"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Gárcia Márquez
Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, a town in Northern Colombia, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents in a house filled with countless aunts and the rumors of ghosts. But in order to get a better grasp on García Márquez's life, it helps to understand something first about both the history of Colombia and the unusual background of his family.
Colombia won its independence from Spain in 1810, technically making it one of Latin America's oldest democracies, but the sad fact is that this "democracy" has rarely known peace and justice.
In the beginning, there was of course Spain and the Indians, happily hating each other as the Spaniards tore the land up in quest for gold, El Dorado, religious converts, and political power. The English, too, played their part, with Drake attacking Riohachi in 1568 and the countless colonial squabbles of the next few centuries. Declaring itself independent from Spain when Napoleon ousted the Spanish King in 1810, the new country experienced a brief period of freedom and then was quickly reconquered in 1815 by the unpleasant and bloody campaigns of General Murillo. So much did their internal bickering allow their fledgling country to fall to the sword of Murillo, the period is immortalized in Colombia's history with the colorful name of la Patria Boba, or "The Booby Fatherland." Round two, however, fell to the Colombians, when Simón Bolívar reliberated the country in 1820 and became its very first president. In 1849, the country was sufficiently advanced enough to concretize their squabbling in the form of two political parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, who exist to this day. These two parties form the political framework for much of García Márquez's fiction, and understanding their true natures is both a key to his writing and, unfortunately, an important insight to Latin American politics in general.
Although initially forming around the nucleus of two distinct and different ideologies, long years of bloody conflict have served to significantly erode the distinctions between the parties. The Conservatives and the Liberals are more like warring factions or clans than any parties with firmly established and radically different ideologies. Both tend to be repressive, both are corrupt, and both terribly abuse power when it falls into their hands; and throughout the sad history of Colombia, both parties have been more or less at war. It has often been said of Colombia's parties that you do not join them, you are born into them; and indeed they act more as territorial and familial units than as peacefully functioning parties with distinct political platforms. In addition, the country is split into two main regional groups -- the costeños of the coastal Caribbean, and the cachacos of the central highland. Both groups use those terms as pejorative of the other, and both view the other with disdain. The costeños tend to be more racially mixed, verbally outgoing, and superstitious. They are primarily the "descendants of pirates and smugglers, with a mixture of black slaves," and as a whole are "dancers, adventurers, people full of gaiety." The cachacos, on the other hand, are more formal, aristocratic, and racially pure, who pride themselves on their advanced cities such as Bogotá and on their ability to speak excellent Spanish. Traditionally, the tropical Caribbean coast has been a Liberal bastion, and the cool mountains and valleys of the interior tend to the Conservative side. García Márquez has often remarked that he views himself as a mestizo and a costeño, both characteristics enabling his formation and development as a writer.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Colombia was wracked by rebellions, civil wars of both the local and national variety, and several coups d'etat.This century of bloodshed had its culmination in 1899, when the War of a Thousand Days began -- Colombia's most devastating civil war, a conflict that ended in late 1902 with the defeat of the Liberals. The war claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, primarily peasants and their sons. García Márquez's grandfather fought in that war, and many of its veterans would eventually find their way into immortalization as fictional characters in his work.
Another event that would influence his work was the prevalence banana industry and the massacre of 1928.
View Full Essay