Set in the evocative landscape of the Araucania region of southern Chile in the 1920s, The Widow of Apablaza is the story of a rich and dominant mistress of a large property who falls in love with the bastard son of her late husband. With echoes of Racine’s Phèdre, this play articulates with tragic poignancy the pain of illicit love and a powerful woman’s slow demise.
The Widow of Apablaza is consumed by an uncontrollable passion for her young stepson, Ñico, the bastard child of her late husband, a stray whom she embraced as a boy and raised on her late husband’s farm estate. She is mannish and tyrannical in her command of the property, but is vulnerable in the face of her passion for Ñico. Ñico is a good looking young man who is impervious to his stepmother’s unbridled emotion and is in no hurry to live up to the social class and wealth he stands to inherit from his father’s estate. However, when he falls in love with his stepmother’s niece, Florita, he wishes to break away, marry and build his own family and home. This makes the Widow intolerably jealous and when Ñico expresses this desire to be with Florita, the Widow forbids him. She bargains with him by saying that he can become the sole master of his father’s property, if only he will forget Florita and agree to take her as his wife instead. Ñico agrees and grows into this new role as master of the estate, relishing his new-found power. After two years, however, he convinces the Widow to sign over property into his name before breaking the news to her that he intends to bring back Florita to the home, and that she will live with them as his lover. The Widow is devastated by this intolerable prospect. Soon after Florita and her sister, Celinda, arrive to make their new home at the farm, a gunshot is heard. The Widow has killed herself rather than endure the life which Ñico has laid out for her. It is then that Ñico realises the depth of his love for his stepmother and wife.
La viuda de Apablaza is widely regarded as Germán Luco Cruchaga’s masterpiece and a classic of Chilean theatre, and continues to be revived by modern productions in the Spanish-speaking world.
Luco Cruchaga, Germán. 1958. La viuda de Apablaza. Santiago, Nuevo Extremo
Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 23 November 2011.