Thousands line up to bid goodbye to Garcia Marquez

MEXICO CITY — The ashes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez arrived Monday at Mexico City’s majestic Palace of Fine Arts to several minutes of thunderous applause from admirers paying tribute to the Colombian Nobel laureate, considered one of the greatest Spanish-language authors of all time.

His remains were placed on a black pedestal in the lobby of the dramatic art deco building by his widow, Mercedes Barcha, and his two sons, Gonzalo and Rodrigo.

Thousands of people stood in a line stretching more than a half mile, hoping to pass by the simple urn decorated with a single yellow rose during the three-hour tribute open to the public. A ceremony afterward was presided over by the presidents of Mexico and Colombia, two countries linked to the writer by birth, heritage and career.

Dignitaries took turns as honor guards, including Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera and Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, president of Mexico’s National Council for Culture and the Arts. A classical group and a traditional Colombian vellanato band serenaded mourners.

“Gabo was a watershed in my life,” said Nelly Hernandez, a 52-year-old teacher who was waiting outside the Palace of Fine Arts for the doors to open, holding a pair of yellow paper butterflies, echoing one of the best known images from “100 Years of Solitude.”

“He taught me to relish life through literature,” Hernandez said.

Garcia Marquez, known throughout Latin American and much of the world simply as “Gabo,” lived in Mexico for decades and wrote some of his best-known works here, included the renowned “100 Years of Solitude.” He died Thursday in Mexico City at age 87.

Mexican officials said some of Garcia Marquez’s favorite classical music would be performed at the ceremony led by Presidents Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.

Garcia Marquez’s birthplace, the town of Aracataca on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, held a symbolic funeral.

Residents joined in a procession from Garcia Marquez’s childhood home, now a museum dedicated to his life and work, to the church in the center of town, then to the town cemetery and back to the museum.

Mourners carried hundreds of yellow flowers and yellow paper butterflies, a reference to the character Mauricio Babilonia, who was always trailed by a cloud of yellow butterflies. Yellow was Garcia Marquez’s favorite color.

On Wednesday, Colombia plans a marathon reading this week of Garcia Marquez’s work “No One Writes to the Colonel.”

Family members have not said what they plan to do with his ashes. Colombia has said it would like at least some of the ashes to go to his homeland.

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