This sad story of Erendira principally focuses upon the grandmother’s energetic villainy. Her haughty, domineering grandmother lives in a preposterously furnished bunker in the desert. The older woman’s husband and son — Erendira’s father — were smugglers; their bones now rest beside the house, where the pet ostrich roams. Circumstances like when the old woman just sits at her piano self-indulgently lost in her memories while Erendira does all the domestic labor in the house is just an example of her cruelty towards her.
This role of the young lady does not end at the limits of her consciousness. An exhausted Erendira sleepwalks as she serves dinner. Later her grandmother falls asleep as she issues commands to her passive ward but continues talking anyway, even as her commands become mixed with her dreams. That night “the wind of Erendira’s misfortune” blows the young woman’s bedroom curtains into a lit candelabrum and burns the house down. The old woman tells her that her life won’t be long enough to pay her back so she sells her granddaughter’s virginity to a local merchant.
In one event when the mailman arrives, the grandmother signals to him and shows him what she is selling: her granddaughter, stretched out upon the ground of their makeshift tent. The old woman leads her charge from the small desert villages to the more populous and colorful towns. Erendira is both the labor and the commodity of this itinerant business. The grandmother collects the money, makes all decisions, and pays (swindle) the Indian servants.
On route to the next town one day, nuns kidnap Erendira and confine her to a desert mission. The old woman pitches a tent beneath the fort-like mission walls with no plan to recover her granddaughter other than endurance. One day, as the priests forcibly marry Indian men to pregnant Indian women, the old woman stops a boy on his way into the mission. The priests will pay him five pesos to be confirmed, but the old woman offers him twenty if he will marry her granddaughter. By this ruse, Erendira must return to her grandmother.
To undermine any further attempts by the priests to confiscate her money-making resource, the old woman must obtain a letter from someone important testifying to her granddaughter’s high moral character. By now the old woman is quite wealthy. She and Erendira inhabit a large tent beside the sea, furnished even more grandly than the lost desert home. The old woman plays her piano, bathes, and gives orders to her now hardened charge. This story presumes that a human being’s sexuality, when converted into a purchasable act, is no different a merchandise than a snake-bite remedy.
Prostitution is simply a metaphor. The heart of the story is that the bossy grandmother owns the business. When the merchant buys Erendira’s virginity, he first weighs her and then bargains with the old woman over a price. The equation is clear: Erendira is the goods; the merchant a consumer. But this is all Gabriel Gracia Marquez has to say about the man’s presence, desire, motives, feelings, or advantages. The point is that the man purchases sex not from Erendira but from the grandmother, who is the controlling presence throughout this story.
Source: Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. `Innocent Erendira` .