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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 362

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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.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 783

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 Camila, Ángel Face becomes worried about her welfare. He tries to find a place for her to stay, starting with her uncle, Don Juan Canales. Here, however, Ángel Face begins to learn the consequences of living in a nation ruled by a tyrant, a tyrant for whom Ángel Face himself works. Camila’s uncle refuses to help his niece for fear of being added to the president’s list of enemies. Ángel Face is left with a defenseless, innocent girl for whom his affections and concern are growing by the hour.

In the meantime, the police make their official raid on General Canales’s house. Finding no one there, they declare the general to be a fugitive fleeing the consequences of his crime and also begin to arrest persons suspected of helping him to escape (even though the plot to allow him to escape was the president’s).

One of those arrested is Fedina de Rodas, wife of one of Ángel Face’s henchmen. Fedina is thrown in prison along with her baby. Worse than her brutal torture is the suffering of her baby, who starves to death in her arms. Fedina is finally released from prison and forced to earn her living in a house of prostitution. All this befalls Fedina despite the fact that she knows nothing of the general’s escape or of his whereabouts.

At that moment, in fact, the general is far from the city, hiding in a deserted hut in the countryside. Eventually he begins to meet some of the peasants living nearby, almost all of whom suffered greatly at the hands of the wealthy and powerful. Hearing their tales of exploitation, the general gradually realizes what a corrupt political system he has spent his life serving. Eventually the general escapes into the marshland, vowing to return and to fight for the people.

Back in the city, Ángel Face feels himself falling more and more in love with Camila. After nursing her through a near-fatal illness, he marries her and they set up house in the city. However, their happiness is marred by two factors. Camila’s father, General Canales, dies (probably poisoned) on the eve of leading a band of rebels against the president, and Ángel Face falls into disfavor with the president because of his marriage to the daughter of the president’s old enemy.

Indeed, the president takes his inevitable revenge. He first orders Ángel Face to go to Washington, D.C., on government business but has him arrested on the way. Camila never sees her husband again. At the end, Ángel Face languishes in prison, tortured by false rumors that his wife is the president’s mistress.


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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 190

This story, El Senor Presidente, revolves mainly around Miguel Angel Face, adviser to a cruel dictator. Angel Face is a tyrant with a soft spot. When Colonel Sonriente is murdered by Zany, a homeless man, Angel Face (on the president's orders) blames General Canales for the killing. The General flees and Angel Face immediately abducts his daughter and takes her to an inn.

Out of fear of the president, Camila's relatives refuse to help her, and Angel Face must protect the girl, whom he is falling in love with. The police then raid the General's house, and the wife of one of Angel Face's henchmen is imprisoned. Her child dies and she eventually becomes a prostitute.

Meanwhile, from his hiding place in the country, General Canales becomes aware of the suffering of the people. He vows to overpower the president but dies before he can. By now, Angel Face has married Camila, to the extreme displeasure of the president. Angel Face is ordered to leave home and then sent to prison, where he is tormented by rumors that his wife has become the president's mistress. He never sees Camila again.