Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Why Google honours him today
1st March 2019

Marquez is described as ‘the greatest Colombian who ever lived’.

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    One of the most popular Spanish-language writers in the world, and the best-known practitioner of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez would have been 91 on March 6.

    Affectionately known as Gabo, Marquez is also known as “the greatest Colombian who ever lived”. He was a novelist, poet, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist.

    In 1982 Gabo became the first Colombian and only the fourth Latin American author to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

    Marquez’ life was not always easy, as he had some serious health issues. At the age of 85, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after fighting a long battle against lymphatic cancer which he was diagnosed with in 1999.

    This is his story:

    History vs reality

    • Marquez was born in the town of Aracataca in 1927, and grew up with his maternal grandparents, Tranquilina Iguaran and Colonel Nicolas Ricardo Marquez, until he left to attend school in the capital, Bogota.

    • His grandfather was a colonel who killed a man in a duel; he had three legitimate and an unknown number of illegitimate children.
    • Marquez remembered something his grandfather told him: “you can’t imagine how much a dead man weighs”, and later integrated that lesson into his novels.

    • The Colonel, whom Garcia Marquez described as his “umbilical cord with history and reality”, was also an excellent storyteller.

    Colonel Nicolas Ricardo Marquez 

     Always a journalist 

    • Marquez studied law but never received a degree. He instead chose the path of journalism in El Espectador.

    • The late 1940s and early ’50s in Colombia were a period of civil unrest, which left as many as 300,000 people dead. This era would become the background for several of his novels.
    • The political unrest sent Marquez back to the coast, to the town of Cartagena de Indias, where he continued writing.

    • He wanted to stay close to the real world, a journalist who wrote fiction. Leaf Storm, his first novella, was written in 1955 when he was only 27 years old.

    • “I’m a journalist. I’ve always been a journalist,” he told the Associated Press news agency. “My books couldn’t have been written if I weren’t a journalist because all the material was taken from reality.”

    An iconic writer with iconic books! Happy Birthday, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. #HappyBirthdayMarquez


    • Marquez read intensely; he is known to have read the American writers Hemingway, Faulkner, Twain and Melville; as well as the European writers Dickens, Tolstoy, Proust, Kafka and Virginia Woolf.

    • “I cannot imagine how anyone could even think of writing a novel without having at least a vague of idea of the 10,000 years of literature that have gone before,” Marquez said.

    • But he was not as impressed by Western Europe as many other Latin American writers, and he often expressed his belief that Europeans were patronising Latin America.

    • Europeans, he said in his Nobel lecture, “insist on measuring us with the yardstick that they use for themselves, forgetting that the ravages of life are not the same for all, and that the quest for our own identity is just as arduous and bloody for us as it was for them”.

    Garcia Marquez, author

    Journalism and fiction 

    • Marquez started alternating between journalism and fiction in the late 1950s.

    • In 1961, he moved to Mexico City where he would live on and off for the rest of his life. 

    • After four years of not writing fiction, the author began writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, which was inspired by a drive he took to Acapulco in Mexico. 

    • Once he returned to his home, he started an 18-month journey, during which he wrote non-stop while his wife Mercedes looked after the household.

    • Published in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude sold out within days.
    • The author penned over 25 books, transporting readers into a world of magical realism, infusing otherwise ordinary situations with magical elements.

    Left-wing causes 

    • Marquez used his name, time and money to support left-wing causes.

    • He was a defender of the Sandinistas, and for over three decades, the US denied him a visa to travel there. They believed he was a member of the Colombian Communist Party, a suspicion bolstered by his friendship with Fidel Castro.

    • His shorter pieces dealt with subjects including Venezuela’s  Hugo Chavez, while his book, News of a Kidnapping, portrayed how cocaine traffickers, led by Pablo Escobar, worked in his native Colombia.
    • After receiving his cancer diagnosis, Marquez spent his time writing his memoirs, his only other work during this time was one novella that described the love affair between an old man and a prostitute. 
    • Marquez died at the age of  87 at his home in Mexico City.


    • The international recognition he earned allowed bim to act as a facilitator in several negotiations between the Colombian government and the armed groups.

    • In 1972 he was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

    • And in December 1982, he received the Nobel Prize in literature “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”.


    • In his Nobel Prize lecture, Marquez said that Europeans,“insist on measuring us with the yardstick that they use for themselves, forgetting that the ravages of life are not the same for all, and that the quest for our own identity is just as arduous and bloody for us as it was for them.”

    • And, “Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration.”
    • On marriage, Marquez said: “Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness, but stability.”

    • Click here for more quotes by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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