Mourning and memories in Garcia Marquez's languid hometown

Mourning and memories in Garcia Marquez's languid hometown

ARACATACA Colombia - The sleepy Colombian town that was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's birthplace and inspired him to write "One Hundred Years of Solitude" mourned its Nobel Prize-winning author on Friday with music, candles and flowers.

A day after Garcia Marquez's death, his cousin Nicolas Ricardo Arias leafed through dog-eared photographs and recalled with a smile the family reunions on the rare occasions when Aracataca's famous son returned home.

"I remember him with his whisky and his jokes," said Arias, 78, on the porch of his humble home in the town near Colombia's Caribbean coast. "This is a very special day of sadness and memories ... Today we will just remember Gabriel."

Garcia Marquez, who died at his home in Mexico City on Thursday, spent the first years of his life in Aracataca and drew on it for some of the characters and tales in his masterpiece "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

Dozens of mourners gathered on Friday at a shrine of flowers and candles on the piece of land where he was born. Musicians played guitar and sang ballads commemorating his life.

"We heard he had died, and we rushed right here," said one resident, Sara Parodis, as she made cut-out yellow butterflies, a tribute to the swarms of butterflies that appeared in the classic novel whenever one character's forbidden lover arrived.

"This is the end of a very important era," Parodis said, pinning one of her butterflies on the lapel of a mourner.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" tells the epic, dream-like story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional town of Macondo, based largely on Aracataca.

Garcia Marquez said he drew on the stories that his grandmother told him when he was a child, laced with folklore, superstition and the supernatural.

The novel sold over 30 million copies, helped Garcia Marquez win the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and popularised the genre of magical realism. In it, characters are visited by ghosts, a plague of insomnia envelops Macondo, a priest levitates above the ground and the child of an incestuous couple is born with a pig's tail.

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