On the eve of the elections

3 November 2008

A week ago I came across these passages in both of my editions of García Marquez. I couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate the elections at a distance of 12.000 km. The first part is in Spanish; the second picks it up from the last sentence & continues in English. Banning public gatherings & prohibiting the sale of alcohol appears to be a common feature of international democracy – at the least, not just fictional South American elections in an indeterminate past, but those in Thailand a few weeks ago as well. Needless to say, Americans, in our infinite wisdom, don’t abide by this. I myself plan to be soused out of anticipation & worry, waiting for the results, & hoping perhaps that García Marquez’ gypsies will come back to town in an uproar of pipes & kettledrums, returning at last with their miraculous inventions: telescopes, flying carpets, magnetism, alchemy, whiskey, & just governance.

Seis soldados armados con fusiles, al mando de un sargento, llegaron y sino que fueron de casa en casa decomisando armas de cacería, machetes y hasta cuchillos de cocina, antes de repartir entre los hombres mayores de veintiún años las papeletas azules con los nombres de los candidatos conservadores, y las papelitas rojas con las nombres de los candidatos liberales. La víspera de las elecciones el propio don Apolinar Moscote leyó un bando que prohibía desde la medianoche del sábado, y por cuarenta y ocho horas, la venta de bebidas alcohólicas y la reunión de más de tres personas que no fueron de la misma familia.

Gabriel García Marquez, Cien años de soledad, p. 121-2

On the eve of the elections Don Apolinar Moscote himself read a decree that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages and the gathering together of more than three people who were not of the same family. The elections took place without incident. At eight o’clock on Sunday morning a wooden ballot box was set up in the square, which was watched over by the six soldiers. The voting was absolutely free, as Aureliano himself was able to attest since he spent almost the entire day with his father-in-law seeing that no one voted more than once. At four in the afternoon a roll of drums in the square announced the closing of the polls and Don Apolinar Moscote sealed the ballot box with a label crossed by his signature. That night, while he played dominoes with Aureliano, he ordered the sergeant to break the seal in order to count the votes. There were almost as many red ballots as blue, but the sergeant left only ten red ones and made up the difference with blue ones. Then they sealed the box again with a new label and the first thing on the following day it was taken to the capital of the province.

“The liberals will go to war,” Aureliano said. Don Apolinar concentrated on his dominoes. “If you’re saying that because of the switch in ballots, they won’t,” he said. “We left a few red ones in so there won’t be any complaints.” Aureliano understood then the disadvantages of being in the opposition. “If I were a Liberal,” he said, “I’d go to war over those ballots.” His father-in-law looked at him over his glasses.

“Come now, Aurelito,” he said. “If you were a Liberal, son-in-law or no, you wouldn’t have seen us switch them.”

García Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, p. 99-100

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