García Márquez: The Man and His Work

By Gene H. Bell-Villada | Go to book overview
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The Writer’s Life

The story of García Márquez’s life is one of steady growth of a number of vocations, all of them interrelated. First, obviously, there is that of writer, both of fiction and journalism (the two of course being narrative crafts), and more broadly his role as lyrical historian of his region and of Hispanic America. Closely linked with his mission as writer are his principles as man of the left. Though he never was a full-time militant, from his twentieth year García Márquez’s art and actions were the work of an independent socialist who, in the wake of One Hundred Years of Solitude, would use his literary fame and marshal his writing skills publicly to support progressive causes. In addition, being true to his extended family origins, García Márquez would flower most freely as a stable family man and father. Last but not least, he was to remain loyally attached to his oldest friends, those predating his sudden success and wealth. Till late in life, García Márquez would set aside his afternoon hours as time to be spent with family and friends (as well as with any casual strangers who may have gained access to him).

He was born in the sad and unpaved town of Aracataca on 6 March 1927 (not 1928, as generally thought), the eldest child of Luisa Santiaga Márquez and Gabriel Eligio García.1 His first eight years, however, would be spent with his maternal grandparents, Tranquilina Iguarán and Colonel Nicolás Márquez. The two latter had strongly opposed his parents’ marriage, partly because Mr. García was poor, illegitimate and a newcomer to Aracataca but most of all because he belonged to the Conservative camp, against which Nicolás had fought fiercely in the Thousand Days’ War. They tried their best to block the courtship, sending Luisa off to stay with a variety of relatives and even managing to have Gabriel Eligio transferred to Riohacha, on the Guajira. But Gabriel Eligio, very much in love with the Colonel’s daughter and determined to woo her, would regularly send her loving messages by wire (he was a telegraph operator). His perseverance did finally break through the Márquez family barriers; Luisa Santiaga’s parents resigned themselves to the situation, and in June 1926 the lovebirds were wedded in Santa Marta Cathedral. Gabriel Eligio nonetheless resented his in-laws and refused to live in Aracataca, “that charnel-house for the poor.” The young couple thus set


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