Remembering Mercedes Barcha, partner and muse of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Remembering Mercedes Barcha, partner and muse of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Mercedes Barcha, the widow of Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1927-2014). AFP
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Mercedes Barcha Pardo, widow of renowned Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. Garcia Marquez's nephew, Gabriel Torres Garcia, confirmed the news.

Mercedes and Garcia Marquez - affectionately called as Gabo or Gabito - were married for 56 years, until he passed away at the age of 87, in 2014. The couple had two sons - Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo Garcia Barcha.

Mercedes was Gabo's constant companion, his muse and according to the late author's brother, Jaime Garcia Marquez, his "right arm".

Remembering Mercedes Barcha, partner and muse of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez (C), literature Nobel prize, poses accomapnied by his wife Mercedes Barcha (L) and Colombian Education minister Jaime Arias Ramirez, on December 11, 1982, in Stockholm. AFP

Born in November 1932 in Magangué of northern Colombia, Mercedes met Garcia Marquez when he was only 13. They reportedly met in Sucre in Caribbean Region of Colombia in the year 1941. He proposed to her when he was 18; she was only 13 then. Mercedes and Garcia Marquez married after a decade-long courtship during which they kept their love aflame through letters - a la Florentino Ariza.

When Mercedes was asked in an interview about their first meeting, she said, "I do not remember exactly. We were both children. It is one of those cases where one grows with the other person for as long as one can remember."

Speaking about the time he proposed to her, Mercedes said in the same interview, “One day, right off the bat, he said to me, "You have to marry me."...I was a bit surprised by this imperative treatment, but, well, a little scared, I accepted." They got married in 1958.

She pawned her things to allow him to pen 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' without distractions. He was was just an unknown journalist then with a little known book, 'Leaf Storm', to his credit.

Remembering Mercedes Barcha, partner and muse of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (L), sitting in the carriage alongside his wife Mercedes Barcha, smiles upon arriving at his hometown Aracataca by train 30 May, 2007 in Santa Marta, Colombia. AFP

In an incident that the author himself recounted, after he finished 'One Hundred Years of Solitude', he wanted to send it to a publishing house in Buenos Aires. So Mercedes and Gabo went to the post office.

It was a 490-page draft and they were informed at the post office that it would cost him 83 pesos to send it from Mexico - his adopted country - to Argentina. They had only 45 pesos with them, and he divided the book into two and send one part of it to the publisher. When they went back home, she took out the the last few things that were there to be pawned - a heater, hair dryer and blender - and managed to have enough money to send the draft. 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' is one of Gabo's most celebrated novels.

Gabo was 40 years old when 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' was published. Writing about Gabo, Mercedes and the aforementioned incident, Gerald Martin, author of 'Gabriel García Márquez: A Life', calls them "survivors of a catastrophe."

Gabo is said to have confessed to a friend: "When the money ran out, she didn't tell me anything. Mercedes managed, I don't know how the butcher trusted her or the baker; and that the owner of the apartment would wait for us for nine months to pay the rent. You already know the amount of crazy that she has endured me."

Mercedes is believed to have the greatest influence on the Nobel laureate and his works. She had her feet firmly on the ground, while Gabo wandered in the lands of magical realism.

(The article was first published in The Week)

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