Date: 25 May 2001
Time: 06:50:16
Remote Name:


"My mother became a woman in a godforsaken hellhole. She had spent an uncertain childhood plagued by malarial fevers, but, once cured, she was cured for ever, and with her health as strong as reinforced concrete she was able to celebrate her 95th birthday with 11 of her own children, and four of her husband's, and 66 grandchildren, 73 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren. Not counting the ones nobody knew about. Her name was Luisa Santiaga, and she was the third daughter of Colonel Nicolas Marquez Mejia and his wife (and first cousin) Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes, whom we called Mina.

Luisa Santiaga was born in Barrancas, in Colombia, on the banks of the Rancheria river, on July 25 1905, when the family was recovering from the disaster of the civil wars, and two years after the colonel, her father, had killed Medardo Pacheco in a duel over a point of honour. Luisa Santiaga had the education typical of a well-bred Catholic girl, brought up by a family of happy sinners. After the killing of Medardo Pacheco, the family had moved to Aracataca, and Luisa Santiaga was educated at the Colegio de la Presentacion, in Santa Marta, where she was a diligent student.

The virtue that was of greatest use to her was the strength of her character when her family discovered she was madly in love, at the age of 20, with a young, proud telegraph operator from Aracataca. Having heard the history of their forbidden love told so many times by my parents, sometimes by both together, sometimes by each one alone, it was almost intact in my mind when, at the age of 23, I wrote my first novel, Leaf Storm.

They were both excellent storytellers, happy in their recollections of their love, but they were also so impassioned in their accounts that when I was past 50 and had decided at last to use their story in Love In The Time Of Cholera, I could not distinguish between life and poetry. According to my mother's version, the two of them met at a wake for a child, when my mother was living with her family in Aracataca. She was singing in the courtyard with her friends, following the popular custom of singing love songs to pass the time through the nine nights of mourning for innocents. Out of nowhere, a man's voice joined the choir. All the girls turned to look at the man who was singing and were stunned by his good looks. He is the one we're going to marry,' they chanted, and clapped their hands in unison. He did not, however, impress my mother. He was,' she said, just another stranger.' And he was.

His name was Gabriel Eligio Garcia, and after having abandoned his medical and pharmaceutical studies in Cartagena de Indias, owing to a lack of funds, he had found work in some of the nearby towns in the more mundane profession of telegraph operator. A photograph from that time shows him distinguished by the equivocal bearing of impoverished gentility. He had a reputation as a hard-living, womanising bohemian, but he never had a cigarette or a glass of alcohol in his long life. Although it was the first time my mother saw him, he had seen her the previous Sunday at eight o'clock mass, guarded by her aunt, Francisca Simodosea Mejia. He had seen them again the following Tuesday, sewing beneath the almond trees near the front door of the family house.

By the night of the wake, he had learned that she was the daughter of Colonel Nicolas Marquez, to whom he was already bearing letters of introduction. After that night, she learned he was a bachelor, with a facility for falling in love, whose immediate local success arose from an inexhaustible gift for conversation, an ease in writing verse, a grace on the dance floor, and a predisposition for playing the violin with a sentimental flair. My mother told me that when you heard his playing in the small hours of the morning you felt an irresistible urge to weep. His calling card was After the Ball, a waltz of consummate romanticism.

These talents, and his powerful charm, opened the doors of the colonel's house and earned Gabriel Eligio a regular place at family lunches. Aunt Francisca adopted him without reservation when she learned that he had been born in Since, near her birthplace. At these gatherings, he entertained my mother with his proficiency in the arts of seduction, but it never occurred to her that such displays had any significance. On the contrary, their friendly relations were understood to be a pretence, meant to hide the secret love between him and a classmate of hers, and my mother even agreed to act as a godparent at their wedding. (He took to calling her godmother' and she called him godson'.)

It is easy, then, to imagine the extent of Luisa Santiaga's surprise when, one night at a dance, the bold telegraph operator took the flower from his buttonhole and handed it to her, saying, I give you my life in this rose.' By then, he had reached the conclusion that Luisa Santiaga was the one for him. She interpreted the rose as nothing more than one of the playful gallantries he used with her friends. In fact, at the end of the dance that evening, she left the flower behind. And yet, this rose disturbed her sleep and filled her with an inexplicable fury. In our first formal conversation about their love, when she already had a good number of children, she confessed: I couldn't sleep because I was angry thinking about him, but the fact that I was thinking about him made me even angrier, and the angrier I became the more I thought about him.' For the rest of the week it was all she could do to endure the terror that she might see him and the torment that she might not.

