Finding our place within “The Green House”

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Awarded the Romulo Gallegos Award, the most important South American literature prize, in 1967

The writing style of Mario Vargas Llosa in this novel feels annihilating at first, but once we identified the five lines of narrative we began to deconstruct the many fragments, characters, and subplots within each world. The central location we find ourselves in is the green house—a brothel in Piura, Peru, which consequently is known as the oldest Spanish city in South America. If an overarching theme in Llosa’s narrative is the after-effects of colonization and the exploitation of indigenous people, than having this story take place in Piura, a city where the Spanish conquest began in Peru, is a profound choice. The green house, in this fictional story, is built by Anselmo, an outsider who the Piuranos know nothing about, but yet who is able to quickly settle and make a business off of prostitution. This is the catalytic event that sets off the conflict(s) for the rest of the novel, just like how Spanish colonization changed the face of the indigenous Americas.

From the green house stems the surrounding plots and characters, which are the Mangachería, the mission at Santa María de Nieva, and the characters Jum and Fushía. Each of these storylines represents the major different worlds that exist within this Peruvian society. The Mangachería is like an urban barrio, the mission is the religious sect, Jum is the political activist trying to organize the indigenous people who is ultimately hunted down and tortured by the government, and Fushía is a bona fide criminal. None of these worlds are without controversy and violence is ever-present. Yet within all the storylines there is an ultimate human experience, which is the need to be loved as is most evident in our protagonist Bonifacia, an Aguaruna native abducted and raised by nuns who turns prostitute. The lack of love within this world leads to the cycle of corruption, abandonment, and violence that is present throughout and in every segment of this society. In exploring each of these story lines and characters, one can’t help but wonder what our own role would be within “The Green House.” The discourse that Mario Vargas Llosa’s work evoked was gratifying and we all agreed is worthy of a second read.  –Elvira

In honor of June Puerto Rican heritage celebrations, join us for the next Latin@ Lit discussion group selection Ricky Martin’s “Me” June 13th at 7 p.m. Please call to register:  847-448-8658.

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