Places: El Señor Presidente

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1946 (English translation, 1963)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical realism

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Places DiscussedCathedral

Cathedral. Señor Presidente, ElUnnamed cathedral in whose shadow the novel opens as the sleep of several homeless men is disturbed by a police officer who starts to taunt a mentally disturbed man, who in turn inadvertently kills him. In medieval Europe, cathedrals were once places where those pursued for any reason could take refuge without fear of reprisal. However, this is decidedly not true in this unnamed country, where everyone from the rejects of society to the one-time elite may suffer arbitrary and senseless violence in any location, including a church.

Presidential palace

Presidential palace. Home of the dictator of the unnamed country, “el presidente” of the novel’s title. There, the ruthless president and his henchmen make arbitrary decisions about life and death, based upon their own selfish and greedy motives. Opposites abound in the palace. The beautiful–such as the president’s aide Angel Face–are evil, the powerful are duplicitous, and friendship and personal loyalty cannot be trusted.

General Canales’s house

General Canales’s house. Home of General Eusebio Canales, a once-trusted ally of the president, whom the president falsely suspects of involvement in the death of the colonel killed at the cathedral. The general’s home is invaded and destroyed by officials, and he and his daughter, Camila, must flee. The president’s own aide, Angel Face, later falls in love with Camila and takes her under his protection in his own home, but even his house proves to be unsafe.

Two-Step Tavern

Two-Step Tavern. Public house where Camila, a fugitive general’s daughter, is nursed back to health and protected. Drinking places are ordinarily associated with society’s excesses and sins and are not regarded as places of safety. In the novel, however, the Two-Step Tavern is just the opposite: a true sanctuary. In this regard, it contrasts sharply with police headquarters, where a woman named Fedina is detained by the police, who prevent her from feeding her baby until it dies, while demanding that she provide information about a situation she knows nothing about.

BibliographyCalan, Richard. Miguel Ángel Asturias. New York: Twayne, 1970. Calan devotes two lengthy chapters to El Señor Presidente. “El Señor Presidente” is an overview of the major themes and technical strategies in the novel. In “Babylonian Mythology in El Señor Presidente,” Calan argues that Asturias relies on themes and imagery derived not just from Mayan mythology, as scholars have long noted, but also from Babylonian mythology.Campion, Daniel. “Eye of Glass, Eye of Truth: Surrealism in El Señor Presidente.” Hispanic Journal 3 (Fall, 1981): 123-135. Campion’s essay is a helpful analysis of Asturias’ style in the novel.Himelblau, Jack. “Chronological Deployment of Fictional Elements in Miguel Ángel Asturias’ El Señor Presidente.” Hispanic Journal 12 (Fall, 1991): 181-209.Martin, Gerald. “Miguel Ángel Asturias: El Señor Presidente.” In Landmarks of Modern Latin American Fiction, edited by Philip Swanson. London: Routledge, 1990. Martin’s essay is a fine overview of the central issues in the novel.Prieto, René. Miguel Ángel Asturias’ Archaeology of Return. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Prieto discusses the novel in a broader context of Asturias’ life and work. Specifically addressed are surrealism, sexuality, and Dionysian elements in the novel.
Categories: Places