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Macondo, a metaphor of a continent lagging from modernity

In the mid-20th century, the Hispano-American writers shared the intention of writing a novel of the continent, a story which reflected what was common to all the people of Latin America and for it to be comprehended outside the borders, particularly in Europe.

This project was called the Latin-American Boom and through One Hundred Years of Solitude, the project became a reality. The fictitious city of Macondo featured in the novel, transformed into the mirror of Latin America and the story turned into the universe of all human groups separated or rejected from modernity.

Colombian writer and Nobel Prize laureate of 1982, Gabriel García Márquez, turned into a type of cultural icon, a symbol of an editorial phenomenon and an exponent of a narrative form called by critics as “magic realism.” Fifty years later, what else may be said about the author, what more may the novel offer its readers?

Chilean journalist Héctor Soto says that despite having a life thoroughly documented, the Colombian writer was not an easy figure to capture.

Garcia Márquez wrote literature combining the daily happenings with the atypical, the fantastic with reality and history with myths.

The mystery of his work has given way to all types of interpretations and legends; what it brings to the author of this article is the form in which he builds a design of memory and posterity, carefully choosing the type of public figure which he wanted to represent.

One of the reasons for his message to continue to be significant for the generations of the 21st century is that the novel may be perceived as a deep insight over the history of America and its contact with the east, and a story of progress and civilization.

A load of affliction

The book made readers perceive America as a ground for internal battles for power, and an endless succession of civil wars, dictatorships, and hostilities with American imperialism.

It also made it become the possibility of considering the continent as a place for disproved utopia. The main idea of this perspective shows the foundation and development of Macondo as a metaphor of historic fatality of the continent as a conquered, colonized and abused land.

For Universidad de Antioquia Philologist and Semiotic Specialist, Ana Cristina Benavides, many readers of the novel are capable of recognizing the affliction load of the story, but cannot really understand who are the ones who suffer and why.

She says García Márquez carries out an intentional pragmatism, looking for the reader to get involved and respond to the questions he makes:

  • Who suffers from solitude? Macondo, as a symbol of Latin America.
  • Why a century? Because 100 years is the time the manuscripts of Melquiades to be deciphered by the sixth generation of the Buendía family.
  • Why do they suffer? For lagging from modernity and the impossibility of making it to the European present and the history of the East.
  • Who makes them suffer? Europe and the East.

This is why for the writers and all the generation of intellectuals of the 70s it was important for Europe to understand that Latin America needed to be better understood by Europeans. Therefore, the solitude is the result of a chronic maladjustment of the people of Macondo to history, time and space.

Furthermore, in a general manner, all the characters of the novel suffer once and again from the distances history imposes over them and that relentlessly influences the failure of all of the intentions to overcome and integrate, both individually and collectively.

This incapability of dealing with time and history is the result of a congenital disease: the pestilence of forgetfulness. To avoid the catastrophes that fall upon Macondo, the characters need to find their beginnings, abducted and forgotten, and the return is necessary to avoid fatality and save the city from repeating its tragic destiny.

Avoid other Macondo’s

Macondo pretends to be a story of a new foundation, its story also establishes the issue of how to respect the trajectory of human groups separated from history.

This establishes another issue: The reader of this claim needs to comprehend, have solidarity and love for those rejected and losers of European modernity.

For Brazilian literary critic and author of the book Macondamérica: a paródia em Gabriel García Márquez,  Selma Calasans Rodrigues, the generation of the Latin American boom was of the utopias; of great constructions, beliefs, and questionings. Therefore, despite the apocalyptic end of One Hundred Years of Solitude, in the novel, there is not a total condemnation.

Colombian academic Cristo Figueroa claims that the novel is continued in its readers and other books from the author. In this sense, it is good to remember his speech when accepting the Literature Nobel Prize, when Garcia Márquez, after depicting the size of our historic solitude and after explaining the profound implications of the search of the Latin American being, ends singing to life and hope, announcing the good news which was absent in the novel. And at the end of his singing, he announces the second opportunity, the possibility of another utopia:

A new and terrifying utopia of life, where nobody can decide for others even the way to die, and where love is really true and happiness is possible, and where the lineages condemned to one hundred years of solitude will at last and forever, have a second opportunity on Earth.

The massive explosion which represented the novel stripped the complexities of Colombia. Its cultural hero devised a domestic mythology and maintained its strategic distance between these complexities. Macondo was the Caribbean and Latin America, but also the travels of García Márquez to understand the book that he could at last write when he lived in Mexico.

Consejo Editorial