Mar 07

87 Facts about Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his 87th Birthday

Garcia Marquez Photo


Yesterday probably the greatest living Colombian turned 87 years old – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (or Gabo to his friends). What a life it’s been: from the little town of Aracataca to the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabo has retained his massive popularity in Colombia thanks to his easy costeno charm, and love of the good life. And of course, the books aren’t bad either…

So here, in the spirit of our Fernando Botero birthday post, are 87 facts (disclaimer: some more factual than others) celebrating the life and times of Gabo.

  1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born on March 6th, 1927, in the town of Aracataca, Magdalena.
  2. Gabo fans can visit Aracataca to see the house where he was born.
  3. He was the oldest of 12 children born to his parents.
  4. However, his mother had 11 children and his father 15 (four out of wedlock).
  5. He claimed that he did not really know his mother until he was 7.
  6. His was raised by his maternal grandparents. They were a particularly strong influence on his life, predominantly his grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía.
  7. “My grandfather the Colonel was a Liberal. My political ideas probably came from him to begin with because, instead of telling me fairy tales when I was young, he would regale me with horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics waged against the Conservative government.”
  8.  He said that after his grandfather died, “nothing else of importance ever happened to me.”
  9. His grandmother was equally inspiring, especially the way she “treated the extraordinary as something perfectly natural.”
  10. Her storytelling would strongly influence the style of his most famous works.
  11. The Colonel was strongly opposed to his parent’s marriage, but the persistence of Gabo’s father eventually forced him to grant permission.
  12. Young Gabo showed talent in painting, singing and writing, and could probably have made a career in any of these.
  13. He travelled to school on a river steamer up the great Magdalena river to the capital Bogotá.
  14. Gabo studied Law at the National University of Colombia.
  15. He began his career as a journalist at El Universal in Cartagena in 1948.
  16. He was present in Bogota during the Bogotazo, along with future friend, Fidel Castro.
  17. He went on to write a column in El Heraldo in Barranquilla under the name ‘Septimus.’
  18. During this period he was active in a group of writers called ‘The Barranquilla Group,’ who would strongly influence his literary career.
  19. He lived in a brothel known as ‘The Skyscraper’ in Barranquilla.
  20. He then became a film critic for El Espectador in Bogota.
  21. His coverage of a shipwreck which contradicted the Colombian government’s official version of events caused the paper to send him to Europe as a foreign correspondent.
  22. “Owing to his hands on experiences in journalism, García Márquez is, of all the great living authors, the one who is closest to everyday reality” – Gene H. Bell-Villada.
  23. His first novella, Leaf Storm, was published in 1955.
  24. He felt that it was “the most sincere and spontaneous” of his works.
  25. In 1958 he was married to Mercedes Barcha, whom he had met while she was in college.
  26. “The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.”
  27. Their first son, Rodrigo Garcia, was born the following year.
  28. The family settled in Mexico City in 1961, following a Greyhound Bus journey across the southern United States.
  29. This journey was inspired by one of Gabo’s great literary loves, William Faulkner.
  30. They had a second son, Gonzalo, in Mexico City.
  31. One day, whilst driving to Acapulco with his family, he was struck by an idea: he turned the car around and went home so he could begin writing.
  32. He sold his car for money, and wrote everyday for 18 months.
  33. In 1967, the fruits of this labour were revealed to the world: One Hundred Years of Solitude was the title.
  34. Telling the story of the Colombian town of Macondo, the novel was his most successful ever.
  35. I first read it when I was 14. I never really thought I’d end up living in Colombia…
  36. In 2006, Aracataca organized a referendum to change its name to Aracataca-Macondo. The ‘yes’ vote won, but low voter turnout scuppered the plan.
  37. “Most critics don’t realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.”
  38. Imagine another famous writer doing this:
  39. After this book, Gabo relocated his family to Barcelona for seven years.
  40. Over this period he became friends with many famous and powerful people, including, controversially, Fidel Castro.
  41. “Ours is an intellectual friendship. It may not be widely known that Fidel is a very cultured man. When we’re together, we talk a great deal about literature.”
  42. I’m friends with some pretty famous and powerful people too, although I’m not at liberty to give you their names…
  43. During this period he was famously punched in the face by Mario Vargas Llosa at a theater in Mexico, beginning one of the most famous feuds in literary history.