In the numerous conversations I had with her and my father, they agreed that their fulminating love had three decisive moments. The first was on a Palm Sunday during high mass. Luisa Santiaga was sitting with Aunt Francisca on a bench on the side of the Epistolary, when she recognised the sound of my father's flamenco heels clicking on the tiles of the floor, and he then passed so close to her that she felt the warm gust of his cologne. After a few intense minutes, she could not bear the suspense and looked over her shoulder. Then she thought she would die of rage: there he was, looking at her, and their eyes met. It was exactly what I had planned,' my father would say with pleasure when he repeated the story to me in his old age. My mother, on the other hand, never tired of saying that for three days she could not control her fury at falling into the trap.

The second moment was a letter he wrote to her. It was not the kind of letter she might have expected from a poet who played furtive serenades on his violin at dawn, but an imperious note demanding a reply before he travelled to Santa Marta the following week. She did not answer it. She locked herself in her room, determined to kill this worm of love that was not leaving her enough air to breathe, until Aunt Francisca tried to convince her to give in before it was too late.

The third moment was a grand wedding to which the two of them had been invited as patrons of honour. Luisa Santiaga could make no excuses the event was too important to her family. When Luisa Santiaga saw Gabriel Eligio crossing the room with the obvious intention of asking her to dance the first dance, she could not control her heart. It was pounding so hard in my body that I couldn't tell if it was from anger or fear,' she told me. He realised this and said: You don't have to say yes, because your heart is saying it for you.' Without a word, she turned and left him standing in the middle of the dance floor. My father understood this in his own way. It made me happy,' he told me. When Luisa Santiaga was wakened before dawn by the strains of After the Ball, Gabriel Eligio's flattering waltz, she could not contain her rage.

Not long after, she suffered a recurrence of the malarial fevers of her childhood, and her mother took her away to recuperate in Manaure, an Edenic spot on the other side of the Sierra Nevada. When my mother returned, recovered from her ailments, she and my father also seemed to have recovered from their earlier apprehensions. My father said he went to meet her at the station because he had read the telegram in which her mother, Mina, announced their return, and when Luisa Santiaga greeted him, by pressing his hand, he understood it to be something like a Masonic sign of love. From then on they were less reserved when seen together.

Luisa Santiaga always said it was her family's opposition that made her leap across the dykes of the torrent that had run, in secret, through her heart since the night she left her suitor standing in the middle of the dance floor. It was a bitterly fought war. The opposition was inscribed in the tribal code that considers every suitor an interloper. Most of the adults viewed Luisa Santiaga as the precious jewel of a rich and powerful family who was being courted by a parvenu telegraph operator, not for love but out of self-interest. And she, who had been obedient and submissive, confronted her opponents with the ferocity of a lioness who has just given birth.

In the most corrosive of their many domestic disputes, Mina lost her temper and threatened her daughter with the bread knife. An impassive Luisa Santiaga stood her ground. Suddenly aware of the criminal implications of her wrath, Mina dropped the knife and screamed in horror, Oh, my God!' and placed her hand on the hot coals of the stove in brutal repentance.

Among the powerful arguments against Gabriel Eligio was his status as the love child of an unmarried woman, who had given birth to him at 14, after a casual misstep with a schoolteacher. She was a slender white girl with a joyous nature and a free spirit, who went on to have six more children by three different fathers. She lived without a steady man in the town of Since, and used her wits to eke out a living for her offspring.

Gabriel Eligio was a distinguished representative of that ragged breed. Since the age of 16 he had had five virgin lovers. With one of them, when he was 18 and the telegraph operator in Achi, he had had a son, Abelardo, who was almost three. With another, when he was 20 and the telegraph operator in Ayapel, he had a daughter, a few months old, whom he had never seen, named Carmen Rosa. He had promised the girl's mother that he would come back and marry her, and he had been intending to fulfil the commitment when his life changed course because of his love for Luisa Santiaga. He had acknowledged his son before a notary, and later he would do the same with his daughter, but these were no more than Byzantine formalities without legal consequences.

It is surprising that Colonel Marquez was so disquieted by this irregular conduct, when the colonel himself had fathered, in addition to his official children, nine more by different mothers, both before and after his marriage, and all of them were welcomed by his wife as her own. My father endured the impediments to his love for Luisa Santiaga with courage and dignity, in the back room of the telegraph office in Aracataca, where he kept a hammock for sleeping alone. Yet, beside it, he also had a bachelor's cot with well-oiled springs, for whatever else the night might offer him. At one time I felt tempted by his furtive hunter's ways, but life taught me that there is no more arid form of solitude, and I felt great compassion for him.

