Blanca Olmedo’s novel is one of the best known in Honduras. And perhaps, just like Prision Verde, it is recognized not for its literary merit, but for its social criticism.
Blanca Olmedo, a romantic novel written in the early twentieth century, is outdated for its time, because the cultural period of Romanticism is considered superseded by that time.
Unlike Prision Verde, a novel that tries to reflect the experiences of poor people in the banana plantations of the Atlantic Coast of Honduras, in Blanca Olmedo the protagonists enjoy a fine education that allows them to always use a refined language. In social gatherings attended by these characters they perform musical pieces popular of Europe. The place of action appears to be an undetermined city in an undetermined country in Latin America. It is until the last page of the novel that we realize that the action takes place in the city of Danli, Honduras, which is also the birthplace of the author, Lucila Gamero de Medina.
In fact, the protagonist of the novel, Miss Blanca Olmedo, has some similarities with the author, particularly in regards with their philosophical and religious perspectives. Mrs. Gamero loved to define herself as a “freethinker”, as Blanca Olmedo does in the novel. Both Lucila Gamero and Blanca Olmedo seem to lean toward pantheism and they both make strong criticisms against the Roman Catholic religion.
Blanca Olmedo is the tragic story of a young woman struggling to be happy against an adversity that lurks at every turn and defeats her in the end. Blanca Olmedo is an exemplary girl, beautiful and intelligent, qualities that instead of playing in her favor win her enemies that will not rest in their endeavor to destroy her.
Blanca Olmedo’s misfortunes began when the character Elodio Verdolaga offered to bring the legal issues of his father, Mr. Carlos Olmedo. Verdolaga conspires with the plaintiff in order to harm Mr. Olmedo, causing him to loose his assets, and he also tried to use the financial misfortunes of the family to take advantage of Blanca. Mr. Olmedo realizes Verdolaga’s betrayal and tells her daughter Blanca about it, and from that time on she begins to despise Verdolaga with all her heart. Mr. Olmedo dies shortly afterwards, overwhelmed by misfortune.
Elodio Verdolaga is portrayed as the perfect scoundrel. Verdolaga is married and has children, but that is not obstacle for him to go after Blanca. He is not a licensed lawyer, but still practices law, and through his cunning he obtains the position of Judge, to the astonishment of Blanca, who sees how a man who is the epitome of corruption and cynicism is rewarded by the State that appoints him as an administrator of justice.
Blanca manages to get a job as a governess at the home of Mrs. Micaela Moreno where she befriends his student, Miss Adela Murillo. Adela is a teenager who is sick all the time, overwhelmed by the harsh upbringing she receives from Mrs. Moreno, her aunt, who is a woman devoted to the Catholic conservatism of her time. Mrs. Moreno is convinced that the differences between social classes exist by the will of God, and people who have money like her should not befriend less fortunate people. Therefore, she believes Blanca Olmedo is not worthy of her friendship, nor the friendship of her niece or her son, because she is from a lower class. Mrs. Micaela Moreno clings to this retrograde belief, although Blanca Olmedo was stripped of her inheritance through deception, she wasn’t born poor, and has better education and manners than her employer, but Mrs. Moreno thinks she is superior just because she has more money.
Mrs. Moreno is educated in religious matters by the young Father Sandino, who visits her regularly in order to see Miss Olmedo, for whom he falls so sickly in love. Father Sandino even denies his own religion before Blanca, trying to show her he cares little for his vows of chastity if he has the luck to win her heart, when in public he keeps the appearance of Christian piety. He suffers the logical rejection of Blanca.
The young doctor Gustavo Moreno, son of Mrs. Micaela Moreno, soon realizes the beauty of Blanca Olmedo and tries to win her love, but Blanca, knowing Mrs. Moreno’s opinion, tries to avoid him by all means, and befriends the young Mr. Joaquin Leiva, who goes to visit her frequently. Leiva also falls in love for her, but she also rejects him.
Gustavo at last overcomes Blanca’s resistance and makes her his girlfriend. This causes the expected visceral rejection of Mrs. Micaela Moreno, who can’t conceive of his son marrying a woman she considers to be inferior. Gustavo manages to appease his mother for some time, while Father Sandino and Verdolaga conspire to separate the couple. To save time, they advise Mrs. Moreno to try to postpone the marriage, request which Gustavo concedes.
Elodio Verdolaga proposes to use his political influence to send Gustavo to war, retaining the letters he may send to his girlfriend. Mrs. Moreno agrees with this plan, despite the danger it poses to her son.
After Gustavo goes to war, Mrs. Moreno dismisses Blanca, but not before insulting her, echoing the libels that Father Sandino and Verdolaga reported to her. Verdolaga told her that Blanca was once his lover. Father Sandino accused Blanca of trying to seduce him. To these slanders Mrs. Moreno added the accusation that Blanca tried to seduce Gustavo for material interest, and that she “prostituted” him.
Blanca comes out very agitated and sick of Mrs. Moreno’s house and seeks shelter in her former maid’s house, who told her the secret that Gustavo actually was not the son of Mrs. Micaela Moreno.
Blanca fails to communicate with Gustavo. The letters they address each other are retained in the post office, at the request of Verdolaga. Blanca’s health worsens when Verdolaga publishes a newspaper slander. At the end Blanca dies with her wedding dress on, without seen Gustavo. When Gustavo returns from war and is informed of the situation he kills himself. Shocked by Gustavo’s death Miss Adela Murillo also dies from a heart attack.
In the epilogue, an epitaph on the tomb where Gustavo, Blanca and Adela were buried says: Innocent victims of a Representative of Justice, a Representative of the Catholic Religion and a Fanatic Woman. Father Sandino disappears from the city, Micaela Moreno repents of all the evil done and founds a refuge to help poor girls and Elodio Verdolaga is sentenced to life imprisonment for his many crimes.
The novel is not available on Amazon, but you can purchase the book at Hondurasmalls, or contact Editorial Guaymuras. See some book excerpts at Google Books.