Mexico bids farewell to Colombia's Marquez

ANKARA - Mexico bid farewell Monday to Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a national tribute filled with roses and the late Nobel winner's favorite music.

The ashes of the author, who died Thursday at age 87, were received at Mexico City's majestic Palace of Fine Arts with several minutes of thunderous applause after being placed on a black pedestal by his wife, Mercedes Barcha, and his two sons, Gonzalo and Rodrigo.

A coffee-colored urn containing his ashes was placed on a pedestal surrounded by his favorite yellow roses. Fans streamed past to pay their last respects to the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, laying bouquets and taking pictures as a string quartet played classical music.

The memorial ceremony included two string quartets which performed classical music by his favorite composers, including Joseph Haydn, George Handel and Bela Bartok.

The presidents of Mexico and Colombia delivered speeches to honor the giant of Latin American literature, who influenced generations of Spanish-language writers.

"We join together to pay tribute to the one who, from icy Stockholm in December 1982, touched the world by speaking about solitude in Latin America," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called him "the greatest Latin American novelist of all time". 

"We, Mexicans, love him and will always love him," Nieto said.

Known affectionately as "Gabo", Garcia Marquez died on Thursday, April 17, in the Mexico City house where he lived for decades with his wife and two sons. 

Attendees released a flurry of yellow paper butterflies, one of Garcia Marquez's most famous literary images from "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and the author's favorite color.

Garcia Marquez lived in Mexico for decades and wrote some of his best-known works here, including "Solitude."

The cause of his death has not been disclosed, but he died a week after a bout of pneumonia.

His native Colombia will hold another ceremony in Bogota's cathedral for the man Santos hailed as "the greatest Colombian of all time."

Then on Wednesday, to mark World Book Day, Colombians will have readings of Garcia Marquez's novel "No One Writes to the Colonel" in more than 1,000 libraries, parks and universities.

- A life of "magical realism"

Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1927 in the small town of Aracataca, just 56 miles south of the Caribbean city of Santa Marta, and his writing and journalism were greatly influenced by his upbringing amongst the banana plantations on the Colombian coast.

The author and journalist lived in Mexico City for more than 30 years, and was admitted to hospital on March 31 in a fragile state, suffering from pneumonia and a urinary tract infection. He was released from hospital care on April 8 to recover at home.

In recent years 'Gabo,' as he is affectionately known in Colombia, had been suffering from various ailments including lymphatic cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and according to his brother Jaime Garcia Marquez, the author had suffered from the treatments as well.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude," which was published in 1967, went on to sell more than 30 million copies. Although Garcia Marquez studied law at university, he started writing for newspapers on the Caribbean coast in Cartagena and Barranquilla before writing for the prestigious national daily El Espectador in Bogota.

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