El Gabo, as he was known to everyone, had strong links to Venezuela. Born and raised in the Colombian coastal region that shares so much cultural affinity with our own country, García Márquez actually lived in Caracas for a while, and had many friends in our country. When he received his Nobel prize dressed in a liqui-liqui, the traditional dress of the northern plains of South America, somehow we all felt deeply proud. I was just a kid, and I remember it.
Although always a man of the deep, deep left, García Márquez was not really a chavista. He never connected with Chávez the way he did with, say, Fidel Castro. Still, his piece on Hugo Chávez, written during the early years of his presidency, warned us of the dual nature of chavismo and of the man himself. It remains a must read.
I disliked his politics, and I must confess that I was not a huge fan of García Márquez’s writing either. I enjoyed some of his stuff (The General in his Labyrinth is a particular favorite), and did not like some of his most famous things (One Hundred Years of Solitude, or the first tome of his autobiography – just not my cup of tea). His most enthralling work, for me, remains News of a Kidnapping – raw, real, matter-of-fact yet utterly devastating.
Whatever you think of his writing, he was undoubtedly a giant in the continent. Few Latin Americans have ever reached the status of hemispheric icon the way Gabo did (Fidel? Gardel? Cantinflas?). He made magical realism a household term, one that outlives him both in literature and in our real life politics. His life was, for lack of a better word, garciamarqueana. RIP.