|Gabriel Garcia Marquez|
ARACATACA, Colombia (AFP) ― In his sleepy, tropical home town, the people who knew the late Nobel-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a child are greeting his death with warm memories and hope.
“His grandfather, who was the colonel, kept him in the house a lot, very protective. And (Garcia Marquez) just came out to go to school,” recalled Anibal Calle, who knew the literature laureate as a very small boy.
“At that time, the teacher would stop by their home and take him to school by the hand,” said the elderly Calle, glancing at the picket fense across the street that encloses the leafy patio of the Garcia Marquez family home.
Garcia Marquez, whose “magical realism” told epic stories of love, family and dictatorship in Latin America, died Thursday aged 87 in Mexico City. He lived there for decades.
Born March 6, 1927, in this inland outpost in northern Colombia’s tropical Magdalena region, not far from the Caribbean, Garcia Marquez was the son of a telegraph operator.
“Gabo,” as many friends called him, was raised by his grandparents and aunts in a tropical culture influenced by the heritage of Spanish settlers, indigenous people and black Colombians.
Aracataca was, and still is, the kind of small town where a dog can nap in the middle of the street and little is likely to wake him up.
His exotic yet intimate back-of-the beyond home town inspired his writing, including his masterpiece, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which was translated into 35 languages and sold more than 30 million copies.
The book, published in 1967, is a historical and literary saga about a family from the imaginary Caribbean coast-region village of Macondo between the 19th and 20th centuries.
It was rich in “magical realism,” which Garcia Marquez described as the notion that, behind reality as we perceive it, there is much more going on that we do not understand.
Here in his hometown, friends and admirers reacted to Garcia Marquez’s death not with the sobbing, sadness or mourning more typical of Spanish and Andean cultures.
Instead the tone here was cheery and hopeful, traits seen in Colombia as typical of the Caribbean coast. That same upbeat cheer was a big part of Garcia Marquez‘s personality.
Elvia Vizcaino remembers when Garcia Marquez came back for a visit in 1983, after winning his Nobel prize a year earlier.
“My husband, who was better known as ’Monkey‘ Todaro, when he had a couple of drinks under his belt, went up to Gabo and asked him for a bottle of rum. He kept hounding (Garcia Marquez) around asking for one, until finally Gabo asked him for a paper on which to write down an I.O.U.”
“This is good for 10 bottles of rum for Monkey Todaro” reads the note signed by the Nobel-winner, which Todaro’s widow cherishes to this day.
“The best part was when my husband looked at it and realized what it said ― and he asked Gabo ‘hey, where am I going to be able to cash this in?’ And (Garcia Marquez) shot back ‘In Stockholm,’” she said, bursting into laughter.