I didn't find out that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had passed until I got home in the evening of April 17, 2014. I have to say, I've been avoiding visiting social media sites; they destroy my ability to keep the focus on my creative endeavors, and I no longer watch TV because I have a lot to read and reread. My phone had lost its charge, so I didn't browse the Internet for my dosage of news either on the train.
When I got home at around 7:00 PM, I checked my Gmail account and found out about the death of the Nobel laureate through one of my students. I’m teaching a creative writing workshop that focuses on how to write effective short stories by mastering the craft of the genre; the essentials. Needless to say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a name my students have become acquainted with by now, since I rejoice in sharing literary references that can aid them in their short story journey. Today, I happened to mention in class “La Viuda de Montiel”, one of Garcia-Marquez short masterpieces.
My student, Jhon–and that’s how he spells his name–says in his email addressed to the class:
For some reason, Gabriel García Márquez (Gabo) was on the tip of our tongues today. I was having lunch with one of my friends from Mexico and suddenly I started talking about Gabo. ‘He, now, lives in Mexico.’ Then, Orlando brought his presence into our class when he mentioned "The Widow of Montiel", one of his short stories. Ironically, Gabo was dying at that precise moment. Gabo starts "The Widow of Montiel" by writing:
‘“When José Montiel died, everyone felt avenged except his widow; but it took several hours for everyone to believe that he had indeed died. Many continued to doubt it after seeing the corpse in the sweltering room, crammed along with pillows and linen sheets into a yellow coffin, with sides as rounded as a melon.”’
I followed one of the two links to two newspapers that Jhon had inserted in the body of his email, because I was still having a problem believing that the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez had just ceased to exist.
I remember that one of my colleagues from my early theater years had sent me some information over two years ago about Garcia-Marquez’s declining health. Her email contained a prayer to be said on his behalf for the restoration to good health, which I said from the heart without hesitation. The idea of his passing was non-existent in my mind, as if the writer I admire the most had grown wings that somehow made him fly beyond life and death while still remaining here, among us.
The New York Times calls him a "Conjurer of Literary Magic". I call him "Gabo, the Writer with Wings in Street Clothes." I saw him in person, only once, at the International School of Film he founded in San Antonio de los Baños in the outskirts of Havana, while working on a short film project in 1990. He said, "Buenos dias" waved his hand at me and kept walking breathing in every color, every sound, every shadow; the whole world.
I fell in love with his short stories first at a very young age. My childhood friend, Gotardo, a voracious reader like no other, introduced me to his work, which is to say, gave me the key to enter a world we felt we belonged in, and yet were never able to make it tangible until Gabriel Garcia Marquez came into our lives.
I can certainly say that my life had two phases: before and after discovering the magic world of this Colombian writer of universal stature. He will forever be my favorite Latin American writer. Gabo, may you dwell in an eternal Macondo full of grace and exuberant beauty, away from pain, away from the fragile reality that cocoons all of our lives!
My friend Joseph Carrion topped it all off quite eloquently in a recent post on Google+:
“He wrote…so that some greatnessmight be illuminated within us all.”
Regardless of his devotion to Dictator Fidel Castro for a considerable number of years, Garcia-Marquez never ceased to be his own genius self: he saw magic where many could only see realism. He created a new trend in literature that ended up becoming a movement. His creative legacy will continue to enlighten many generations to come. Thanks to his imagination, Latin America started to be perceived as a sanctuary and depository of beauty and cultural richness beyond its deprived social and economic status. And I want to remember him as the man who dressed down, who waved his hand and said, “Buenos dias” to me on a hot and sticky July morning in Havana.
April 17, 2014