Aracataca, Colombia, is the inspiration for Macondo, the town of Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Post correspondents paid visits to the town in 2002 and 2007, but now, thanks to Google, we can all (kind of) explore the town, seeing what is real and imagining the magical. In honor of the author, who died yesterday at age 87, a trip to Aracataca/Macondo:
Aracataca emerged at the turn of the last century, a company town of the United Fruit Co. that ran the surrounding banana plantations. Railroad tracks, a rare sight in a country where three mountain ranges doomed any nationwide system, run past pastel billiard halls as they split the town. The train figured prominently in Garcia Marquez’s work, once as the carrier of massacre victims killed during a spate of political violence and labor unrest.
Garcia Marquez was born under a peaked tin roof in 1928, and began absorbing the stories told by his grandmother and grandfather, a veteran of the War of 1,000 Days, that would bloom into the characters of Macondo. He has noted that everything in his fiction is true, despite its fantastical flavor.
Macondo has become the town’s second name and graces everything from telecommunications companies to pawn shops. Painted yellow butterflies cover the welcome sign over the Plaza de Bolivar, a reminder of the swarm that followed the suitor of a member of the sprawling Buendia family in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Nobel Line is the name of the local bus company, a salute to García Márquez’s prize.
Then, Juan Forero visited in 2007, as García Márquez came home again. Forero quoted the author as describing Aracataca as "a good place to live where everybody knew everybody else, located on the banks of a river of transparent water that raced over a bed of polished stones as huge and white as prehistoric eggs." Forero wrote:
To García Márquez, Aracataca, located not far from the Caribbean coast, is all small-town enchantments and tragic dramas. In literature, it becomes Macondo, where the ample Buendía clan roamed incessantly, yellow butterflies fluttered about, people couldn't sleep for years, cows swam and a cast of ebulliently eccentric characters didn't age.
It was here that a young García Márquez heard ghost stories, fairy tales and one adventure yarn after another, drawn from the region's rich and often blood-soaked history. The inspiration led him to become one of the leading writers in the style known as magical realism, with its penchant for weaving sharply drawn realism with dreamlike, even preposterous twists, all presented in a deadpan tone.
Explore for yourself, starting at García Márquez's home.
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