See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Two Years Without Gabriel García Márquez: A Tribute

Gabriel García Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez with students from the University of Puerto Rico at the 14th Havana Film Festival in 1992. The author is on the left wearing beige shorts and a striped shirt. Photo courtesy Carlos Esteban Cana.

One December morning in 1992, I met Gabriel García Márquez. To be completely honest, Gabo had already been my friend for quite some time, thanks to an ex-girlfriend. The only thing that remained of that first young love of mine was a first edition of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” that she had given me, after which my world would never be the same again.

But the meeting I'm referring to took place at The International Film and TV School during the 14th edition of the International Latin American New Film Festival in Havana, Cuba, the most important cinematographic event in the Caribbean. We were able to attend thanks to a class offered at the University of Puerto Rico. Just like that, García Márquez stumbled upon the Puerto Rican delegation, and we ended up talking to him. That encounter was the highlight of a trip that also gave me the opportunity to watch films like “The Dark Side of the Heart,” “Cinema Paradiso,” and “Century of Lights,” among others. And if that weren't enough, I also attended a reading by Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti.

Gabriel García Marquez

Left to right: Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, French journalist Jean Francois Fogel and co-founder of the Gabriel Garcia Foundation, Jaime Abello. Photo by Carlos Esteban Cana.

Consequently, two years after the death of the great Colombia writer on April 17, 2014, I'd like to share a selection of impressions from a discussion between Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez and French journalist Jean François Fogel called “Memories of language: three of Gabo's friends two years after his death.” The event was held at the Tapia Theater in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 19 within the framework of the 2016 International Congress of the Spanish Language. The event's moderator was Jaime Abello, managing director and co-founder of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism.

Gabo was remembered throughout the discussion in many different ways, as various aspects of his life and personality were recalled. Among the issues touched upon were his love of the bolero, his view of power, and his relationship with the United States.

Jaime Abello (JA): García Márquez hizo que el Congreso de la Lengua se hiciera famosísimo cuando en Zacatecas propuso una nueva manera de abordar la ortografía de la lengua, pero además fue una persona que realmente fue un paladín de nuestra lengua y lo hizo abordando su oficio de escritor desde distintas perspectivas. Por supuesto, la que más le conocemos, por la que es más amado y leído es la literatura: sus novelas y sus cuentos. Pero también como lo recordamos aquí hay un oficio de escritor periodístico de más de 51 años, un oficio de guionista de cine y además de eso de educador de contadores de historias y de periodistas.

Jaime Abello (JA): García Marquez made the Congress of Language extremely famous when he proposed a new approach to the spelling of the language in Zacatecas, but he was also a true champion of our tongue while tackling his job as a writer from different perspectives. Of course, the one we know best, the most beloved and most read of these is literature: his novels and stories. But as we remember him here, we must also remember someone who was a journalistic writer for over 51 years, a film writer, and beyond that, an educator of storytellers and journalists.

Sergio Ramírez (SR): Recuerdo al Gabo como un gran conversador. Alguien que se podía sentar contigo después del almuerzo hasta las 7 de la noche y hablando por supuesto de literatura y también de cine, de política, de asuntos privados también y por supuesto de música, de boleros. El Gabo sabía muchísimos boleros así como sabía de memoria muchas poesías de Rubén Darío por ejemplo y cantaba además.

Sergio Ramírez (SR): I remember Gabo as a great conversationalist. Someone who could sit down with you after lunch until seven in the evening, talking of course about literature and film, politics, private matters too, and of course about music, about boleros. Gabo knew so many boleros just like he knew many of Rubén Darío's poems by heart, for example. And he also sang.

Jean François Fogel (JFF): Yo era periodista y Gabo era amigo de periodistas… Tuve la suerte de coincidir con él en 1977. Yo era un joven periodista y fue generoso, me trató como un viejo profesional y desde ese momento volví a ver el Gabo pero en misiones periodísticas. Recuerdo una vez que estábamos en Nueva York, cuando volvió allí después de tantos años y fuimos a dar un recorrido en Manhattan y nos detuvieron para pedir autógrafos.

Jean François Fogel (JFF): I was a journalist and Gabo was a friend of journalists… I had the good fortune of running into him in 1977. I was a young journalist and he was generous, he treated me like an old pro. After that I saw Gabo, but on journalism trips. I remember once we were in New York. He had returned after so many years and we were exploring Manhattan and people stopped to ask for our autographs.

JA: De García Márquez podría abarcar muchas facetas: de literatura, periodismo y cine. Podríamos hablar de su interés en la educación y en su decisión de formar escuelas de cine por un lado y de periodismo por el otro. Podríamos mirar muchos temas pero hay uno que es el más polémico y que sigue dividiendo la percepción y opinión sobre el Gabo: su relación con el poder y los poderosos.

