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How One Hundred Years of Solitude redefined Latin America

When Gabriel García Márquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude, he reimagined the genesis of his continent. That had real political impact, writes Felipe Restrepo Pombo



During the second half of the 20th Century, Latin America went through a convulsive period. Some countries – such as Chile, Colombia and Mexico – were struggling with instability, dictatorships, and political violence. This led to abrupt and, for the most part, confusing social changes, including the Cuban Revolution, led by Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro

When García Márquez was in the first stages of his immense saga, he became fascinated with the turn of events in Cuba. What struck him the most was the real possibility of a new order for countries in this hemisphere, far from the pressure and demands of the United States. Many intellectuals – Mario Vargas Llosa, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, among many others – shared García Márquez’s enthusiasm. However, in the ensuing years, most of them grew disappointed and distanced themselves from the Cuban model. But it’s undeniable that the revolution had a major impact on the tone of One Hundred Years of Solitude: it gave García Marquez hope for the fate of Latin America.


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One Hundred Years of Solitude is a powerful allegory of the Latin American identity. The story, set in a time period of a century, explores many of the predominant issues in the region’s troubled history: caudillismo (the leadership of a ‘strongman’), machismo, rebellion, power, plagues, and political violence. But despite its dense social fabric, García Márquez unveils it with humour and in a refined, poetic language. And behind this somewhat conflicted social fresco, he was capable of seeing the beauty that lies in all of it. As he said in his Nobel Prize lecture: “In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.”


Teachers of American literature have stered worlds every now and then.


May 2018


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