Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 399
In One Day of Life by Manilo Argueta, the themes that are present throughout the novel include government oppression, popular resistance, familial solidarity, individual strength, and the continuation of everyday life in the face of brutal repression. The main protagonist of the story, Lupe Guardado, reflects on her life in rural El Salvador in the midst of severe government oppression as the rural farm workers, including her family, rise up against the oppression of the elite, wealthy families who control the country. Upon the arrival of progressive, leftist priests, Lupe's family and surrounding community members are encouraged to assert their rights to the wealthy landowners. The priests bring medicinal knowledge and encourage the farm workers to fight for higher wages and prices for their labor. As a popular resistance of students and farm workers fight for better, more dignified lives, the local government cracks down on them.
Lupe's family is integral to the popular struggle. As family members are killed and arrested, her husband, Chepe, must stay away from his family in order to continue his work in the resistance, while attempting to keep them in less danger. Lupe's granddaughter, Aldofina, is particularly involved in the militant struggle against the wealthy regime. Even amidst the brutal oppression, torture, and killings of her family, Aldofina remains steadfast in her resistance. Like Lupe, Aldofina presents immensely strong internal strength and resolution in the face of such immense oppression and monumental loss. When Lupe's husband is captured and tortured to the brink of death and brought to her house to be identified, Lupe denies knowing her dying husband in order to save her family. Chepe, also a strong willed and brave individual, advises Lupe earlier in the novel to deny knowledge of him if he is captured. Lupe must endure seeing her dying husband brought before her, denies knowing him, and watches him be dragged away in order to save the rest of her family. Rather than attempting to turn Aldofina away from participating in militant resistance, Lupe is resolute that the family must continue to resist and encourages her strong-willed granddaughter to continue fighting.
In the midst of all these struggles, the life of a rural farm worker still continues. The sun still rises, the crops are still tended, and there are still moments of joy. The book presents a beautiful, sad, and inspiring melding of everyday life and intense resistance.
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