La Nona, by Roberto Cossa, is an Argentine theater play premiered in 1977 and published in 1979. This tragic comedy emerged during a time of conflict in Argentina, characterized by political and social instability, during what was called the National Reorganization Process (1976 – 1983), a bloody and authoritarian civil-military dictatorship that left thousands of people missing and dead, as well as a large amount of orphaned children who were taken from their families, relocated and reinserted in other families. The scars of this cruel period are still fresh.
In times of dictatorship, art reshapes its ways in order to evade censorship typically imposed by authoritarian governments. It’s a dangerous game in which subversive work is shown by mocking those in power, who remain ignorant that their façade has been taken away.
As I read the play, I couldn’t help but think about the testimony it presented about its time, taking La Nona as a metaphor of the government.
This is the case of La Nona, a play that seemingly tells the story of a middle-class family facing dire economic difficulties that force them to take desperate and ultimately useless measures. La Nona is a 100-year-old inmortal Italian woman who eats constantly; she’s insatiable and never stops devouring everything she can find inside the house. She destroys everything and everyone, forcing each family member to leave or die because of La Nona’s gluttony: she’s the cause of every disgrace.
As I read the play, I couldn’t help but think about the testimony it presented about its time, taking La Nona as a metaphor of the government, and about how this relates to the current Venezuelan situation. The Venezuelan regime is also killing us one by one, physically, symbolically and metaphorically speaking. It swallows and destroys everything, with no consideration for anything or anyone. It affects everyone who lives in this house.
Many of the ordeals Venezuelans have had to experience during this situation are seen in the play: selling furniture, clothing or jewelry in order to survive; how the business we’ve worked for our entire lives no longer pays the bills; daughters resorting to prostitution to maintain their homes; relatives leaving to other lands in search for a better future; the lack of food and, of course, having as many jobs as possible to make ends meet and find the necessary funds.
Life has stopped being peaceful to become a daily struggle for survival.
Many of the ordeals Venezuelans have had to experience during this situation are seen in the play.
When everyone realizes that La Nona is the reason for all of this, they device different plans to solve the problem: they marry her off, they try to lose her in the city so she doesn’t come back, they attempt to choke her with smoke and poison her with arsenic, but nothing works. The crone is unusually immortal, she’s as healthy as an oak and she eats as ten lions combined. She’s an unsolvable problem, and in the end she’s the only living thing left. Like a plague, she ravaged everything, a parasite that killed its host.
I wonder if Cossa, the playwright, really thought that the Argentine State would destroy everything, and that in the end only those who supported it would be left. Is that what he wanted to say? Or perhaps he meant to hit people, shock them with the insatiable lady’s gluttony so they would relate her to an equally glutton, opportunistic and selfish regime.
The current Venezuelan regime is a clear expression of La Nona; they’re parasites who, like leeches, have drained the Venezuelan people, they’ve ravaged us and brought us to the point of starvation.
It’s easy to see that I’m not just talking about what happened in Argentina, I’m talking about Venezuela and chavismo as well; about the parallels I see between the context of the National Reorganization Process, the play and Venezuelan reality.
I have no doubt that President Nicolás Maduro and the clique of the current Venezuelan regime are a clear expression of La Nona; they’re parasites who, like leeches, have drained the Venezuelan people, they’ve ravaged us and brought us to the point of starvation. It’s up to us to change the outcome of the play so that La Nona isn’t the last thing standing because we all left or died trying to get rid of her.