Many historians assert that Colombia was a patriarchal society in which women were dominated by men and relegated to the domestic sphere. The text One Hundred Years of Solitude challenges this assumption as women are portrayed as having control in sexual relationships with men. Furthermore, the text also documents that in some cases women exercised control within the public sphere. Although the source is written by a man, it provides an in-depth account of the lives of the successive generations of women in the Buendia family and the women in the village of Macando.
Within the patriarchal system at this time women were still able to maintain great deal of autonomy and independence from their male counterparts. However, for most female characters they find themselves bound in some way to the opposite sex. The different roles that women had at this time were diverse and complex. Every individual women exercised a different amount of influence in very different ways including through the use of sex.
Furthermore, there are key differences between women who take up the traditional roles of mothers and wives such as Ursula Buendia and women who have less traditional roles such as Petra Cotes and Pilar Teranera. This essay will seek to explore the diverse roles by different women played in the private sphere, in the public sphere and in sexual relationships with men. To begin let us consider the role of women within the private sphere as well as their economic contributions.
Women at this time were primarily responsible for childrearing, cooking and cleaning. As women had to remain at home to look after their children, most economic contributions that women made were within the home or in close proximity to their home. For instance, the matriarch of the Buendia family Ursula kept up a small candy business from the household. She did not venture outside of her home to seek different type of employment that would require her to leave the house frequently.
Work within the home allowed women to be self-sufficient and reduced their dependence on the men in their families. With her savings, Ursula was able to undertake the renovation of the Buendia household “she took up the money she had accumulated over the years of hard labour, made arrangements with some customers and undertook the enlargement of the house” . Before making this decision Ursula did not consult her husband until the renovations are almost complete and about to be painted. Thus, she does not have to seek permission in matters relating to the household.
Furthermore, Ursula’s business allows her certain degree of economic autonomy as she does not have to depend on Jose Arcadio’s income and her extra funds allow her to make such decisions without interference. Ursula recognises her own economic self-sufficiency when she declares “as long as God gives me life there will be money in this madhouse” Despite being relegated to the private sphere women in this time still make substantial economic contributions for the family and are aware of the vital contributions they make. Similarly, Petra Cotes was another woman who conducted her economic work within the private sphere.
Although, the text does not mention Petra Cotes having children, her economic works is still conducted from her home. This seems to suggest that most women in Macando, in some form or another, women were tied to their homes. Even characters such as Petra Cotes that do not have traditional roles still remain in the private sphere. Petra Cotes begins her raffling business from her courtyard after the death of her husband. When she became Aureliano’s mistress she began to raffle off rabbits and this trade became so successful that Aureliano suggested that she should start raffling off cows.
The success of her raffling business at this time can be attributed to the fertility of her livestock that multiplied in vast proportions. Aureliano believed that the considerable increases in his livestock is largely because of Petra Cotes and he allows her to take charge of the upkeep of his animals. Thus, Petra Cotes a woman becomes the base of Aureliano Segundo’s large fortune and she becomes directly responsible for ensuring that the livelihood of the Buendia family and her own livelihood are sustained. Petra Cotes maintains her economy autonomy throughout her relationship with Aureliano Segundo.
After the rains end she is determined to start her raffling business again and to regain the fortune that had been squandered away by Aureliano Segundo and destroyed by the flood. She is able to keep one of the animals that she had alive in hopes that she would be able to build up her business again. In fact, when Aureliano Segundo returns to her house after the rain ended he finds her “writing out small numbers on small pieces of paper to make a raffle” (p332). It is important to note that despite her autonomy Petra Cotes functions within the role that she is given by a man thus there is an interdependence between Petra Cotes and Aureliano.
In contrast to these two characters, women such as Fernanda did not engage in economic work or exercised a degree of autonomy when it comes to money. During the years of uninterrupted rainfall, Fernanda’s household runs out of food and she tells her husband that there were “only three pounds of dried meat and a sack of rice left (p. 322)”. This indicates that Fernanda relied on Aureliano to provide for their family. She declares that provision for the family was “a men’s business” (p. 322). This fits into very traditional patriarchal roles of the man as the breadwinner and the woman as the dependent.
Fernanda fails to acknowledge that in the Buendia family the livelihood of the family had also been a woman’s business. When Fernanda moves into the Buendia residence there is no mention of her embroidering or starting a business similar to that of Ursula’s candy business. In fact, she puts an end to the Ursula’s candy animal and pastry selling as she deems it an “unworthy activity. ” This may suggest key differences in values as Fernanda is from a different town from the other women. Despite these key differences all female characters spend the most of their time in the private sphere.
There is a clear separation at this time between the public sphere in which men exercise the most influence and the private sphere which was considered to be the domain of women. The majority of women of Macando do not view themselves as politicians and do not concern themselves with joining the armed uprising of Colonel Aureliano Buendia against the Conservative regime. However, motherhood appears to be a role that is taken up by almost all the female characters within the text. Amaranta having no children of her own takes care of Aureliano Jose after the death of Remedios.
Ursula possesses great influence over her children and her grandchildren particularly when they are young. She looks after numerous generations of the Buendia family. As a mother figure Ursula commands a certain level of respect from the different generations in the Buendia family. She is able to use the influence that she had as a mother figure to speak out against Arcadio as his regime became more and more repressive through the imposition of arbitrary decrees and laws (p. 105). The final straw for Ursula was the attack on Don Mascote made by Arcadio. She intervenes in order to save his him from execution by Arcadio and his men.
To prevent Arcadio from carrying out this execution she whips him without mercy until he “curls up like a snail in its shell” (p. 105). The whipping of Arcadio emphasises the amount of influence she still has on him and illustrates Ursula’s ability to put Arcadio back into his place as a child who was not immune to discipline. After this event Ursula virtually becomes the leader of Macando. She reinstitutes Sunday mass, suspended the use of red armbands and repeals the harebrained decrees of Arcadio (p. 105).