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September 17, 2014
Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mexican leader heads homage to ‘Gabo’

Gabriel García Márquez’s widow Mercedes Barcha and their sons Rodrigo García Barcha and Gonzalo García Barcha stand next to an urn containing the writer’s ashes in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.

Fans pay tribute to Nobel laureate at Palace of Fine Arts and in author’s birthplace in Colombia

The ashes of Gabriel García Márquez were taken yesterday to Mexico City’s majestic Palace of Fine Arts, where thousands of admiring readers began paying tribute to the Colombian Nobel laureate considered one of the greatest Spanish-language authors of all time. Fans and family paid their respects to the beloved author, leaving flowers and playing music in remembrance of the Nobel laureate and giant of Latin American literature.

Hundreds thronged outside the Palace of Fine Arts, a domed jewel of early 20th century architecture, to lay bouquets and see the urn containing the ashes of the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, who died in Mexico on Thursday, at age 87.

Mourners used umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they bade farewell to the man known to friends and fans alike as “Gabo.” Some struck up music, playing on tambourines and maracas. Inside, a few guests cried out “Gabo” as the author’s ashes entered in a box into the Palace of Fine Arts.

“He awakened in me a love of literature and he will always be unique for me because he marked my life,” said Monserrat Paredes, a 27-year-old biologist carrying a bouquet of yellow roses. “His genius didn’t make him immortal, although he is for me,” she said in tears. Mónica Arrisson, a 55-year-old math teacher visiting Mexico City from the northern state of Chihuahua, said García Márquez was “the biggest there was in Latin America.”

The presidents of Mexico and Colombia were expected at the late-afternoon ceremony four days after the death of the 87-year-old writer. García Márquez’s birthplace, the town of Aracataca on Colombia’s Carib-bean coast, was holding a symbolic funeral. Colombia also planned a marathon reading this week of García Márquez’s work “No One Writes to the Colonel.”

Márquez, known throughout Latin American and much of the world simply as “Gabo,” lived in Mexico for decades and wrote some of his best-known works here, included the renowned One Hundred Years of Solitude. “Gabo was a watershed in my life,” said Nelly Hernández, a 52-year-old teacher who was waiting outside the Palace of Fine Arts for the doors to open, holding a pair of yellow paper butterflies, echoing one of the best known images from One Hundred Years of Solitude. “He taught me to relish life through literature,” Hernández said.

Mexican officials said some of García Márquez’s favourite classical music would be performed at the ceremony led by Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.

Family members have not yet announced what they plan to do with his ashes. Colombia has said it would like at least some of the ashes to go to his homeland.

Symbolic funeral

People held a ceremony of their own in Aracataca, the inspiration for Macondo, the setting for his 1967 seminal masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, which sold millions of copies around the world. Local resident Elvia Vizconte said García Márquez would be remembered for generations to come. “He was a very important person here in Aracataca. And now he leaves us a very special legacy for new generations, his novels, his tales, his stories,” she told reporters.

Aracataca residents planned to walk from García Márquez’s childhood home, now a museum dedicated to his life and work, to the church in the centre of town, then to the town cemetery and back to the museum. Jorge Polo Camargo, who organized the event in Colombia, said mourners would carry hundreds of yellow paper butterflies, a reference to the character Mauricio Babilonia, who was always trailed by a cloud of yellow butterflies. Yellow was García Márquez’s favourite colour.

The Colombian government will hold a formal ceremony today, at the main cathedral in the capital Bogota, which will be televised. Then tomorrow, Colombians will have readings of García Márquez's novel No One Writes to the Colonel in hundreds of libraries, parks and universities across the country.

The BBC’s correspondent in Bogota Arturo Wallace said there was some sadness in Colombia that the first main event to commemorate García Márquez was taking place in Mexico rather than his country of origin. But he added that Colombians also understood that García Márquez made Mexico his home and, despite his frequent trips to Colombia, they were used to his absence.

Herald with AP, Reuters, online media

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