Story posted September 24, 2013
In the Spring of 2013, students registered in “A Journey around Macondo: Gabriel García Márquez and his Contemporaries” traveled to Colombia with professor Nadia Celis and Christine Wintersten, director of Off Campus Study.
Macondo, the imaginary town where the Nobel Prize winner locates his masterpiece, Cien años de soledad, has been frequently regarded as both a metaphor of Latin America, and as ‘the village of the world’. This village is the fictional synthesis of several towns and cities in the Caribbean region of Colombia where Gabriel García Márquez lived during his formative years. The trip toured those settings introducing students to the geographical and cultural milieu that fueled the imagination of this author, one of the most influential writers in contemporary world literature.
Throughout the trip, students attended academic lectures, engaged with local scholars and participated in relevant cultural activities, all conducted in Spanish. While the lectures illustrated the influences and contributions of García Marquez and his works, students learned about Cartagena, Colombia, and the Caribbean through a variety of co-curricular activities. The strategic location and central role of this colonial port in Latin American history –from the slave trade to the Spanish Inquisition— came to light through guided tours of the colonial center, the historical museum of Cartagena, and the incredibly well restored Castillo San Felipe, a fort built to protect the city against pirates and other colonial powers. While in Barranquilla, students explored the Parque Cultural del Caribe, an innovative museum opened in 2009 where they visited the “Sala García Márquez”, and engaged in a wide range of interactive stations to learn more about indigenous populations, biodiversity, mestizaje, music, storytelling, carnivals, and other regional traditions. In Santa Marta, the group visited the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, where Simón Bolívar lived his final days.
The program was complemented by visits to a grass-roots organization in a marginalized neighborhood and viewings of short films on political activist art installation projects, which fostered discussions on contemporary Colombian society and its economic inequalities. Grounding Macondo’s “magic” in real spaces and histories, “A Journey” illustrated the global forces that, as in One Hundred Years of Solitude, continue to shape the lives of Latin American people even today.