Retracing Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s real-life inspirations for 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' in Aracataca, Colombia.
Colombia’s most famous writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was born in the sleepy town of Aracataca in the Caribbean province of Magdelena. His early childhood here, where he was raised by his grandparents until the age of nine, left an indelible mark on his work.
Garcia Marquez grew up hearing stories from his grandmother about mermaids, flying carpets, and golden treasures. These stories were told with the same conviction most people reserve for family gossip or town history, forever cementing in the young Garcia Marquez a conviction that the world is full of whimsy. Through his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garcia Marquez became a major fixture of the magical realism literary style while simultaneously immortalizing his birthplace.
Today, Aracataca remains the same agricultural hamlet as Garcia Marquez described in his novel, with the bulk of tourism coming from a steady trickle of literary enthusiasts seeking the birthplace of a legendary writer. Here, we’ve retraced the real-life places in Aracataca that inspired One Hundred Years of Solitude, from the house of black widow Remedios the Beauty to the workshop of his grandfather, the real-life colonel.
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Casa De Gabriel Garcia Marquez Museo
The original house where Garcia Marquez was born in 1927 and spent his early childhood was sold, demolished, rebuilt, and burnt down. The current museum is a faithful replica of the original childhood home.
Important scenes from One Hundred Years of Solitude set in different parts of the house are linked to the building and described in various panels (Spanish and English) throughout the house, from his grandfather’s workshop to the “Melquiades’ workshop” where they famously stored the 72 chamber pots.
Garcia Marquez’s grandfather, former colonel Nicolás Márquez, was the inspiration for the character Colonel Aureliano Buendia and signed the real-life Treaty of Neerlandia. As a child, Garcia Marquez would amuse himself by drawing on the walls with colored pencils (the colonel had the walls whitewashed specifically so that his grandson could draw on them) while his grandfather fabricated intricate little gold fishes with emerald eyes.
In the novel, the first Jose Arcadio Buendia’s ghost haunted a big tree, and this is also where his son died. In the back of the shady courtyard, that enormous tree with hugely tangled roots still stands as one of the few original surviving features of the household.
INSIDER TIPThe museum is free to enter, but donations are appreciated.
Casa del Telegrafista
The National Postal Administration telegraphist’s house is one of the original structures still standing from Garcia Marquez’s childhood memories. His father, Gabriel Eligio Garcia, worked there as a telegraph operator, and the illicit telegraphs between Eligio and his mother, Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán, during their forbidden love affair were the inspiration for Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Unfortunately, the museum is closed, but you can stroll around the structure, which is a testament to youthful passion.
Plaza de Simón Bolívar
Just two blocks from the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Museum, the Plaza de Simon Bolivar is a pleasant town square with many local festivities, such as the Fiesta Del Rio (festival of the river) and Fiestas Patronales, taking place. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Arcadio Segundo (based on one of Garcia Marquez’s real-life uncles) hosted raffles, parties, and small bullfights in the square.
A statue of Simon Bolivar, referenced in the novel as the leader of the Liberals during the war, stands in the middle of the square, along with a statue of Garcia Marquez reading a book. Today, it’s still used for concerts and even small-scale bullfights during the Fiesta Patronales.
Iglesia de San José
Located in the Plaza de Simón Bolívar, this whitewashed church where Garcia Marquez and many of his family members were baptized is an official Colombian National Heritage Site. Just like in One Hundred Years of Solitude, where the ancient priest Father Antonio gives many sermons from the pulpit approving or condemning various movies, priests during Garcia Marquez’s childhood had to approve new movies before they could be played in the Teatro Olimpia.
INSIDER TIPEntrance is free, although many people attend service on Wednesdays and Sundays, so it’s important to be respectful as a tourist.
The Teatro Olympia, owned by Antonio Daconte, was the first movie theater built in Aracataca. Its rotation of (church-approved) silent films made it a center of social life for young people. As a child, Garcia Marquez and his mother also attended movies in the theater, projected onto a big brick wall.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Meme (loosely based on Garcia Marquez’s mother) was dropped off at the movies with her father and was caught in an illicit kiss by her mother. Nowadays, the building no longer shows movies and is used mostly as a commercial center for vendors.
Aracataca's Train Station
The railway station that first opened Aracataca to the outside world was built by the United Fruit Company in the 1920s as their primary form of transporting people and cargo. Nowadays, the railway is only used to transport fuel and charcoal, not passengers, but Garcia Marquez fans can visit the intact railway station and sit on the shady platform to watch train cars loaded with wood and charcoal pass by.
Calle De Los Turcos (Street of the Turks)
A steady stream of immigrants from the Middle East—many of them Palestinian or Lebanese—came into Aracataca in the early 20th century and set up shop where Calle 8 and Carrera 2 now cross. As Garcia Marquez depicted in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the street used to be a center of commerce where Middle Eastern immigrants owned money-changing businesses and clothing stores. Today, the street isn’t any different from any other commercial street in the town; there’s a grocery store on the corner and various food vendors lining the sides where people shop.
When the United Fruit Factory first moved into Aracataca at the beginning of the 1900s, they built a compound for administrators and their families with all the Western conveniences and comforts—including electricity, plumbing, and a swimming pool—all behind an electric barbed wire fence.
Located on the outskirts of town close to the train tracks, “El Prado” (as it came to be known) was where the “gringos” lived and was the inspiration for Mr. Brown’s “electric chicken coop” in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Nowadays, the compound is owned by the local government. The electric fence has been torn down, and the building (with the swimming pool still in operation) is rented out as a luxury “finca” or vacation home.
La Casa De Maria Consuegra
The house of Maria Consuela, located just around the corner from the house of Remedios the Beauty, is the site of a tragic accident that profoundly impacted Garcia Marquez as a young boy. Maria Consuela was a woman that Garcia Marquez’s family knew well, and she had the bad luck of being home one night when a robber broke in. She was armed and, according to Garcia Marquez, killed the robber with a single shot. It was the first dead body Marquez ever saw and the inspiration for his short story Tuesday Siesta. Garcia Marquez also details the incident in his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale.
Parque of Remedios the Beauty
In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Remedios the Beauty was a beautiful girl who drove men insane but remained a virgin all her life because she was totally innocent of her effect on men. Every single man who fell in love with her ended up dying tragically. While she functions more as an exaggerated symbol than a human, Garcia Marquez drew inspiration for the character from a real-life story of a beautiful local woman who ran off with her lover. To explain the disappearance, her grandmother told everybody heaven had reclaimed her like the Virgin Mary. The park behind her house was named for Remedios the Beauty, and in front of her house stands a concrete statue of the novel with an angelic Remedios perched upon it.
INSIDER TIPYou can locate the park at Parque Remedios La Bella, Calle 3A #151 in Aracataca.