The Gender of Power: Latin American Dictatorship
Throughout history men, women and children have been subject to harsh ruler-ship, generally under a patriarchal system. With the emergence of a female role in one of the most coveted dictator positions, one would ask the question: Is feminized power less ruthless? In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Big Mama’s Funeral” we learn that although a female has stepped in to the office of a leader, her power is still abused and misused like any other. Latin American history has proven to be one of the most affluent in terms of poor utilization of wealth and power.
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We have also learned that man or woman can strive in the role of a leader, and that followers will pay mercilessly for the simple fact of living and being. Big Mama is the living proof that power is genderless.
The lifestyle lead by a dictator as powerful as Big Mama herself is quite consuming regardless of her gender. The protection of her kingdom and her fortunes were her prime concerns, along with the assurance of her matriarchal rigidity. Her absolute power reigned over the kingdom, slaughtering any who opposed her and every person living within her kingdom had to pay their dues. Residents even believed Big Mama “was the owner of the waters, running and still…”, even the “air they breathed”. She was the richest and most powerful matron in the world, although no one knew the the exact value of her estate. She was considered by most of the inhabitants as immortal, to them, she was bigger than life itself. Her stern sovereignty was questioned by none.
Her family consisted of brute and loyal soldiers who followed her every command without question. She had built a fence to further protect her and her possessions. The land which she occupied had been passed down from generation to generation. Big Mama had been “Macondo’s center of gravity”, as had her brothers, her parents and the parents of her parents in the past, in a dominance “which covered two centuries.” She believed she would live well over a hundred years as did her maternal grandmother. The thought of provoking death in Big Mama was laid to rest as most of her tribe members were true believers in her.
Although she was mean-spirited and relentless, she tried to uphold a very high-class and honourable image of herself, unlike many other crude rulers of her time. She was two-faced and and everyone knew it, though no one would ever approach her in fear of what she might do to them if she found out they knew. In troubled times, Big Mama contributed secretly for “weapons for her partisans”, but came to the aid of her victims in public. That patriotic zeal “guaranteed the highest honours for her.” Big Mama was a master of concealing her hostility and she was proud of the fact that she could.
The power invested in a woman such as Big Mama could lead anyone to believe that authority, by man or woman could be ruthless. There is no way of determining whether one or the other could produce more or less wrath. This type of power could put anyone in their place and would terrify even the harshest of critics. Big Mama reigned over the city of Macondo with a cold heart and a tight grip. Her family members supported her every decision in belief it was in all of their best interests, they were true believers. Her self-image was was so god-like, she would never come to realization that every one who knew her in fact despised her.