We were sitting in the conference room scribbling on post-its when the shout came across the room: “García-Márquez se murió.” Then, a cacophony of sounds all at once – a gasp, several overlapping “NOs,” the clacking of fingers on keyboards as we rushed to Google whether this could really be true. Afterward, heavy silence.
In a way, I’d known it was coming. At 87, García-Márquez was suffering from senile dementia (according to a brother), and had been recently hospitalized for a bout of pneumonia. Reports about his condition all contained the word “fragile”. And yet, it seemed impossible to imagine him succumbing to the inevitabilities of mortality. Somewhere in the back of my mind I expected magic; as in his fiction – where storms could last years and tyrants live for centuries – so too I expected Gabo to just keep going.
After the news broke, I stared at my blinking cursor all afternoon, willing it to produce an eloquent eulogy for a writer who had meant so much to me and to us all. What could I say that hadn’t already been said by people more articulate and important? At best, I could produce only a rough sketch of the outlines of his biography, (information you could find elsewhere anyway); I felt unfit to make any meaningful, definitive statements about the significance of his work to the world. But as we all sat around, sharing our personal anecdotes and memories – stories about summers spent getting lost in the world of Macondo, about books passed down like cherished family heirlooms, about words that connected us to our culture and our humanity – it occurred to me that the true impact of Gabo is perhaps best expressed in these small, indelible memories that we all carry, threads that stitch Latin America and its diaspora together.
And so, my small tribute to him is to collect some of those stories here. I’ve asked several Latino writers, artists, musicians, thinkers and Remezcla staff members to share thoughts on their experience of/relationship to García Márquez’s work (some had already shared them elsewhere on the internet). We’ll be updating this post throughout the coming days as stories come in. Que descanses en paz, Gabo.
Monika Fabian, Journalist and Writer
I was introduced to Gabo’s writing in high school Spanish. Me and this other girl named Meredith worked through Doce Cuentos Peregrinos in Profe Rick’s Spanish 6 class. (Shouts to Profe Rick, a lifechanging conduit who brought Latin American literature into the world of a scrappy 16-year-old Bronx Latina on boarding school scholarship in Quaker southeastern Pennsylvania and later took her on cultural exchange to Mexico—García Márquez’s adopted home—upending her Bronx streetblock-defined globe.) And while don’t remember plot points or characters all these years later, I think a seed was planted then and there. Since then Gabo’s work and life has guided how I view my world and my work. I love his elegant prose, the richness and warmth of his imagery, and his utter love and respect for lo popular (particularly vallenato music). I admire that he cut his teeth as journalist and I think it makes total sense too. Anyone who’s spent significant time in Mexico City or in Latin America can understand how “magical realism” is basically reportage, and yet we needed a voice and vision like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s to notice the magic around us.
Isabel Allende, Author and Journalist
I owe him the impulse and the freedom to plunge into literature. In his books I found my own family, my country, the people I have known all my life, the color, the rhythm, and the abundance of my continent.
Paola Mendoza, Filmmaker Entre Nos
Love in the Time of Cholera showed me how to love without worry. One Hundred Years of Solitude taught me art can make us face our past in order to change our future, Living to Tell the Tale made me better and Gabriel García Márquez inspired me to proclaim with pride, MY stories matter!
Gioconda Belli, Author and Poet, The Country Under My Skin
His writing shows us, Latin Americans, a credible version of our own history: not the academic vision of the history books that in no way resembles our experience but the version we learned by living in forsaken towns and in cities where lunatics and crocodiles roamed the streets and where dictators kept prisoners in cages alongside their pet lions and jaguars. (full piece in LA Times).
Juliana Jimenez Jaramillo, Photo Editor at Slate
At the age of 14, I pulled Cien años de soledad out of my family’s typical Colombian middle-class family library. It was a battered old copy of the 1982 paperback, from the year he won the Nobel Prize. The book took over my life, as it has that of so many teens in Colombia, the country where Gabriel García Márquez was born 87 years ago. For a couple of weeks, all I did was read, sleep, eat, and repeat. Later I experienced the obligatory García Márquez backlash that is part of every Colombian’s coming of age, where for a period of time you move from the self-pitying triteness of thinking he is the best and only worthy thing to come out of Colombia, to the petulant triteness of thinking he was just a very good note-taker who plagiarized his grandmother. Eventually you rediscover him in early adulthood, and he’s as wonderful as you always feared him to be….He lived to tell the tale of Colombia, of Latin America, to tell it back to us like his grandmother did and like our grandmothers still do, while they can. He explained it to us and to the rest of the world, and for a moment they listened—but few understood, and I don’t blame them. It was Colombians, in the end, he was writing for; he told us our own stories back to us in the language and the music of our mothers, lovers, and friends, and we felt less alone because we had our own solitude to turn to. (Full piece here.)