    Vargas llosa punete garcia Marquez
    Nobel vs Nobel
  44. His outspoken views on US Imperialism led to him being denied entry to the United States for many years.
  45. Bill Clinton lifted this ban, and a street in East L.A. now bears Gabo’s name.
  46. The flight of Venezuelan dictator, Marcos Perez Jiminez, inspired his novel The Autumn of the Patriarch, published in 1975.
  47. “My intention was always to make a synthesis of all the Latin American dictators, but especially those from the Caribbean.”
  48. After this novel was published, the Garcia Marquez family moved back to Mexico City.
  49. “That guy? He’s awesome!” – JL Pastor, See Colombia Travel.
  50. He also pledged not to publish again until Augusto Pinochet was deposed.
  51. He eventually published Chronicle of a Death Foretold with Pinochet still in power, as he “could not remain silent in the face of injustice and repression.”
  52. This novel was published in 1981.
  53. In 1982, Garcia Marquez was presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature, to great celebration in Colombia.
  54. From his Nobel Prize Lecture: “Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. “
  55. When he won the Nobel Prize his mother was quoted as saying, “Maybe now I’ll get my telephone fixed.”
  56. He turned up to the ceremony in traditional Caribbean garb.
  57. Paul Fowler, a previous See Colombia Editor, was once offered a Nobel Prize, but turned it down.
  58. In 1985, he published Love in the Time of Cholera.
  59. This was seen as a non-traditional love story, as the protagonists are both in their 80s when the story takes place.
  60. The novel was made into a film starring Javier Bardem in 2007.
  61. To be fair to Gabo, the movie isn’t great…
  62. Most of his novels have been filmed but he has always refused to let One Hundred Years of Solitude be turned into a movie. “They would cast someone like Robert Redford and most of us do not have relatives who look like Robert Redford.”
  63. In 1999, Gabo was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, and his impending death was falsely reported by several newspapers.
  64. This illness prompted Gabo to begin writing his memoirs.
  65. “I reduced relations with my friends to a minimum, disconnected the telephone, cancelled the trips and all sorts of current and future plans, and locked myself in to write every day without interruption.”
  66. In 2002, he published Living to Tell the Tale, the first volume in a planned trilogy of memoirs.
  67. His 2004 novel, Memories of my Melancholy Whores was banned in Iran.
  68. He claimed that 2005 was “was the first [year] in my life in which I haven’t written even a line.”
  69. Reports surfaced in 2008 that he was beginning a new novel, to be published that year.
  70. However, in 2009, his agent stated that he was unlikely to write again.
  71. Random House disputed this and claimed he would soon publish a novel entitled We’ll Meet in August.
  72. This is one of my favourite photos ever:
  73. In 2012, his family stated that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years.
  74. “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
  75. According to a website that I found, he has been alive for 45,759,775 minutes and counting…
  76. I can’t really get my head around that…
  77. “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams” – Good advice to live by.
  78. He has 7 houses in 4 countries.
  79. Gabo has founded major institutes of film (in Havana) and journalism (in Cartagena, Colombia).
  80.  He smoked 60 cigarettes a day until he was almost 50.
  81. According to William Kennedy, One Hundred Years of Solitude is “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”
  82. He used to fight crime under the pseudonym, Costeno Man.
  83. I might have made that fact up…
  84. “It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.”
  85. This list is even more difficult than the Fernando Botero one…why can’t Gabo be turning 50?
  86. Gabo is extremely superstitious, and never wears gold (that one’s actually true).
  87. See Colombia Travel loves Gabriel Garcia Marquez. How about you?


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