News / Arts & Entertainment

Mourning, Memories in Garcia Marquez's Languid Hometown

A view of the highway is seen at the entrance of Aracataca, which is the birthplace of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, April 18, 2014.
A view of the highway is seen at the entrance of Aracataca, which is the birthplace of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, April 18, 2014.
Reuters
The sleepy Colombian town that was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's birthplace and inspired him to write “One Hundred Years of Solitude” mourned its Nobel Prize-winning author on Friday with music, candles and flowers.
 
A day after Garcia Marquez's death, his cousin Nicolas Ricardo Arias leafed through dog-eared photographs and recalled with a smile the family reunions on the rare occasions when Aracataca's famous son returned home.
 
“I remember him with his whisky and his jokes,” said Arias, 78, on the porch of his humble home in the town near Colombia's Caribbean coast. “This is a very special day of sadness and memories ... Today we will just remember Gabriel.”
 
Garcia Marquez, who died at his home in Mexico City on Thursday, spent the first years of his life in Aracataca and drew on it for some of the characters and tales in his masterpiece “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.
 
Dozens of mourners gathered on Friday at a shrine of flowers and candles on the
Residents hold lighted candles as they pay homage in front of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's home in Aracataca, April 17, 2014.Residents hold lighted candles as they pay homage in front of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's home in Aracataca, April 17, 2014.
x
Residents hold lighted candles as they pay homage in front of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's home in Aracataca, April 17, 2014.
Residents hold lighted candles as they pay homage in front of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's home in Aracataca, April 17, 2014.
piece of land where he was born. Musicians played guitar and sang ballads commemorating his life.
 
“We heard he had died, and we rushed right here,” said one resident, Sara Parodis, as she made cut-out yellow butterflies, a tribute to the swarms of butterflies that appeared in the classic novel whenever one character's forbidden lover arrived.
 
“This is the end of a very important era,” Parodis said, pinning one of her butterflies on the lapel of a mourner.
 
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the epic, dream-like story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional town of Macondo, based largely on Aracataca.
 
Garcia Marquez said he drew on the stories that his grandmother told him when he was a child, laced with folklore, superstition and the supernatural.
 
The novel sold over 30 million copies, helped Garcia Marquez win the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and popularized the genre of magical realism. In it, characters are visited by ghosts, a plague of insomnia envelops Macondo, a priest levitates above the ground and the child of an incestuous couple is born with a pig's tail.
 
Faded Magic
 
It made Aracataca famous and drew literary pilgrims hoping to absorb some of the bewitching energy he wrote about.
 
But there is little magic in the Aracataca of today, and it retains no evidence of the banana wealth which washed over northern Colombia in the early 20th century.
 
Concrete buildings have replaced the elegant wooden homes and offices set up by plantation owners, political slogans splash the walls and residents sit on street corners sipping beer and complaining that the government has failed to harness the opportunity that Garcia Marquez's fame brought.
 
A wooden replica of his grandparents' home seeks to create a sense of the past. His comments are displayed on giant posters above his bed and at the dining room table plates are laid out as if waiting for him to join the family for dinner.
 
Photos show the appalling conditions endured by workers at a nearby banana plantation that led to a 1928 strike and the massacre of thousands. He portrayed the slaughter in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and used the real name of the military officer who led the attack, General Cortes Vargas, the only historically accurate name in the entire novel.
 
Since Garcia Marquez's death on Thursday, tributes have poured in from U.S. President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and poets, presidents and pop stars from across Latin America. He was the region's most famous and beloved author, known affectionately as “Gabo”.
 
“When someone like him writes that way, he ties you to them like a brother and makes you love him as if you had known him,” Arturo Covarrubias, a 46-year-old mariachi musician, said at a book fair in Mexico City on Friday.
 
“The work of men like him is immortal,” Cuban President Raul Castro said. Garcia Marquez, a leftist who flirted with communism, was a decades-long friend of Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, Raul's older brother.
 
In Aracataca, residents are clearly proud of their native son but some feel he could have done more to ease poverty here.
 
“He brought nothing at all to the town. We have his house, and a few murals, but nothing much else,” said Osvaldo Bergara, selling water on a street corner close to the house.
 
But others, like his cousin Nicolas, say Garcia Marquez is not to blame and that local corruption has sapped the town of its potential.
 
“It's totally unfair, he gave and the administration took it and did nothing,” Arias said, pointing to the muddy road that floods his home during storms. “We don't even have drainage. It's the government that should pay for this, not Gabo.”
 
“He would ask me 'How is Aracataca?' And I would tell him: 'It's abandoned.' That made him sad.”
 
Garcia Marquez left Aracataca to attend high school and never lived there again, though he visited occasionally.
 
While Aracataca's past glories have faded, residents still remember their own grandparents' tales of years ago.
 
“My grandmother told me of the music and dancing in the square, of the plantation owners who would come by, and Gabo and his visits,” said Parodis. “The memories are from another time.”

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."