Internalized 3rd World Oppression
In the short story, "Tuesday Siesta", Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not incorporate magical realism, as obvious when compared to other short stories such as "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" and "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World". Marquez approaches magical realism from a political, through personal perspective as he underscores the internalized oppression of the lower echelon in the social classes by those occupying the upper tiers. Throughout "Tuesday Siesta"(105) he inadvertently alludes to historical developments which has led to exploitation of the so called "3rd class citizens" in what is already considered a 3rd world country. The scrutiny and ridicule that this ‘3rd class’ continually faces, is not alleviated by the fact that their fellow nationals faced a more blatant prejudice from foreign entities. In turn, rather than reverse the treatment, it is meted out to them.
With constant reference made to heat and shade throughout the story, which is paralleled to the mentioning of banana and almond trees, it is important to factually note that almond trees actually possess huge leaves, which allows one to be able to stand under the trees during the hottest times of the day and feel no heat, as opposed to the banana trees. The area from where the alleged thief lived was littered with vast banana plantations, as opposed to the town where he had been killed. This more prominent tree in this town was the almond variety, and it seems to portray the inhabitants as those not only being sheltered from the sweltering heat, but also protected from the exploitation faced by those occupying the banana districts.
In Colombia, "the banana company’s model" (108) alludes to the "massacre of Uraba" revolving around a hostile acquisition of the national banana company of Colombia. There was a consensus taken of the Colombian nationals, and they opposed the North American company trying to buy out the sole producer in their industry. However, the acquisition went ahead, and in the end, the Colombian nationals who worked for the company were exploited with low wages and poor working conditions. Eventually, unions protested, leading to a stand off between the government and company. This lead to Colombia's President sending troops to physically arrest the control of the banana company. These troops clashed with the workers of the company after an intense stand-off, where all the '3rd class, poor Colombians' who were instructed by their employers, were killed by the army. It seems ironic that even though the workers were being exploited for financial gain by the foreign company, their government, under the guise of seeking the workers interests, did not hesitate in killing them, which further signifies how they were used by others, seeking to push their political agendas and financial interests.
Abject poverty is also highlights the plight of this 3rd class, as the mother who is seeking honorable burial rites for her son is described as wearing "severe and poor mourning clothes", while "she bore the conscientious serenity of someone accustomed to poverty" (106). Her daughter also kept taking off her shoes, because she seemed unaccustomed to wearing shoes due to their poverty. There also seems to be a strict regime of defining lines between the classes, as there is an established "third class car" (105) on the trains. Being on the train, and simultaneously in that state of poverty, it is indicative of an eternally sad, depressing and monotonous ride through life, which is inescapable. Inescapable also, because despite where they venture, the still fall victim to their poverty, which has become so encompassing, that even the sun is described as being "oppressive" (106), taking into consideration its sheer power, size and influence on the sustenance of life.
The town where Carlos Centeno Ayala, the alleged thief, is killed is also significant of the class barriers that have been imposed to create a rigorous and exclusive social caste. The town resonates of privacy, and is close knitted, quiet and safe. Being larger, with several features and stores implies that its inhabitants were at least better off than the town which Carlos came from. Carlos was not caught stealing anything, but the fear instilled by the idea of an intruder was real, given the perception that the town was relatively safe. Further conviction came upon the discovery of the body the following morning, and in particular the clothes, which he wore. His attire implied that he was poor, and also did not fit in to the town. He was not known to any town folk, and was essentially an outsider, and posed a threat to them. When he attempted to tamper with the door, as proven with the shot to the lock which struck his nose (111), that threat was manifested, not only as someone trying to steal, but also someone who did not belong to their social group, trying to disrupt the preferred laid back calmness. Even the priest seems to condescend on Carlos’ mother, when he inquires whether or not she attempted to ‘right his wrongs’. The priest looks for someone in particular to blame, rather than considering an oppressive system, which may have denied Carlos the chance of a proper education to equip him with the tools essential to rescue his family from that poverty.
Unfortunately, violence always seemed to be an avenue out of poverty, not only for Carlos, but seemingly many of those in that 3rd class with aspirations to move out of their economic rot. Besides the money that boxing offered, it also gave those with so little, a chance to at least recoup something positive out of their sweat, blood and tears, far away from the ungratefulness that they were accustomed to getting from their employers. They were able to win the respect of their peers for the very least, which was some consolation for the teeth lost in the process. By using boxing to support his family, as well as to gain respect, he found some hope of a turnaround. However, with basically nothing else to supplement his boxing income, he would have to resort to other means of making money, and from the evidence provided, turned to crime. This is not uncommon though, because even in contemporary times, many ex-boxers from inner cities are convicted and imprisoned for committing crimes, after they had promising careers. It also seems as though they become so prone to violence in the ring, that the violence becomes a way of life.
Carlos’ mother understands the division of class thoroughly, and knows how not to expose her frailties to those who are scrutinizing her to harp on her weaknesses. The situation of trying to find her recently dead son’s body poses as difficult a time to maintain self-composure as any other time, especially for a mother. Quite remarkably, Carlos’ mother is able to control her emotions, as well as those of her daughter. She also had a tremendous influence on her son, as she warned him "never to steal anything that anyone needed to eat" (111). It was not incidental when, upon Carlos’ slumping to the floor, he exclaimed, "Ah, Mother", which showed whom he had been thinking of upon the time of his death. The mother says, "Centeno Ayala", and "He was my only boy" (111). According to the manner in which names are carried on in the Latin culture, "Ayala" is the name belonging to the mother, which the son inadvertently carries, as his full name. However, according to his father's name, and more common in Western/ Anglo-Saxon traditions, only the father's surname is carried on. By using the "Ayala" at the end of the name, the mother claims her son's responsibility, and in some manner accepts the blame for his wrongdoing. She also seems to posthumously adulate her son, despite what he has been accused of, via mere assumption.
Carlos’ mother was also ready to face the ridicule and wrath of the town folk for what her son had seemingly attempted to do. However, she had come there to accomplish a mission, and was not going to leave until she had done that. She came to administer the proper rights of burial for her son, regardless of the further shame that he had brought to his mother. It was a final act of a mother’s love to her son, even though she knew that he had paid the ultimate price for going against her wishes. It was the least that she could have done to retrieve some dignity and respect for him in death. He now had an identity, rather than being a nameless thief in a strange town.
Carlos’ mother exemplifies that in a world where she knows nothing more or less than oppression and poverty, she can still salvage her pride by not allowing anyone to trample on her most treasured possession, that is, the love for her children. She does so without backing down or giving in as the weaker party to which she is normally assigned. Her son may not have been an exemplary model to anyone, but in a world where money holds the key to material contentment, she has the love for her children, which is more than enough to continue the struggle to live amidst the exploitation of her class.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. "Tuesday Siesta". Collected Stories.
United States: HarperCollins Publishers, 1984