Maria and Chiquita Women and Their Choices

Women's roles are small in The Professionals, but they demonstrate a narrow range of choices for women of Hispanic ethnicity in the West at the same time that they reveal a stratification of class that is present and fully as active as in other, more "civilized" venues.12 There is a huge gulf between Maria, the pampered wife of Mr. Grant, and Chiquita, a leftover freedom fighter for Pancho Villa and current supporter ofJesus Raza, a lesser jefe. Yet a subtext of the film is that of choice for these women. Do they or do they not have the freedom of decision and power over their own lives? If so, how and why do they make the choices they do, and what is the outcome, particularly for those around them? Maria, through her various forms of rhetoric (and in spite of the fact that The Professionals has sometimes been accused of racism toward Hispanics), demonstrates that she has choices. Although she presents herself as having been forced to marry Mr. Grant (because of her filial duty), she can elect whether to continue her life as the rich and pampered Mrs. Grant or to return to the true love of her youth. She has decided to abandon her marriage and return to Mexico, but she must also consider whether her decision is solely personal, or whether she is committed to a progressive Mexico. If the latter is true, she must support Raza as he fights against a corrupt government. Her selection of the latter option engenders a variety of strategies, including attempted escape, verbal persuasion, and the proposed exchange of sexual favors for freedom. Not surprisingly, the degree of choice is, in large part, determined by class (although Maria's earlier acquiescence can be ascribed to her youth).

Chiquita's scope of action is markedly more narrow than Maria's; it is not clear whether she has truly had choices or not. She may have wanted to leave her home to become a soldier, or perhaps she was brought along as a camp follower. She may have discovered that she enjoyed the fighting and the camaraderie, or she may have had no place to return to—in the turmoil of the revolution, her family and village may have been swept away. In any event, her current life is what she knows, and it is all she wants—to fight for the man she admires and respects, and to fight by the side of her fellow rebels. Casual sex provides relief from the pressures of fighting and death, but even in this context, there are no choices; or, rather, Chiquita ignores the selection process by accepting the sexual attentions of any man who approaches her. A brief dialogue with Bill confirms this fact:

Bill: Hey, Chiquita, how's your love life?

Chiquita: Why, you want some?

Bill: Don't you ever say no?

Chiquita: Never!

Bill: Anyone?

Chiquita: Everyone!

Chiquita is presented as the most basic and uncomplicated individual in The Professionals. She eats, drinks, sleeps, makes love, and dies, slain in what is essentially a duel with her former lover. She does not take time to think or consider or choose. She only acts, and probably would not even recognize the stresses and ambiguities felt by the other characters. Maria, for example, may loathe her captors for returning her to her hated husband, and she is quick to predict their death in the desert or at the hands of Raza; at the same time, she feels pity for the injured Hans, as she expertly bandages his injured shoulder.13 Chiquita, given her background, personality, and position, would not understand being torn between options that choice brings; the tensions that Maria feels do not exist for her soldier sister. Because of Chiquita's lifestyle, it is not surprising that she meets an early death; indeed, if she were to decide the manner of her own death, she would undoubtedly choose to die at the business end of a gun with a man's lips on hers, for it is a moment that brings together sex and violence, the two chief motifs in her life.

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