The Magical Thinkings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Magical Thinkings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This article appears in Volume 27: The Books

first stepped through
‘s historic walls as a 16-year-old armed with a copy
of Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez’s famous
novel about the love between his own parents. I was immediately
enchanted as “Gabo’s” magical world came to life. I marvelled at
the candied colours of the colonial buildings, their balconies
overflowing with bougainvillaea, and lost myself in the labyrinth
of its side streets, walking behind the swaying hips of the city’s
palenqueras, the graceful women who pedal exotic fruit from
enormous bowls balanced atop their heads.

Meanwhile, the nights were thronged with music. Dinner at La
Vitrola to the accompaniment of a legendary salsa trio was followed
by an impromptu performance by cumbia dancers, elegant in their
voluminous white skirts. A talented musician and dancer himself,
Gabo infused these rhythms into his novels
and he would often say that they were in his DNA. “This whole
literature thing is just a hobby,” he jokingly confided to the
Queen of Sweden at the Nobel Prize ceremony. “In fact, what I
really am is a master of cumbia.”

These early impressions were my real-world entry point into the
fantastical, fictional realms of Gabo’s imagination – a gateway
that would lead me over the years beyond Cartagena into more remote
pockets of the country where folklore, legend and fact mingle and
merge, and carnivalesque characters inhabit the tropical towns and

The Carnaval de Barranquilla, a four-day festival that gives

a run for its money, is a raucous counterpoint to the
stillness of the mountains. The parties here inspired Gabo’s
fictitious Macondo Carnival, in which Remedios the Beauty is
declared Queen. Gabo spent time partying in this bustling sea port
in the early 1950s as a young journalist and it’s also where he met
with like-minded intellectuals Alfonso Fuenmayor, Álvaro Cepeda
Samudio and Alejandro Obregón at La Cueva, forging a formidable
gang of artists, musicians and fellow writers who would shape
contemporary culture in Colombia.

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