Magic Ebbs From Colombian Town That Informed an Author’s Work ~ ARACATACA JOURNAL


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ARACATACA, Colombia — Beyond the cellphone stores and the motorcycles buzzing like flies in the 100-degree heat, the hometown of Gabriel García Márquez still has some magic in it.

It is still a place where dilapidated wooden houses hide shady gardens that hint at furtive mysteries, where a 96-year-old woman gets her toenails painted pink and keeps songbirds in cages, and where squealing children swim in irrigation canals flowing beside sun-blasted streets.

Mr. García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning writer who died at age 87 on Thursday, will be remembered at a memorial service in Mexico City on Monday, attended by the presidents of Colombia and Mexico and cultural luminaries (though perhaps none who shines as brightly as Mr. García Márquez, who has been called the most famous writer on the planet).

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Mr. García Márquez left this dusty town when he was still a boy, but he later reached back to his time here as the source for his greatest work, defined by a style known as magical realism. Aracataca became the model for Macondo, the town that serves as the stage for his masterwork, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
Most of his time here was spent in the home of his maternal grandparents, where he soaked up the stories told by his grandmother and other relatives. He said that it was his grandmother’s matter-of-fact way of telling the most fantastic stories that inspired the narrator’s voice in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Now the site of his grandparents’ home, where he was born and which fed the vibrant world of his fiction, has been turned into a tidy museum. Parts of the original wood home remained until a few years ago, but that was all knocked down and rebuilt, according to the museum director, Daniel López.

In its place is a neat, whitewashed structure that in some ways resembles a Swiss chalet more than the local wood architectural style it is meant to mimic.

Much of Mr. García Márquez’s adult life was spent in Mexico, where he died last Thursday. He was cremated and the Colombian ambassador to Mexico said that a portion of his ashes would be brought home to Colombia, although it was not clear where they would reside.


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