JA: García Márquez had so many sides to him: literature, journalism, and film. We could talk about his interest in education and his decision to create schools for film on the one hand and schools for journalism on the other. We could look at many issues, but the one that is most controversial and continues to divide people's perception and opinion of Gabo: his relationship with power and the powerful.

SR: A mí me parece que la relación de García Márquez con el poder es esencial en su literatura y su vida. Siempre decía que había tres temas inmortales en la literatura: el amor, la locura y la muerte. Y yo le decía que el poder. El poder es un cuarto elemento esencial en la literatura y él se veía como un personaje metido en esta máquina del poder. Un hombre de la ciénaga colombiana, del pueblo más pobre que de repente y gracias a su literatura y a su creatividad se ve encumbrado y reclamado por los poderosos… Entonces él comienza a estar en esta relación erótica con el poder.

SR: To me it seems like García Márquez's relationship with power is essential in his literature and his life. He always said that there were three immortal themes in literature: love, madness, and death. And I always added power. Power is a fourth essential element in literature and he saw himself as character stuck in this machine of power. A man from the Colombian swamp, from the poorest village who suddenly, thanks to his literature and creativity, sees himself being praised and demanded by the powerful… So he begins to be in this erotic relationship with power.

JFF: Es obvio la figura del caudillo era una cosa muy importante en la literatura de García Márquez; es la figura del patriarca en El otoño del patriarca; es El general en su laberinto; una figura que lo apasiona. […] Le gustaba la figura del poder; era una formidable materia prima para él. No hay que olvidar que para Gabo, dentro de su obra la que le parece más completa, en la que él ve culminado su talento es El otoño del patriarca. Y si uno la relee se da cuenta de que es una obra de una efectividad y control en la narración absolutamente fenomenal. Y Gabo analizaba la reacción de la gente a través de la manera en que valoraban los distintos libros de su obra. En su biografía lo dice claramente… Gabo tenía la conciencia que El otoño del patriarca, con razón o sin razón, era lo mejor de su obra y técnicamente era formidable…

JFF: It's obvious that the figure of the leader was very important in García Márquez's literature; it's the patriarchal figure in The Autumn of the Patriarch; it is The General in his Labyrinth; a figure that he is passionate about. […] He liked the figure of power; it was formidable, raw material for him. We mustn't forget that for Gabo, the work of literature that seemed most complete to him, in which he sees his talent culminated, is The Autumn of the Patriarch. And if you re-read it, you realize that it is a work of absolutely phenomenal effectiveness and narrative control. Gabo analyzed people's reactions through the way they valued the different books in his work. His biography states it clearly… Gabo was conscious that The Autumn of the Patriarch, rightfully so or not, was his best work and technically speaking, it was tremendous…

JA: La pregunta es, si Gabo en un momento dado dice o se le cita valorando de manera especial El amor en los tiempos del cólera por encima de Cien años de soledad. A qué obedece, siendo unas obras tan distintas.

JA: The question is, if at any given moment Gabo says or is quoted particularly valuing Love in the Time of Cholera over 100 Years of Solitude. It could be, given that they are such different works.

SR: Él creía que su obra maestra era “El amor en los tiempos del cólera”. Una vez hablando sobre esto él decía: “No, es que Cien años de soledad es la fábula pero la novela verdadera mía es El amor en los tiempos del cólera”. Le gustaba los personajes, le gustaba la historia… Me parece que es una opinión muy subjetiva. Yo creo que un escritor por sí mismo no puede valorar cuál es su obra maestra. Yo sé que las dos son obras maestras pero hasta donde van las cosas, en este momento después de su muerte, “Cien años de soledad” sigue estando por encima…

SR: He believed that his masterpiece was “Love in the Time of Cholera”. Once, after talking about it, he said, “No, it's just that 100 Years of Solitude is the fable but the true novel of mine is Love in the Time of Cholera”. He liked the characters, he liked the story… I think it's a very subjective opinion. I think that a writer himself cannot determine what his masterpiece is. I know that the two are both masterpieces, but as far as things go, at this time after his death, “100 Years of Solitude” is still winning…

JFF: Una vez me dijo que había releído Cien años de soledad. Entonces yo le dije: ¿Qué tal? Y me responde: “Faltan dos generaciones más”.

JFF: One time he told me that he had re-read 100 Years of Solitude. So I said to him, “How was it?” and he answered, “It needs two more generations.”

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

Learn more about Global Voices »

Donate now

Close