Critical Essays Machismo vs. Heroism


Machismo (the need to express one's masculinity through brute force, sexual profligacy, proliferation of male heirs, and subjugation of others — especially women) is a quintessential trait of the Buendías. Machismo is both responsible for their gallantry and for their courage, as well as being responsible for their suicidal persistence in the face of certain failure. Note, in particular, the posturing and the false pride of the Colonel. All the Buendía males seem compelled in one way or another to prove themselves through exaggerated acts of sexual, bodily, and militaristic appetite — as if mere physical capacity was itself a measure of heroism. Like the Colonel (in García Márquez ' short novel No One Writes to The Colonel), the Buendía males seem motivated to try quixotic tests of adversity — out of fear. They engage in cruel cockfights and reckless gambling because they have long ago become complacent to foreign and domestic forms of political exploitation, as well as almost constant unemployment. Most of the time they rebel against the injustice of their lives not out of any clear moral indignation but, rather, out of idleness. And they tolerate cruelty, not only to men and the abused Buendía women, but to the fighting cocks as well; they have learned to accept the political cruelty imposed on themselves.

The Colonel's reaction to the Conservative regime leads only to a situation wherein Macondo and its people have been battered to the point of collapse. His heroism and grand compassion, in fact, make no difference to the lives that he intends to uplift. Ultimately, even his battles and his existence — his historical moment — have no meaning. The Buendías are seldom truly heroic; more often than not, they are reckless, and thus they rebel, as did Arcadio José IV Segundo, after the fact of the massacre, or, as with the patriarch himself, after falling victim to insult.