A Walking Tour in the Shadow of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Walking with Marelvy Peña-Hall in Cartagena

Walking with Marelvy Peña-Hall in Cartagena

As used and rare book sellers, we are frequently introduced to some very knowledgeable and well-traveled people.  One of our most delightful clients is Clem S., who recently purchased from us a first edition of Love in the Time of Cholera, a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez which is set in Cartagena.

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (NY: Knopf, 1988)

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (NY: Knopf, 1988 – First Edition, First Printing) SOLD by Old Scrolls Book Shop

After that transaction we struck up a lively correspondence with Clem, and learned he had made several trips to Colombia.  He introduced us to many of the wonders of Cartagena, including the name of this amazing tour guide.

Marelvy Peña-Hall, incomparable tour guide  in Cartagena, Colombia

Marelvy Peña-Hall, our incomparable tour guide in Cartagena, Colombia (photo credit: Clem S. )

When we arranged our first visit to our son and daughter-in-law’s Cartagena home, Diana made an appointment for the four of us to walk the city with Marelvy.  It was an amazing day and a great gift for which I am ever thankful, Diana!

Marelvy and Diana in the courtyard of The University of Cartagena, Colombia

Marelvy and Diana in the courtyard of The University of Cartagena, Colombia

 

If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Cartagena, Colombia, and you want an historical tour of the city or one focusing primarily on the literary work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this is the lady to see.

Marelvy with Adam and Diana

Marelvy with Adam and Diana

Fluent in English, French and Spanish, her captivating personality is a mix of scholarly insight, graciousness and gentle good humor — she was truly a delightful companion and guide.  I later learned she is ranked #1 of 64 activities in Cartagena by Tripadvisor (For Tripadvisor info on Marelvy click HERE ).

We started the tour over coffee in the Santa Clara Hotel courtyard

We started the tour over coffee in the Santa Clara Hotel courtyard

We began the tour in the heart of the old city at the beautiful and luxurious Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Hotel,  a jewel of 17th century colonial architecture which is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Gabriel Garcia Marquez used this former convent as the setting for his novel, Of Love and Other Demons.

Of Love and Other Demons, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994)

Of Love and Other Demons, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994)

In the courtyard of the lovely Santa Clara Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia

In the courtyard of the lovely Santa Clara Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia

 

Marelvy and me in the crypt of the old Santa Clara Convent where the story begins in "Love and Other Demons"

Marelvy and me in the crypt of the old Santa Clara Convent (now Santa Clara Hotel).  It is where the story begins in “Love and Other Demons”

20150206_160743 During the hotel’s renovation, when crypts like this were excavated, many archeological artifacts were discovered that are now on display at the hotel.

20150204_214145 As a newspaper reporter, Marquez wrote of the procedure…

” The historic convent of the Clarissan nuns, which had been turned into a hospital a century earlier, was to be sold, and a five-star hotel built in its place.  The gradual collapse of the roof had left its beautiful chapel exposed to the elements, but three generations of bishops and abbesses and other eminent personages were still buried there.  The first step was to empty the crypts, transfer the remains to anyone who claimed them, and bury the rest in a common grave.

I was surprised by the crudeness of the procedure.  Laborers opened the tombs with pickaxes and hoes, took out the rotting coffins, which broke apart with the simple act of moving them, and separated bones from the jumble of dust, shreds of clothing, and desiccated hair.  The more illustrious the dead the more arduous the labor, because the workers had to rummage through the remains and sift the debris with great care in order to retrieve precious stones and articles of gold and silver.”

20150206_160751

20150206_161741Our walk continued through the old city’s picturesque streets, courtyards and beautiful parks…

20150206_172137

20150206_153641

20150205_120243

The social standing of each dwelling's occupants were indicated by the elaborate doors and door knockers in the old city of Cartagena

In the old city, the social standing of the residents were indicated by the level of sophisticated workmanship on display upon the entrance door

20150206_173158

Park and mansion setting (background on right) for the exchange of furtive love letters  in "Love in the Time of Cholera"

Park and mansion setting (background on right) for the exchange of furtive love letters in “Love in the Time of Cholera”20150206_165145

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (affectionately known as “Gabo” in Latin America) was a Colombian journalist and novelist whose One Hundred Years of Solitude established him as a giant of 20th-century literature.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, First American Edition, First Printing (now available at Old Scrolls Book Shop

One Hundred Years of Solitude, First American Edition, First Printing (now available at Old Scrolls Book Shop)

He was born in the small town of Aracataca, Colombia in 1927.  Early in his career he struggled, barely making a living writing for newspapers in Cartagena.  He alternated between literature and journalism for a good part of his life.

Photo portrait of Gabriel Garcia Marquez hanging in Patagonia Restaurant, Cartagena

Photo portrait of Gabriel Garcia Marquez hanging in the Patagonia Restaurant, Cartagena

Entrance to the Patagonia Restaurant

Street entrance to the Patagonia Restaurant

He maintained a home in Cartagena in his later years, and several of his novels are clearly set there, including Of Love and Other Demons and Love in the Time of Cholera (the latter was brought to film in 2007 by New Line Cinema).

This was the walled modern home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Cartagena

On Marelvy’s tour we viewed the walled modern home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Cartagena

Marquez moved to Mexico City in 1961, where he lived off and on for the rest of his life.  He was the master of the literary genre known as Magical Realism; his books are bursting with energy, romance,  and unbridled imagination.

A side street view of GGM's Cartagena home

A side street view of GGM’s Cartagena home

In his life he experienced extreme poverty and extreme success — and just about everything in-between.  To read about his life is to have some understanding as to why he was politically active and a defender of left-wing causes, as well as a friend to many famous political leaders as far-ranging as Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton.  In his later years, after achieving worldwide acclaim and financial success, he kept homes in Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris and Cartagena.  His own life is one great story.

“Gabo” died in April of 2014 at his home in Mexico City at the age of 87.

For a good brief biography and a sampling of his writing, read this New York Times article written shortly after his death.

For in-depth biographies, I suggest his 2002 memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, as well as Gabriel Garcia Marquez – A Life, by Gerald Martin.

Ron, me, Adam and Marelvy (photo credit:  Diana Zuluaga-Petruccione)

Ron, me, Adam and Marelvy in the Santa Clara Hotel  (photo credit: Diana Zuluaga-Petruccione)

More to come – hope you will follow us on the rest of our Colombian adventure!

Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://oldscrolls.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/a-walking-tour-in-the-shadow-of-gabriel-garcia-marquez/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Each time I receive an issue of your blog I am delighted and transported. Thank you. -Rod Wentler

    • Thanks for your acknowledgement, Rod! It means a lot to me. I love to share our book hunting and literary travels with others, and to know that sitting down and tapping at the keys and thinking hard about what it is I want to share about each adventure (big or small) means something to someone makes it all worthwhile!
      Cathy Petruccione
      Old Scrolls Book Shop


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: