“The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (1927-2014)
Last Thursday the world lost one of its living legends, Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez. Considered by many to be one the greatest writer in the history of the Spanish-speaking world, rivaled only by Cervantes, Gabo, as he was so affectionately known, was 87 years old. His magical realist novels and short stories exposed tens of millions of readers to Latin America’s passion, superstition, violence and inequality; outselling everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.
To be honest, I cannot think of a single modern Latin American author, poet, or musician that has not cited García Márquez as a creative influence in their work. His development of “Magical Realism” can be seen permeated into innumerable creative work, from literature to stage to screen. He showed us a real world where magic was plausible and a fantasy world so absurd that it could only be real.
But for me, and many other Puerto Ricans, Columbians, and Cubans of my generation, García Márquez gave us a gift we will never be able to pay back. He simplified our social and cultural reality with a name, Macondo.
Macondo was village where most of Gabo’s stories took place, but it was more than a mere backdrop to his novels; it was a character on its own right. He used his home town of Aracataca, Colombia as inspiration for this imaginary town. Culturally and geographically speaking, that region feels more like Havana or San Juan than Andean America, specially its relationship to the ever present Caribbean Sea. Macondo presented the realities, the superstitions, the fantasies, and absurdities of the Caribbean life of Latin America, and elevate them. Here myths and stories become a reality plastered on Newspapers and reality becomes the stuff of legends told in song.
Most teens read García Márquez’s stories and novels in High School and College. We saw our own world reflected in his works, and suddenly our lives seemed less absurd somehow. We actually developed a sense of pride in the ridiculousness of our reality, a reality riddled with political and economic uncertainties; were superstitions, religion, and traditions held together in a strange drunken three-way and intertwine into the patchwork quilt we use to comfort ourselves by the beach campfires.
More than once, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was pressed to confirm if Puerto Rico and Macondo were one and the same. Being a skilled negotiator, journalist, and politician, he never gave a clear answer. “Macondo is not so much a place as a state of mind, which allows you to see what you want, and how you want to see it.”
To this day, thanks to the great works of a man who lived in immortality before his passing, I say with pride that I was born and raised in Macondo.