“In my beginning is my end. ... In my end is my beginning.” These lines from T.S. Eliot’s
illustrate one of the major themes in Latin American fiction, a search for, and a definition of, self. This quest is an important
in Gabriel Garc’a Márquez’s novels and short stories. I have chosen five of Garc’a Márquez’ short stories, “Death Constant Beyond Love,” “Tuesday Siesta,” “One of These Days,” “Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon,” and “Big Mama’s Funeral” to form this unit.
The students for whom this unit is designed, are in a ninth grade Language Exploratory class. They spend twenty weeks learning conversational Spanish, as well as learning about the Spanishspeaking world. For the section on Latin America, we will spend five weeks reading the stories mentioned above and doing the classroom activities mentioned below. We will concentrate on the biographical information that Garc’a Márquez includes in his fiction, as well as information about Latin American culture and history, and the author’s point of view concerning his culture.
As young teenagers, my students are searching for their identities. In the Ninth Grade, they study and explore the themes of “Who am I?” “Where have I come from?” and “Where am I going?” in their English and Social Studies classes. This unit helps to reinforce the ideas expressed in those classes. It also introduces another element into the students’ exploration: a way of understanding another culture.
For Latin American writers, and especially Garc’a Márquez, the search for self is also a search for their own literary voice, separate from their ancestors and uniquely tied to their history.
As in other national literatures, literary tradition in Latin America moves toward an encounter with a self definition which might constitute the homecoming. ... Latin America’s literary enterprise acquires a specificity by virtue of being the product of an especially problematic history. (Djelal Kadir, pp. 34)
The history of Latin America begins with its accidental discovery by Columbus in 1492, and continues with the subsequent colonies, revolutions, and forming of nations of the Twentieth Century. This history forms the foundation of the Latin American literary tradition, as well as Garc’a Márquez’ works.
Latin America’s history and its literary traditions are inextricably linked. Latin American authors use their art as a means of working through problems they encounter in their quest for a national and literary identity. This search is a long process which allows the authors the freedom to explore their native history and traditions, and to utilize artistic techniques to create a literature unique to Latin America.
Garc’a Márquez belongs unquestionably to the Latin American genre of literature. He explores his country’s traditions, history, customs, superstitions, etc. to formulate his own style of writing.
His works are imbued with Colombian life. The reader of Garc’a Márquez’ works gains an understanding of what it means to be Colombian. This understanding is a point of departure for learning about Latin America.
The search for one’s identity takes many forms in Latin American literature and in Garc’a Márquez’ works. My ninth grade Spanish students are searching for their identities, much like Garc’a Márquez in the stories we will read. This unit forges the connection of the search for self with the study of Spanish and the cultures of Spanish speaking people.