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Summary Article: García Márquez, Gabriel (1927–)
From Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice

Winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, on March 6, 1927. A prolific artist, García Márquez—known as “Gabo” by family, friends, and fans—writes novels, novellas, short stories, plays, and essays and also enjoys prominence and respect as a journalist and a publisher. Even before his fame as the author of the massive tome One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), García Márquez wrote stoically of the injustice, violence, corruption, and imperialism rampant in his native Colombia. He was often forced to flee his own country because of his liberal/leftist views and his powerful voice. After the acceptance of his novel by the paragons of Western letters as a “masterpiece” and the Western validation of his artistry with the Nobel Prize, García Márquez found that his new wealth and fame placed him squarely in the forefront of international and national politics. The powerful and the powerless come to him as a confidante, mentor, and financial backer. Names like Fidel Castro, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Omar Torrijos, even Pablo Escobar, people Gabo’s life. His socialist worldview and his monetary support link him to organizations like the M19 and Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). Primarily, his goals are to end the in-fighting, the poverty, the neglect, and the outside interference that keep his beloved country in constant turmoil. Both his fiction and his nonfiction are his strongest weapons in his tireless battle.

The history and culture, as well as the social and political unrest, in Colombia specifically and in Latin America generally, embody and propel the actions in García Marquez’s narratives. The plots, places, and characters in his works are the lives, loves, tragedies, and atrocities of his creative imagination and the realities of his experiences. García Márquez uses his skills as a storyteller and his background as a journalist to examine, explore, and expose life in Latin America. His writing, which at times seems deceptively accessible, offers evocative parables, allegories, and indictments of totalitarian governments, military and political leaders, drug cartels, civil wars, organized religion (the Catholic Church), stereotypical gender roles, convoluted bureaucracies, stifling social caste systems, and hypocritical mores and traditions that crush the individual’s spirit and spirituality. His novels, novellas, and short stories resist simplistic binaries to give life (body and soul) to marginalized people, moving their voices to the center. His works question the legitimacy of “Western truths” by looking at truth through the eyes of Latino culture. His predominant themes focus on love, lust, good, evil, redemption, salvation, sin, conformity, imprisonment, power, family, and the indomitable fortitude of humankind.

Initially raised by his maternal grandparents, García Márquez heard the stories of his public world—military, political, economic, and historical—from his grandfather, Colonel Nicolas Márquez. From his grandmother, he learned of his private world and the culture of the suspension of disbelief. Omens, superstitions, dreams, beliefs, the marvelous, the mythic, and the fantastic were all told to him by her. Long before he was labeled a magical realist, García Márquez held the seeds of his consciousness, conscience, and imagination in the world of his grandparents, his aunts, and his rural, coastal community. He experienced, heard, and saw the oppression of poverty, the repression of capitalism and colonialism, the silencing of historical wrongs, the violence of civil wars, the assassinations of dissenting voices, and the unending struggle for both public and private power. As a young man, he fled the aftermath of the 1948 assassination of Jorge Gaitan—a president for the people—his forced law studies, and his own controversial journalism. In 1955, García Márquez was sent by his paper, El Espectador, to Europe. He traveled, read, and wrote extensively about human nature’s great capacity for beauty and pain, but never lost sight of his homeland and heritage.

His truths, realities, experiences, and myths have found their ways into his political and social activism, and thus, into his books, such as Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Autumn of the Patriarch, Love in the Time of Cholera, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Of Love and Other Demons, News of a Kidnapping, and The General in His Labyrinth. In addition, García Márquez cofounded Prensa Latina in Colombia, based on the model established by Fidel Castro in Cuba. He set up the Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism to benefit young Latin American journalists. García Márquez, now well into his 70s and suffering from cancer, continues to write his memoirs, the first volume of which is Living to Tell the Tale of 2003. He co-owns, but does not censor, Cambio (Change), a newsmagazine based in Bogotá, Colombia. He and his wife Mercedes live primarily in Mexico City.

    See also
  • Anti-Colonial Movements, Latin America; Castro, Fidel; Literature and Activism; Postmodernism

Further Readings
  • Bell-Villada, G. H. (1990). García Márquez: The man and his work. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • García Márquez, G. (1970). One hundred years of solitude (G. Rabassa, Trans.). New York: Avon Bard.
  • García Márquez, G. (2004). Living to tell the tale (E. Grossman, Trans.). New York: Vintage International.
  • Kathy P. Kilpatrick

    Copyright © 2007 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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