Colombia bids farewell to a literary giant

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s memorial brings central Bogota to a standstill.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s memorial brings central Bogota to a standstill.

BOGOTA, Colombia - Inclement weather and heavy rains did not keep the faithful from honoring the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, known as Gabo and Colombia’s most famous author, at a ceremony in Bogota on Tuesday.

Colombia has been in mourning since Garcia Marquez’s death at age 87 in Mexico City on April 17.

Tuesday’s ceremony, led by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and attended by various ministers, diplomats and the ex-presidents Belisario Betancur, César Gaviria Trujillo and Ernesto Samper Pizano, was designed to celebrate and evoke the personality of Colombia’s literary giant.

The Primada Cathedral in the Plaza de Bolivar in downtown Bogota was bedecked with yellow roses, the Nobel-prize winning author’s favorite and which he believed helped him to write. 

“Gabo leaves humanity the legacy of his work, which is itself formidable, but above all he leaves us with hope, the task and the determination to work together for the good of all people,” said President Santos in his address.

Garcia Marquez, “sought peace, he worked for peace, always wanted a Colombia in peace and, in his memory, we will not falter in this task, the largest we have as a nation,” Santos said.

From Wednesday in Colombia, and coinciding with World Book Day, there will be organized public readings of some of Garcia Marquez’s works beginning with “Nobody Writes to the Colonel.”

Next week, when the annual International Bogota Book Fair commences, there will be further events to commemorate the author known for such works as “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “Love in the Time of the Cholera” and “News of a Kidnapping."

Garcia Marquez had been in poor health for some time, suffering from lymphatic cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. He was released from hospital care after urinary tract and lung infections in early April and died days later. 

A service hosted by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City on Monday. 

The author’s remains, which were cremated in a private family ceremony in Mexico City, are to be scattered in both Mexico and his native Colombia.  

“Today I call on Colombians to give the best tribute, which is to return to their books, their texts and to read or reread them, because they are home to our national essence and not only that, it’s here that we can dream, which is the prime material for literature,” said President Santos.

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