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Summary

El Señor Presidente by Miguel Ángel Asturias is the story of people living under a corrupt dictator. The novel focuses on the President's advisor, who falls in love with the daughter of someone who was branded a traitor.

A beggar, the Zany, murders Colonel Jose Sonriente when he mocks the beggar about his dead mother. Every beggar on Cathedral Porch is tortured until they agree to say that two other men—General Canales and Abel Carvajal—committed the murder. The Zany, though, escapes. The President's advisor, Miguel Angel Face, is ordered to help Canales escape; this is done so that Canales looks guilty. The President was the one who ordered the police to torture the beggars and cast blame on Carvajal and Canales.

Angel Face decides to kidnap Canales' daughter and falls in love with her. She, in turn, falls in love with him. However, she grows very ill and is unable to find help or friends because of the false accusations against her father. People think they'll be branded traitors as well if they associate with her. Angel Face chooses her over his association with the President and they have a son—though Angel Face never gets to meet him.

Several people are tortured for helping Canales escape, even though the President knows that it was his plan and his escape plan. Fedina de Rodas is a woman who is accused of helping Canales. She's tortured, her baby is killed, and she's forced into a brothel and a mental hospital.

Meanwhile, Canales escapes and plans a revolution to overthrow the corrupt President. During his travels, he saves a family from a doctor who is tormenting them with unfair, unpaid bills. The more people he meets, the more he realizes that the system he lived under was corrupt and unfair. When he hears that his daughter has married Angel Face and that the President was at the wedding—which he wasn't—he dies.

On a trip to America for the President, Angel Face is arrested on the President's orders. Angel Face dies in prison, believing that Camila has become the President's mistress. She moves to the country with her son, Miguel.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Zany and his fellow homeless beggars lie sleeping in the shadow of the cathedral as night falls. Too poor to pay fines, they are generally undisturbed by the police, but Colonel Sonriente decides to amuse himself by tormenting the Zany, whose one comfort in his miserable life is memories of his mother. When the colonel awakens him by shouting, “Mother!” in his ear, the Zany jumps up and beats the colonel to death.

The beggars are rounded up by the police and tortured to reveal the identity of the murderer. Strangely enough, the correct answer, the Zany, does not seem to satisfy the police. Clearly, the authorities want to blame the crime on someone else.

Meanwhile, the Zany flees through the streets of the city until he falls and breaks his leg. He is attacked by a buzzard and would have died if not for the intervention of a mysterious, strikingly handsome man named Miguel Ángel Face.

Ángel Face is an unofficial adviser to the president, a ruthless tyrant. The president informs Ángel Face that he has a job for him, but a rather tricky one. A political enemy of the president, General Canales, is to be implicated in the murder of Colonel Sonriente, but it does not suit the president’s purposes to have him arrested. Rather, Ángel Face is to force the general to become a fugitive by telling one of his servants that the police are on their way to arrest him.

After the general duly flees, Ángel Face, aided by the thugs Vasquez and Rodas, raids the general’s house and kidnaps his daughter, Camila. The smooth-talking Ángel Face assures Camila that he helped the general escape out of the goodness of his heart and that he hides her away in a neighborhood inn to protect her from her father’s enemies. Whatever his original intentions, this “line” soon comes close to being the truth, for Ángel Face finds himself facing a totally new emotion and motivation: love.

Rather than abusing...

(The entire section is 1,335 words.)