Latin America is a country

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wanted to counter the notion that everything in Latin America can be understood only through Euro-American lenses.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, accompanied by Paula Marcela Moreno Zapata, the first Afrocolombiana to serve as a Cabinet minister in Colombia's government, to a prize giving in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2009. Image: Wiki Commons.

Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez–known affectionately as Gabo to his readers–died in Mexico City. The Colombian novelist wrote the famous book ‘A 100 years of solitude’ and is remembered as the father of magical realism, a literary genre in which everyday scenes and magical acts merge.  A prolific writer that has been compared to William Faulkner, his celebrated novel is considered as important as Miguel de Cervantes’‘Don Quixote.’

García Márquez might not have appreciated that comparison, even if he himself was a Faulkner’s fan. A speech he delivered in 1995–called Latin America exists–exposes Gabo’s life commitment to fighting cultural, political or social forms of neocolonialism. Or even more, to counter that everything in Latin America, or the world of the Caribbean, can not be understood through European or North American lenses. He said:

About the Caribbean, I think its area is not very well determined, because it should not be geographic but cultural. It should start at the South of the United States and extend until the north of Brazil. Central America, that we assume Pacific, is really not and its culture is Caribbean. This legitimate claim would have at least the advantage that Faulkner and all the greatest writers of the south of the United States would make part of magical realism. Also, around the 1940’s, Giovanni Papini declared that Latin America had not provided anything to humanity, not even a saint, as if that was not good enough. He was wrong, because we did have Santa Rosa de Lima, but he didn’t count her, maybe because she was a woman. His assertion illustrated precisely the idea that Europeans have always shared about us: that all that is not done the way they do it is a mistake, and they make everything to correct it, their way, as the United States does. Simón Bolívar, desperate to hear advises and impositions, demanded one day: “Let us make our own Middle Ages.”

Gabo finished that 1995 speech condemning the privatization of education, and stating that despite being “battered and scattered, still unfinished and always looking for an ethical life, Latin America exists.”

In the coming weeks and months, Gabo’s work should be explained beyond the comparisons to William Faulkner or Cervantes. His worlds not only challenged poetry, but demanded political and social change. Gabo’s writing style is not separated to his political convictions, because he knew how to use prose or poetry to critique Washington’s policies on The War on Drugs, the CIA intervention in Chile in 1973 to the overthrow President Allende, or to challenge mainstream media (both in the US and in Latin America) of Hugo Chavez as Latin America’s worse threat.

Gabo’s family has decided that he will have a private funeral, but there will be a public tribute in Mexico City tonight with the presence of the Colombian and Mexican presidents. So, it is Latin America’s right-wing presidents that will say goodbye to such an important author from the left.

Further Reading

The entitlement of Bola Tinubu

The Nigerian presidential candidate’s claim of ’emi lokan’ (it’s my turn) reveals complex ethnic politics and a stagnated democracy. Most responses to it, humor and rumor, reflect how Nigerians enact democratic citizenship.

Father of the nation

The funeral of popular Angolan musician Nagrelha underscored his capacity to mobilize people and it reminds us that popular culture offers a kind of Rorschach test for the body politic.

A city divided

Ethnic enclaves are not unusual in many cities and towns across Sudan, but in Port Sudan, this polarized structure instigated and facilitated communal violence.

The imperial forest

Gregg Mitman’s ‘Empire of Rubber’ is less a historical reading of Liberia than a history of America and racial capitalism through the lens of a US corporate giant.

Africa’s next great war

The international community’s limited attention span is laser-focused on jihadism in the Sahel and the imploding Horn of Africa. But interstate war is potentially brewing in the eastern DRC.

The Cape Colony

The campaign to separate South Africa’s Western Cape from the rest of the country is not only a symptom of white privilege, but also of the myth that the province is better run.

Between East Africa and the Gulf

Political encounters between the Arab Gulf and Africa span centuries. Mahmud Traouri’s novel ‘Maymuna’ demonstrates the significant role of a woman’s journey from East Africa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Āfrīqāyī

It’s not common knowledge that there is Iran in Africa and there is Africa in Iran. But there are commonplace signs of this connection.

It could happen to us

Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries, but let’s hope their own increasing vulnerability instills greater solidarity.