rosa de Oxalá cannot be anything but an object of lust within the confines of themulala stereotype. Outside of the stereotype, she is reduced to non-threatening passivity, forced to beg for the privilege of raising her offspring.

     Leona Cassiani, the final mulata woman presented in El amor en los tiempos del cólera, lives similarly on the margins of the stereotype. García Márquez introduces this woman on the five o'clock trolley.

      [Florentino Ariza] levantó la vista y la vio, en el extremo opuesto, pero muy bien definida entre los otros pasajeros. Ella no apartó la mirada. Al contrario: la sostuvo con tanto descaro que él no podía pensar sino lo que pensó: negra, joven y bonita, pero puta sin lugar a dudas. (Amor 199)

Florentino applies the mulata stereotype, and, consequently, fails to understand Leona Cassiani. Leona hasn't come for sex, but to ask for work at the riverboat company. While working for Florentino as an aide and factotum, Leona Cassiani devotes herself to his success. Much like Rosa de Oxalá, her identity beyond the strictly sexual mulata stereotype is non-threatening and even comforting.

     Florentino's erroneous assumption that Leona is a prostitute, the lack of sexual relations between the two, and the success Leona finds in her work all appear to locate Leona beyond sexuality. Nonetheless, business sense and intelligence do not ultimately define her. The absence of sexual relations between Leona and Florentino does not reflect a lack of sexuality on Leona's part. Leona suppresses sexuality in her relationship with Florentino because, as she says, Hace mucho tiempo me di cuenta que no eres el hombre que busco (258). The man she longs for raped her when she was a child.

      Siendo muy joven, un hombre fuerte y diestro, al que nunca le vio la cara, la había tumbado por sorpresa en las escolleras, la había desnudado a zarpazos, y le había hecho un amor instantáneo y frenético. Tirada sobre las piedras, llena de cortaduras por todo el cuerpo, ella hubiera querido morirse de amor en sus brazos. No le había visto la cara, no le había oído la voz, pero estaba segura de reconocerlo entre miles por su forma y su medida y su modo de hacer el amor. Desde entonces, a todo el que quiso oírla le decía: Si alguna vez sabes de un tipo grande y fuerte que violó a una pobre negra de la calle en la Escollera de los Ahogados, un quince de octubre como a las once y media de la noche, dile dónde puede encontrarme. (281-82)

Problematically, though perhaps not surprisingly, García Márquez presents in Leona a black woman who dreams fondly of reunion with the unknown man that raped her.

     Despite her abilities in the business world, the most striking characterization of Leona Cassiani defines her according to desires for violent sex. Beyond the question of whether there may be black women with desires like Leona's, García Márquez is the creator of the fictional Leona Cassiani and he attributes to her desires for violation. Given that fact, the suggestion of Simone de Beauvoir that writers project themselves and their ethos in fiction is particularly relevant: When he describes woman, each writer discloses his general ethics and the special idea he has of himself, and in her he often betrays also the gap between his world view and his egotistical dreams (1089). While Bárbara Lynch satisfies desire and vanity by providing easy sex for Juvenal Urbino, Leona Cassiani flatters male aggression by wistfully remembering the man that raped her.

     This most violent of the five representations of the mulata examined in the novels is likewise the most disturbing. One wonders why the author has created a mulata character who despite intelligence and success fantasizes about rape. Why not fondly remember a childhood love, long for reunion with a lover lost in war, or admit a compromising relation with Florentino's associates? García Márquez represents the mulata dreaming not only of sex but of violence and violation. When we learn of Leona's hopes for reunion, we are not reading [232] the imaginative recreations of her thoughts by Florentino Ariza or any other character, male or female, in the novel. Rather, the narrator presents these desires for control by males as the unmediated thoughts of Leona Cassiani herself. (25)

     But does it matter that a novelist traps mulata women inescapably in the grip of male power? Does it matter that a novel portrays women in strict dependence on men for identity? Aren't novels just fiction? Why worry about representations of class, race, gender, and culture?

     To begin an answer, we might consider that the representation of others depends on what Edward Said has called a flexible positional superiority (7) that permits an author to determine that representation. In the case of the mulata women in Tenda dos milagres and El amor en los tiempos del cólera, a position of power allows Amado and García Márquez to represent the mulata so as to flatter male aggression, to satisfy male sexual desires, or to restrict her to non-threatening roles. This literary representation of the mulata reproduces textually the power of white males to control black women in the social and historical world. Carol Beane expresses this idea when she says:

      Black characters and black character -a way of being- in Hispanic-American fiction reflect traits drawn from a social reality. Any discussion of black characters in literature must bear in mind that literary creation results from a complex interplay between historical and socioeconomic factors and imagination. (181)

The representation of mulata women by García Márquez and Jorge Amado, in other words, is not a creation ex nihilo. The images of power and control in El amor en los tiempos del cólera and Tenda dos milagres depend on a social reality in which white males enjoy power over black women. Literature accumulates and intensifies social power and control, and thus participates in the formation of the culture and consciousness of the consumer of literature.

     The fictive nature of the novel allows the author to create characters and situations, but at the same time, makes the author responsible for the selection of the matter and the means of representation. Daphne Patai refers to this responsibility, speaking of the serious problem of the writer's relation to his material and the implications of the process of selection and construction that invariably accompanies the representation of reality in a novel (112). While black women exist outside literary creation in some undetermined relation with the novelist, within the novel the author constructs his relation to those women as he produces them through the selections that constitute writing. In other words, however distorted the literary image assigned to the mulata woman, there is a flesh and blood referent behind the image. The cliché-laden representation of black women in literature, whether deliberate or unconscious, has potential effects in the real world for which García Márquez and Amado, not to mention the reader, bear some responsibility.

     Said offers the observation that too often literature and culture are presumed to be politically, even historically innocent (27). Although we need to remember the historical and social roots and consequences of representation, we need not assume that García Márquez and Amado use the mulata image maliciously. Indeed, we might confidently say that they do not. In a sociological approach to the problem of ethnic stereotypes, Louk Hagendoorn has suggested that a group cannot perceive other groups except through the window of its own value system and thus, automatically represents outgroups in a stereotyped way (31). Though we might quarrel with Hagendoorn's bleak portrayal of the inevitability of stereotypes, his observation at least partially explains the persistence of false racial and sexual images. Deeply enmeshed in culture and history, stereotypes arise in the effort to form and to state truth. Understood in this context, the image of the mulata owes its form and enduring strength to relations which allow the powerful to define the weak. Those definitions reinforce in turn the power that creates them. (26) [233]

     Despite late twentieth-century protests that literature is just fiction, or despite earlier arguments that poetry nothing affirms, literary images and stereotypes participate in the play of constraint, control, and power by influencing the conception of reality that determines behavior in society (27). Nonetheless, we cannot, nor would we want to force authors to write politically correct literature. The prohibition of literature which perpetuates false and oppressive images is likewise unacceptable. We can, however, at least as readers, hope that an awareness of the pitfalls of representation will inspire a significant reevaluation of our views of other countries/people/races/classes (Gugelberger 91). Through that reevaluation we may learn to temper our admiration for a novelist's creative skills with a heightened consciousness of the social realities upon which creation proceeds. A reading informed by this awareness may then help us to finally overcome what Cornel West calls the visceral feelings about black bodies fed by racist myths (91). Having deflated the myths of race in literature, we can live freer of the impositions of false racial and sexual imagery; freer therefore to understand one another not as sexual objects or as racially determined types, but as human beings.



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