In September 2021, the two sons of the writer Gabriel García Márquez, Gonzalo and Rodrigo, signed a letter with a special request: “We want to carry the ashes of our mother along with those of our father,” they then told the rector of the University from Cartagena, Colombia. Since 2016, the remains of the Colombian Nobel Prize winner for literature rest in La Merced, a cloister managed by this Caribbean university. “They formed a beautiful couple, a team in life that we wish to preserve in eternity,” add the two children in the letter that was recently released. “For this purpose, we respectfully request your authorization for said procedure.” The ashes of Mercedes Barcha, her mother who died in August 2020, will be reunited with those of Gabo at the end of March this year in this cloister in Cartagena.
García Márquez passed away in 2014 and, although he had lived mainly in Mexico since the 1960s, he had shared his desire to be buried in the Colombian Caribbean. But not in Aracataca, his hometown, but in his favorite city, Cartagena, where he had a beautiful house in the historic center. Two years after his death, his two children and his wife took his remains to the La Merced cloister and placed them inside the base of a bust in a white and yellow courtyard.
“She liked the cultural focus of that place, which in turn was under the tutelage of the university where our father studied law,” the two sons say in the letter. Gabo’s father – after the liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was assassinated in 1948 and the event triggered a cycle of violence – sent the young writer who lived in Bogotá to finish his law studies in Cartagena.
In 2016, when Gabo’s ashes arrived at La Merced, there were family members, journalists, friends, politicians, vallenatos and cocktails at the ceremony. Around 500 people then celebrated the life of the Nobel. “My mother made sure that there was live music until late at night,” Rodrigo García recalls in the book Gabo and Mercedes: a farewell (2021) about the party that lasted several days. In the letter to the rector, the two sons say that this time, for their mother, they would like a small and private ceremony, where only family and friends attend.
The pilgrimage of Barcha’s ashes is the latest in a number of gestures the García Márquez family has made to commemorate and bid farewell to the enormous legacy of their parents. At the end of last year they put up for sale a good part of the Gabos wardrobe, the proceeds of which would go to a foundation that fights malnutrition in children. They are also in the process of converting their parents’ huge house in Mexico into a cultural center called ‘Casa de la Literatura Gabriel García Márquez’. His son Rodrigo García is currently producing two future series based on his father’s novels: News of a kidnapping (with Amazon Prime) and One hundred years of solitude (with Netflix). And, in 2014, after Gabo’s death, the family decided to commit their father’s entire archive to the Ransom Center at the University of Austin, Texas, where it is available for research.
“I stopped early in the morning to take one last look at the resting place of the ashes,” Rodrigo García writes in his book about the death of his father and the place in Cartagena where his mother chose to deposit the remains of the two. “I was shocked to think that they would be there, that he would be there, for a long time, centuries maybe, until long after all of us who were alive were gone.”
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