Headline, March 23 2024/ ''' GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ '''



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STATUES AND MURALS BEAR HIS LIKENESS. SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES are named after him. Hotels, barbershops, nightclubs and bike repair stores carry references to his work.

In the sweltering Colombian mountaintown of Aracataca, it is impossible to walk down a single street without seeing allusions to its most former resident : the winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Yellow butterflies are seen all over town, a nod to one of his famous images. The house where he lived as a child has been turned into a museum filled with its original furniture, including the cribs where he slept.

The library, named Biblioteca Publica Municipal Remedios La Bella, after the character Remedios the Beauty from his novel ''One Hundred Years of Solitude,''  features a glass case of his books translated into various languages.

Aracataca, a once dusty and dilapidated town of 40,000 plagued by unemployment and a lack of basic services, has been transformed by its connection to Mr. Garcia Marquez, Colombia's most famous author and one of the world's literary titans.

Ten years ago, the town had little to offer tourists and did little to promote its connection to the author, beyond a museum and a pool hall that called itself Macondo Billiard, after the name of the fictional town in '' One Hundred Years of Solitude.''

But since Mr. Garcia Marquez's death in 2014, interest in him and his hometown, which inspired some of his well-known works, has surged.

Many refer to the writer by his nickname Gabo, and the town has become a sort of Gabolandia.

Walk down any block and there are visible reminders of the author : signs with his name, murals, statues, street signs and plenty of stands selling any of the number of items, from baseball caps to coffee mugs, with Mr. Garcia Marquez's likeness.

With the release of his final posthumous book, '' Until August,'' hopes are high among Aracataca officials and residents that the surrounding publicity will lure even more tourists.

'' We have seen changes in all aspects,'' said Carlos Ruiz, the director of a museum where Garcia Marquez's father worked as a telegraph operator. He has been working with the regional government to boost literary tourism in the town.

''What we want is for Arcataca to be strengthened through Gabo,'' Mr. Ruiz said, adding that 22,000 tourists visited last year,  up from 17,500 in 2019.

The town celebrates Mr. Garcia Marquez's birthday on March 6 every year, but this year's festivities were bigger, with more participants and more activities.

The celebration included a short story and poetry competition featuring a dance performance by girls dressed as yellow butterflies. A librarian dressed up as Mr. Garcia Marquez to read parts of ''One Hundred Years of Solitude'' to students and children.

In the evening, a theater group put on a performance of '' Love in the Time of Cholera.''

These days in Aracataca, the works of  Mr. Garcia Marquez are taught as early as preschool, with children asked to draw pictures based on his short stories that are read aloud, Mr. Aaron said.

A group of teenagers gathered outside a shop last Wednesday said the legacy of Mr. Garcia Marquez's Nobel Prize had inspired them to be creative and imaginative in class.

They debated which work of his was their favorite - " The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother'' or '' The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.''

Fernando Vizcaino, 70, a retired banker got the idea to turn his house into a hostel about six years ago when he saw visitors starting to arrive in bigger numbers.

He named it the Magic Realism Tourist House, and he and his wife decorated it in brilliant colors, chock-full of homages to Mr. Garcia Marquez.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez : For sure the writer's legacy transformed his birthplace in Colombia and went on to touch the whole world as a literary master.

Student Alejandra Mantilla, 16, said she was proud to see tourists from as far away as Europe and China visit the town, particularly because Colombia still struggles to overcome its reputation for drugs and violence.

The World Students Society thanks author Genevieve Glatsky.

With most respectful dedication to Mankind, and then Students, Professors and Teachers of the world.

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