Matt Barbot, Playwright
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings was the story that did it for me, probably because it was the first Marquez story I ever read and one I wound up returning to in class again and again. Eventually I’d return to it on my own time, as well. In Marquez’s magical realism, I found a way of looking at and examining the world that made more sense to me than whatever I thought good, serious writing was at the time. I know that Cien años de soledad is the work that’s supposed to be most important to everyone, but I can’t help but love this tiny little story that in just a few pages changed the way I thought about what writing could do.
Jeniffer Rosa Lopez, Writer
La primera novela que lei del Gabo fue Crónicas de una muerte anunciada– era lectura obligada en el cole. No tenía opción. Mi padre me había regalado Cien años de soledad hacia tiempo pero después de haber intentado leer las primeras 5 páginas dos o tres veces me rendí. Tenía creo 15 años. Luego, en años de universidad, vinieron Erendira, El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba y El amor en los tiempos del cólera. Leí muchos de sus cuentos-pero no lograba regresar a Cien años…
Fast Forward- 32 años, NYC. Recién me había mudado al Alto Manhattan con dos roommates muy pintorescas, ambas actrices. Tenían un armario lleno de libros. Yo no tenía televisor así que retomé la pasión por la lectura. Una noche encontré una edición de Cien años de soledad. Decidí que era hora de enfrentarme a esas primeras páginas nuevamente. Una vez sobreviví esas páginas, me obsesioné. No podía esperar llegar del trabajo para continuar, casi me alimentaba de esa novela. Ocurrió lo que era de esperarse, casi al final comencé a sentir mucha angustia porque no quería acabar. Creo que me leí Cien años en 5 días máximo. Esas últimas dos páginas me arrancaron un grito. Llore de tanta emoción. No podía creer lo que me había perdido todos estos años. No podía creer semejante final, que grandes palabras y que gran imaginación.
Me cambió la vida ese libro y me sentí de pronto mas orgullosa de ser latinoamericana, de hablar español, de entender esas páginas en su mismo idioma.
Por siempre Gabo. Por siempre Latinoamérica.
Bocafloja, Rapper and Poet
The very first time I became aware of García Márquez’s work was in elementary school. We read El coronel no tiene quien le escriba. I’ve always appreciated the musicality in his narrative. I think it’s the thread that unites his work, the way he was able to add a rhythm and flow that made literature a colorful experience. Even at a young age it really impacted me. Then I got older and became more critical toward literature and art in general — I have to confess I’m not a huge fan of el realismo mágico — but I think no one can deny his work was important for giving a new face and voice toLatin American art and literature. It changed the whole face of the work that was being produced at that time.
Laura Palau, Remezcla Associate Director of Digital
I’m a slow reader. The better the writing, the longer it takes me to read it. Sometimes I read sentences twice, three times, or four. I love this, and I owe it to Gabo. He taught me to not just read, but to savor. To taste each carefully chosen word, to pause and relish the vivid image that each phrase was meant to summon. My first book of his was Cronica de una muerte anunciada, which was assigned at my Saturday Argentine school in ninth grade. Like everyone, I feared for Santiago Nasar when he didn’t know what was coming, and mourned him when he was gone. I suffered heartache with Florentino Ariza on the trains of Europe while I was backpacking, so grateful for the company of El amor en los tiempos del cólera – and because I read it slowly, it lasted that much longer.
Thank you, Colombia, for one of your greatest gifts to the world, and thank you, Gabo, for teaching me to appreciate the writing.
Efraín Forero, President of Davivienda
Cuando leí Cien años de Soledad por primera vez quede inmediatamente capturado por la delicia de entrar en ese mundo mágico de nuestro Caribe que nos pasea por la realidad y la virtualidad sin nunca estar seguros de estar en lo cierto. Todo ello narrado en un bello lenguaje pleno y próximo que hizo que mi lectura fuera hecha en horas, sin poder dejar el libro. Gabriel Garcia Márquez y su genialidad llevó los colombianos a todo el mundo.