Until a few years before his death, he would tell a story of an occasion when he had gone with some friends to the colonel's house, and all were invited to sit down except him. My mother's family denied the story and attributed it to my father's still-burning resentment, or at least to a false memory, but once, when my grandmother was almost 100 years old, and dramatically evoking a time that she wasn't so much remembering as reliving, she let it slip. There's that poor man standing in the doorway of the living room, and Nicolasito has not asked him to sit down,' she said with true regret. Always attentive to her dazzling revelations, I asked her who the man was, and her simple reply was Garcia, the one with the violin.' My father bought a revolver to protect himself against what might happen when dealing with a retired warrior like Colonel Marquez. He never fired it. Years later, his oldest children found it with its original five bullets, along with the violin of his serenades, in a cupboard full of trash.

When not even a crack was left open for furtive letters, Gabriel Eligio and Luisa Santiago invented the stratagems of the shipwrecked. She managed to hide a greeting card in a dessert that someone had ordered for his birthday, and he sent her false and innocuous telegrams with the real message in code. Aunt Francisca's complicity then became so evident that her authority in the house was affected, and she was allowed to accompany her niece only when they were sewing in the shade of the almond trees. Then Gabriel Eligio sent messages of love from the window of Dr Antonio Barboza, whose house was across the way, using the manual telegraphy of deaf-mutes. Luisa Santiaga learned it so well that when her aunt's attention wandered she held intimate conversations with her sweetheart.

Then Gabriel Eligio received an alarming letter from Luisa Santiaga, written in haste on toilet paper, giving him the bad news that her parents had decided to take her away, back to Barrancas, stopping in each town along the way, as a cure for her lovesickness. It would not be the ordinary journey of one bad night on the schooner to Riohacha; instead, they would follow the barbaric route along the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, on the backs of mules and in carts, through the vast region of Padilla. I would rather have died,' my mother told me many years later. And she had in fact tried to die, locking her bedroom door and eating nothing but bread and water for three days, until she was overwhelmed by the reverential terror she felt for the colonel.

Gabriel Eligio strode from Dr Barboza's house, crossed the street to the shade of the almond trees, and stopped in front of the two frightened women, my mother and Aunt Francisca. Luisa Santiaga begged her aunt to leave them alone. Then Gabriel Eligio expressed his view that she should make the trip with her parents, however long it might take, but only on condition that she give a solemn oath that she would marry him. She was pleased to accept the proposal, and added, on her own account, that only death could prevent their marriage.

The first part of Luisa Santiaga's journey, in a caravan of drovers, where she rode on the back of a mule along the precipices of the Sierra Nevada, took two weeks. Luisa Santiaga and her mother were accompanied by Chon', the maid without a name, who had been with the family since they left Barrancas in the aftermath of the duel in which the colonel had killed Medardo Pacheco. The colonel knew all about the steep, rocky route, for he had left a trail of children there on the dissipated nights of his wars, but his wife had chosen it because of her unhappy memories of what it meant to travel by schooner. For my mother, who rode a mule for the first time, it was a nightmare of brutal suns and ferocious downpours. On the fourth day, she warned her mother that she would throw herself over a cliff if they did not return home. Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes, more frightened than her daughter, agreed. But the head mule driver showed her on the map that returning or continuing would take the same amount of time. Relief came in 11 days, when they saw, from the final cornice, the radiant plain of Valledupar.

Before the first stage was over, Gabriel Eligio secured a reliable way of communicating with his wandering love, thanks to the cooperation of the telegraph operators in the seven towns where she and her mother would stay before reaching Barrancas. And Luisa Santiaga made her own arrangements. The entire province was overflowing with people named Iguaran and Cotes, whose tribal consciousness had the strength of an impenetrable jungle, and she succeeded in bringing them over to her side. This allowed her to maintain a fevered correspondence with Gabriel Eligio from Valledupar, where she spent three months, until the end of the journey, almost a year later. She had only to pass by each town's telegraph office, where, with the complicity of her young, enthusiastic kinswomen, she could receive and respond to messages. The close-mouthed Chon played an invaluable role because she carried the messages hidden in her clothes, without making Luisa Santiaga uneasy or offending her modesty, since the maid couldn't read or write, and would, in any case, die before revealing a secret.

