Mexican, Colombian presidents hail Gabriel Garcia Marquez in lavish Mexico City memorial

 

McClatchy Foreign Staff

The presidents of Mexico and Colombia Monday evening stood before an urn containing the ashes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and extolled him as the most transcendent Spanish-language writer in centuries.

“Garcia Marquez is the greatest Latin American novelist of all time,” Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told a packed crowd in the ornate vestibule of the Palace of Fine Arts. “Gabo, as we affectionately called him, placed Latin literature in the vanguard of world literature.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Garcia Marquez incorporated in his writings “the very essence of the Latin American being.”

“What a privilege it is to call my compatriot the man who imagined Macondo and who wrote about the power of love,” Santos added, referring to the fictional town at the heart of Garcia Marquez’s most powerful novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Earlier in the day, escorts carrying the ashes of the 1982 Nobel laureate in Literature arrived at Mexico City’s majestic Palace of Fine Arts, placing the urn atop a black marble pedestal set on a brilliant red carpet in the palace’s ornate vestibule. Thousands of yellow roses gave bright color to the palace in an effort to recreate the butterflies and other magical creatures that characterized the writer’s novels.

A string quartet played music by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, and other musicians struck up romantic Vallenato music of northern Colombia, heavy with accordion and Caribbean bongo rhythms, both favorites of Garcia Marquez.

Throngs of admirers filed past the urn.

One bouquet of yellow and white roses came from former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and was dedicated to “my beloved friend.” Raul Castro sent another bouquet dedicated to “a great friend to Cuba.” Garcia Marquez, a staunch leftist, maintained a friendship of near adoration with the former Cuban strongman, and warm relations with his younger brother.

The Colombian writer died at his home in Mexico City last Thursday, a little more than a week after leaving a local hospital where he was treated for pneumonia.

Garcia Marquez is considered the father of the literary genre known as magical realism, the melding of reality, dreams and Latin American history that made his novels favorites in some two dozen languages. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” sold an astonishing 50 million copies worldwide.

His writing evoked lush, evocative and even erotic images of rural Latin American life, where the real and surreal blend together in sorrow and beauty.

In Madrid, Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska said Monday that Garcia Marquez “gave wings to Latin America.”

The first major event to commemorate Garcia Marquez unfolded in Mexico rather than Colombia, his country of birth. Garcia Marquez lived more than three decades in Mexico City, though he also maintained residences in Havana and Cartagena, the port near his Colombian hometown of Aracataca, renowned as the village of Macondo portrayed in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Commemorations continue on Tuesday, when the Colombian government will host a ceremony at the cathedral in that country’s capital, Bogota. The ceremony will be televised.

In addition to “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Garcia Marquez’s novels included "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," and "Love in the Time of Cholera.” A former journalist, he also wrote an account of the abductions of prominent Colombians by the Medellin drug cartel in the late 1980s and 1990s, “News of a Kidnapping,” and a memoir, "Memories of My Melancholy Whores."

Still unclear is where the writer’s ashes will end up. Both Colombia and Mexico would like them but Garcia Marquez’s family has not yet made its wishes known.

After his death last week, Colombia's ambassador to Mexico, Jose Gabriel Ortiz, said that the writer’s remains might be divided between the two countries.

“In Mexico, of course, one part of him will remain, and it's thought that they can take another part to Colombia ... and that some of his ashes will remain there," Gabriel Ortiz said.

The writer’s lifelong fascination with the political left also made him enemies. One incoming Colombian legislator, Maria Fernanda Cabal, tweeted after the writer’s death that she believed Garcia Marquez and Castro “will soon be together in hell.”

On Monday, supporters of Garcia Marquez filed a criminal complaint before Colombia’s Supreme Court demanding that Cabal be formally charged with discrimination and barred from taking her congressional seat.

Email: tjohnson@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @timjohnson4

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Rebecca Abramov, second from left, holds up a sign in Hebrew during a rally in support of Israel in front of city hall in Dallas, Texas, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at the rally, criticizing an American "policy of calculated ambivalence" toward Israel, a nod toward conservative voters as he considers a second run for president. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Brad Loper) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; MAGAZINES OUT; TV OUT; INTERNET USE BY AP MEMBERS ONLY

    Israel calls up another 16,000 reserves

    Israel's military says it is calling up another 16,000 reserves.

  •  
Policemen allow an ambulance to pass through at a road block in Ghodegaon village, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Malin village, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that buried the remote village in western India on Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people as it swept away scores of houses and possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said.

    Landslide buries Indian village; at least 24 dead

    Rescue workers and desperate villagers dug through deep mud, rocks and the debris of shattered homes Thursday after a massive landslide buried a remote village in western India, killing at least 24 people and trapping more than 150, authorities said.

  • KFC owner says China scandal hurting sales

    The owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut restaurant chains said Thursday a food safety scandal in China has hurt sales and might be severe enough to cut into the company's global profit.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category