Gabo and the Rediscovery of the Magdalene

A pictorial vision of the riverside towns of the Caribbean regions of Columbia, the semi-fictional Macondo, and the Rio Grande de la Magdalena were critical elements of the work of today’s Gabriel García Márquez, Gabo for friends. Perhaps the apex of his literary reflections was given in the Magdalena, the extensive river prominent in books such as Love in the Times of Cholera and The General in His Labyrinth. Today we pay homage to the writer and the side, which made us fall in love with magical realism.

Avid readers regard Macondo as a fictional village that in One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) is described as «a village of twenty mud and reed houses built on the edge of a river of open water that rushed down a bed of polished, white and huge stones like prehistoric eggs…» He also has a presence in other works such as La Hojarasca  (1955),  El Coronel has no one to write to him  (1961),  The Funerals of the Big Mom  (1962), and The Bad Hour  (1962). Macondo does exist. It is formed by a farmhouse that demands investments in health, education, drinking water, energy, and everything that entails improving its quality of life.

Macondo is located on the left bank of the Seville River, a village of two unique streets and just over 50 houses that nest when the river overflows with rains. It was founded in 1982 and belonged to the Corregimiento de Guacamayal, in the Bananera del Magdalena Area.

In the village of Macondo, many foreigners come to visit her attracted by the reference of García Márquez in her books. The name was taken from the Macondo tree and distinguished by its long trunk without branches and which loses the leaves between November and May, in the dry season. It is a tree similar to the ceiba, is part of the family of bombaceae, and can have a height of more than 20 meters.

 Illustration: Fernando Vicente Illustration.

The Seville River is detached from the River artery of the Magdalena. Its approaches have given the development of various peoples in Columbia. Like Macondo, they have based their economy, subsistence, and culture on water. If we look at it in hindsight, the great religions were born and prospered by the rivers: China, on the banks of the Yellow-Huang- and Blue-Yangtze- rivers; the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Egyptian, on the banks of the Nile; India, with the Indo and the Ganges; Mesopotamic people and Hebrew, in the vicinity of Jordan; the Rio Grande to the north, the Amazon to the south and the Chicamocha for the Muisca culture, in our region.

Orlando Fals Borda defines «amphibious cultures,» as all places where inhabitants learned to live from fishing and have discovered the secrets of water between generations. In the Magdalene, who «is born among unruly people and dies among the civilized,» as Ernesto McCausland quoted, its inhabitants have learned to take advantage of seasonal fish migration, locate the sites with the most fish influx and constitute it as the main activity of their subsistence.

Gabo rediscovered it from his first trip, in 1943, when he became fascinated with the cultures and life around him. There, facing the torrent from south to north, the main river route of the early nineteenth century, the inspiration arose, but also the denunciation.

The writer recreated the human footprint on the slope through the story of Bolivar in The General in its Labyrinth (1989): «In some corners of the jungle, you could already notice the first destructions made by the crews of steamships to feed the boilers. The fish will have to learn to walk on the ground because the waters will end,’ he said (Bolivar).

The writer described the moments of greatness and misery of the certain in Love in the Times of Cholera (1985): «Fermina Daza had the impression that it was a delta populated by sand islands. «That’s how little we’re left of the river,» the captain told him. Florentino Ariza was surprised at the changes and would be more the next day, when navigation became more difficult. He realized that the father river of La Magdalena, one of the world’s greats, was just an illusion of memory.»

Even in his memoirs, the writer seized the river: «Today the Magdalena River is dead, with its polluted waters and its animals extinguished. The recovery work that successive governments have talked about so much that they have done nothing would require the technical planting of some sixty million trees on ninety percent of privately owned land, whose owners would have to give up for the sole love of the homeland ninety percent of their current income»(Living to count it, 2002).

The Magdalena River is now broken, wounded, and its diverse fauna threatened. The 596 surrounding municipalities, spread across 18 departments, are hit directly by the few sustainable development efforts that should be pushed from the National government. Today its basin is seen as an infinite resource and a highway through which 85 percent of Gross Domestic Product, 92 percent of agricultural production, 72 percent of livestock, and 62 percent of energy production. The river is more than the place to plant hydroelectric plants and reservoirs, or the transport route, or the drainage of the country’s large companies and multinationals. In Macondo (the one of our reality), as in Aracataca, Ceisbale, Ciénaga, Olleta, and other towns, villages and municipalities, its inhabitants ask for actions to alleviate poverty, have hospital infrastructure, drinking water, and basic sanitation, educational, among others. They ask that life be respected and returned to the river that inspired the literature Nobel laureate, Gabriel García Márquez.

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