After six months of travelling, when my mother was in San Juan del Cesar, Gabriel Eligio was told in confidence that Luisa Santiaga's mother was preparing the way for the family's permanent return to Barrancas, provided that the rancour caused by the death of Medardo Pacheco in his duel with the colonel had healed. Gabriel Eligio immediately requested a transfer to the telegraph office in Riohacha, some 20 leagues from Barrancas. The position was not available, but he was promised that his application would be kept in mind. Luisa Santiaga was so faithful to their commitment that in the town of Fonseca she did not think it correct to attend a gala ball without her lover's consent. Gabriel Eligio was in the hammock sweating out a fever of a hundred and three when he heard the signal for an urgent incoming message. It was the telegraph operator in Fonseca. To guarantee absolute security, the operator asked who was at the other end of the line. More astonished than gratified, Gabriel Eligio transmitted an identifying phrase: Tell her I'm her godson.' My mother recognised the password and stayed at the dance until seven in the morning, when she had to rush to change her clothes so she wouldn't be late for mass.

In Barrancas, there was no trace of animosity toward the family. On the contrary, 18 years after the unfortunate duel, a Christian spirit of forgiving and forgetting prevailed among the relatives of Medardo Pacheco.

But around this time, Luisa Santiaga learned that the story of the family's move to Barrancas was unfounded; no one wanted it except Mina. On the day that Luisa Santiaga confirmed that no permanent move was planned to Barrancas, Gabriel Eligio was informed that the position in Riohacha was now available owing to the sudden death of the telegraph operator there. The following day, Mina emptied the drawers in the pantry, looking for poultry shears, and happened to open a tin of English biscuits where her daughter had hidden her love telegrams. Mina's rage was so great that she managed to express only one of her celebrated insults: God forgives everything except disobedience.' That weekend, they travelled to Riohacha and boarded the schooner to Santa Marta. Neither woman noticed the awful night of battering February gales: the mother was too devastated by defeat; the daughter, terrified, was too happy. The next day, Mina returned alone to Aracataca on the seven o'clock train, and left Luisa Santiaga in Santa Marta under the protection of her son Juan de Dios, certain that she had rescued her daughter from the demons of love.

The opposite was true: Gabriel Eligio would travel from Aracataca to Santa Marta to see Luisa Santiaga whenever he could. Uncle Juanito had resolved not to take sides and took refuge in a formula characteristic of his goodness: he allowed the lovers to see each other outside his house, but never alone, and never with his knowledge.

And so Gabriel Eligio and Luisa Santiaga began seeing each other in the houses of friends, and then risked appearances in public places that were not too crowded. In the end, they dared to talk through the window when Uncle Juanito was not at home, Luisa Santiaga in the living room, Gabriel Eligio on the street, faithful to their commitment not to see each other in the house. The window was made, it seemed, for the purpose of forbidden love, with Andalusian grillwork and a frame of climbing vines that featured an occasional dizzying breath of jasmine in the drowsy night.

Some time later, Gabriel Eligio received his formal appointment to the telegraph office in Riohacha. Unsettled by another separation, my mother appealed to Monsignor Pedro Espejo, the vicar of the diocese, in the hope that he would marry them without her parents' permission. The monsignor had grown so renowned that many of the faithful confused the veneration they felt for him with saintliness, and some attended his masses only to confirm that, at the moment of the Elevation, he rose several centimetres off the ground. When Luisa Santiaga asked for his help, he refused to interfere in the jurisdiction of a family so jealous of its privacy, but chose instead to find out in secret about my father's family. The parish priest in Since replied with a benevolent formula: This is a respectable though not very devout family.'

Then the Monsignor spoke with the lovers, together and separately, and wrote a letter to the colonel and Mina, in which he expressed his heartfelt certainty that there was no human power capable of suppressing this obdurate love. My grandparents, defeated by the power of God, agreed to turn a painful page, and granted their son, Juan de Dios, full power to arrange the wedding in Santa Marta. They did not attend but sent Francisca Simodosea as matron of honour.

My parents married on June 11 1926, in the cathedral of Santa Marta. That same night they boarded the fearful schooner, so that Gabriel Eligio could take possession of the telegraph office in Riohacha, and passed their first night together in chastity, defeated by seasickness. My mother was later so nostalgic about the house where she spent her honeymoon that her older children could have described it room by room, as if we had lived there, and even today it continues to be one of my false memories.

Two months after the wedding, Juan de Dios received a telegram from my father announcing that Luisa Santiaga was pregnant. The news was passed on to Aracataca and shook the very foundations of the family house, where Mina had not yet recovered from her bitterness, and both she and the colonel laid down their weapons so that the newlyweds would come back to stay with them. After a noble, reasoned resistance that lasted several months, Gabriel Eligio agreed to his wife's giving birth in her parents' house. A short while later, my grandfather greeted him at the train station with a sentence that was like a gold frame around the family's historical record: I am prepared to give you all the satisfactions that may be required.'

Over the course of the year, Gabriel Eligio gave up his worthy profession of telegraph operator and devoted his talent as an autodidact to a science on the decline: homeopathy. My grand-father, out of gratitude or remorse, arranged with the authorities for the street where we lived in Aracataca to bear the name it still has: Monsignor Espejo Avenue.

That was how the first of seven boys and four girls was born in Aracataca, on March 6 1927, in an unseasonal torrential downpour. I was almost strangled by the umbilical cord, because the family midwife lost her mastery of her art at the worst moment. But Aunt Francisca lost even more, for she ran to the street door shouting, as if there were a fire, A boy! It's a boy!' And then, as if sounding the alarm, A boy who's choking to death!'

It wasn't easy to revive me, and so Aunt Francisca poured the emergency baptismal water over me. With a sense of urgency they gave me my father's first name, Gabriel, followed by Jose, because he was the patron saint of Aracataca and March was his month. A third name was proposed in memory of the general reconciliation achieved among families and friends with my arrival into the world, but in the formal rite of baptism, three years later, they forgot to include it: Gabriel Jose de la Concordia".

By GGM. ~Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. This is an exclusive edited extract from Marquez's forthcoming autobiography.

*Copyright 2001 Guardian / Saturday,17 February.


Despertó Minería Colombiana.

From: Editorial-El Heraldo.
Date: 25 Jan 2003
Time: 16:32:46
Remote Name:


Edición Digital 3102-Barranquilla, Sábado 25 de Enero de 2003. Para intentar atraer inversionistas dedicados a la explotación, la minería colombiana despertó desde el año pasado incrementando la exportación de aquellos productos que en el mundo se pagan a precios de oro y que, además de ser una fuente rica en divisas, pueden generar empleos en sus zonas de influencia. Lo que más se necesita en el país. Empleos! La nueva carta de navegación de la minería nacional fue presentada en su debida oportunidad ante un grupo numeroso de inversionistas nacionales y extranjeros. Consiste el documento en un estudio denominado “Minerales estratégicos para el desarrollo de Colombia”. El cual contiene un mapa minero que indica las 10 más prometedoras áreas de exploración localizadas en el territorio nacional. Tentadoras. En cuanto a su exploración las principales minas de oro y esmeraldas están situadas en el Cañón del Cauca, en San Lucas, Taraira y el cinturón esmeraldífero. Los metales básicos como la plata, cobre y zinc se encuentran en Mandé, Cocoa, Piedrancha-Guachavez y Dagua-Cañas Gordas. Los minerales energéticos se producen en Opón-Carerá y los materiales para construcción -granitos, rocas verdes, calizas, mármoles y areniscas- en la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Abundancia por todos lados. En algunas de estas áreas están localizadas zonas rojas debido a la alteración del orden público, conforme ocurre en el Sur de Bolívar. Región en la que se enfrentan grupos guerrilleros y paramilitares. Lo mismo que en la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta y el Departamento del Putumayo. Minercol, Ingeominas y la Unidad de Planeación Minero-Energética, seleccionaron las diez zonas citadas tras un trabajo de campo de más de un año y medio y la participación de personas expertas. Para el señalamiento se tuvo en cuenta el futuro de los precios de cada uno de los minerales en el mercado internacional y la viabilidad de explotación. En áreas como la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, entre los Departamentos de Cesar y Magdalena, hay un futuro promisorio para la explotación de piedras ornamentales, productos que han ganado clientela en Estados Unidos, Japón e Italia. En el Sur de Bolívar se produce actualmente el 40% del oro nacional, con un rendimiento anual de 17 toneladas a cargo de 32.000 mineros. Los grupos al margen de la ley negocian este oro en Panamá, donde según las investigaciones de las autoridades los narcotraficantes realizan operaciones de lavado. A pesar de su ubicación en la misma cadena geológica, Colombia se está quedando rezagada frente a otros países que le apostaron al incremento de la minería, como es el caso de Chile y Perú. Sur América es actualmente la región que acapara la mayor inversión para la exploración minera. Hay que aprovecharla. Un geólogo de exploración de Ingeominas explicó al respecto que en la cadena andina que viene desde Chile y atraviesa varios países de la región, están ubicados los mejores proyectos de explotación de polimetales. “En el caso de Colombia -dijo el experto- parece que se hubiera cortado con una cuchilla el paso de las cordilleras, porque no se estaban aprovechando las excelentes condiciones geológicas”. Ojalá resulte verdad tánta belleza minera para Colombia, que bien lo necesita. Ya.