Any biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez that provides an analysis of the author’s works should note that the issues of time and history are prominent themes in nearly all of the works by the author. These themes in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez are represented as being at once unified as well as inexorably at odds. In many of his stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes theme seem mutable and in true epic fashion, he can meld together the past, present, and future to formulate a statement about his political, cultural, or social beliefs. Politically, the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez represent both a retelling and restructuring of history since often, his stories are infused with real events and literal or historical truth. They function not only as entertaining narratives, but also as ways of thinking about and reacting to Columbian and Latin American history.

Because of the political slant of many of his works, it is possible to discern that Garcia Garcia Marquez wishes to not only inform his fellow countrymen about what has passed, but to make them think about their reactions to history. Because of his use of magical realism, history, folk culture, and the outside world are able to come together and thus his fiction is a seamless blend of indigenous culture and history as well as the modern influences of colonialism and the outside world. The final result of these thoughts on the author’s works is that by presenting tales with very lofty thematic goals, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is able to balance history and modernity with a reverence for his indigenous culture and social values.

Before attempting to understand the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez within its literary and social contexts, it is important to preface these thoughts with a short background on the political climate that influenced most of his works. Born in Aracataca, a rural town in Northern Columbia surrounded by banana plantations, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was witness to various internal struggles in the country that would eventually be woven into his most important work, One Hundred Years of Solitude. After the end of institutionalized colonial rule, the Liberal and Conservative parties battled for control, a fight that continues to this day. As a result of this internal strife, the country Garcia Marquez was raised in was frequently the site of harsh violence, even though the two parties were more like clans than entities with distinct philosophical differences. Coupled with these tensions are two important historical events which shaped the life and fiction of the author enormously; the Banana Strike Massacre of 1928 and a period of Columbian history called simply, “The Violence." The Banana Strike Massacre occurred the year the author was born but its aftermath impacted the lives of Columbians for long afterward and is fictionalized in “One Hundred Years of Solitude“. During this event, workers at the American-owned plantation went on strike with hope of gaining better working conditions and pay but were repelled by gunfire. They formed a large group to hold a demonstration near Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s hometown and again gunfire erupted. Untold numbers of people were killed and countless others disappeared completely.

In addition to the horrific event of the Banana Strike Massacre, the Gabriel Garcia Marquez was also present during the time of “The Violence" which was initially begun as a response to the Banana Strike Massacre. During this time a powerful liberal orator named Gaitan rose to power and caused a deep division in his party. Eventually Gaitain was elected the leader but he was assassinated in 1948. After his death, massive riots erupted throughout the country and guerrilla armies were formed. Within days, villages were being burned to the ground by rival factions and by the end, in 1953, over 150,000 Columbians had been killed. This event, like so many others in Marquez’s life, would appear in fictionalized form inThe Evil Hour. As a journalist and liberal political activist, Marquez was on site during many of the events of the violence and has an intimate understanding of both war, internal conflict, and history. As a result of his journalism background, many events from history appear in fictionalized format to help the reader (and perhaps, to some degree, the author) make sense of them. Because of the intense historical and political background of his major works, it is necessary to look at them as statements about society and politics as well as to appreciate them for their beauty and prose.

In the large body of fictional works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the concepts of time and history are incredibly important. In novels such as “One Hundred Years of Solitude“, time is mutable and the epic history of one family line is told with frequent allusions to both the past and present. In other tales, such as Love in the Time of Cholera, Death Constant Beyond Love, and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the past is fictionalized but based on true historical or social events. To the author, the history of Columbia and its people cannot be separated from the future or present and because of this, his tales have the unique quality of timelessness and legitimacy. As one scholar puts it, “By creating a narrative of ordinary Latin folk that is without a hint of insincerity or condescension, and by articulating a kind of history from below…Gabriel Garcia Marquez has given poetry, magic and dignity to Latin American daily life and can thus be thought of as a people’s writer" (Bell-Villada 17). This statement is incredibly pertinent to all of his works because Gabriel Garcia Marquez, while incorporating the real and the surreal (in the form of magical realism) is constantly aware of how history informs the present and future for all people. This tunes into an important aspect of Latin American culture and life since the legacy of colonialism has destroyed so many traces of the indigenous and this has led to a search for identity that can only be concluded by looking at various time periods—one before colonization and one after. He writes about ordinary people living during extraordinary times and this has broad appeal for nations of people who have a subverted or interrupted culture. This theme of a “time before" landmark events happen is also apparent in many of his works and the author takes key historical events to highlight these issues with time and how it relates to the daily life of Columbians and Latin Americans. In light of this, it is also important to recognize a few key issues Garcia Marquez brings up about his culture by using history infused with fiction (or vice versa.)

As a political activist, especially one who was present during or indirectly involved with some of the most violent and turbulent periods of Columbian history, Garcia Marquez makes several statements in his work about social and political responsibility. When the events of the Banana Strike Massacre are fictionalized in “One Hundred Years of Solitude“, for example, the author explores the social implications of such violence. At one point, he even makes a statement about how there was certain amount of social and political irresponsibility among the citizens of the village.

As one critic notes, “No amount of passionate denunciation can rouse the Macondones from their indifference, even as the Banana Company effectively inaugurates the clearest identity disparity witnessed in the novel: the Company owners and the banana workers" (Krapp 403). This is important because, although the reader has been hitherto coerced into focusing almost solely on the decaying state of the family and central characters, we are now being forced to look beyond the local and immediate to consider the larger historical implications of this small village. Although it is somewhat utopian, further influences from outside keep causing more problems and Garcia Marquez seems frustrated at the reaction of the characters, just as he might have been with his own people when after the Banana Strike Massacre, an official statement was released that made the event no longer seem violent—a lie in which many in Columbia were willing to believe. Just as in real life, the author expresses his thoughts about social and political responsibility when after the false report comes out, “There were no dead, the satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the banana company was suspending all activity until the rains stopped" (Garcia Marquez 332).

While this might seem like a twist or plot contrivance, knowing the actual events in Columbian history as they relate to the fictionalized telling of the tale about the Columbian Banana Strike Massacre makes the story much more powerful and relates the author’s feelings about responsibility. In general, it seems that Garcia Marquez wants his readers, especially those who are Columbian, to find a voice in the political chaos of the years since active colonialism yet he also seems to want to gently scold or warn them about the dangers of allowing atrocities to continue when peace could be possible. This is a particularly potent political and social message coming from a man who has seen and reported on one of the worst and most devastating periods in the history of Columbia. The author also discusses the corruption behind regional politics by examining certain key characters such as Senator Onesimo Sanches in “Death Constant Beyond Love" and looks at the way he is representative of what is wrong with contemporary politics and how citizens can be impacted by such leadership. Again, by presenting a figure who is firmly based in Latin American political reality and demonstrating how those around him react to his corruption, the author is not just telling a story, he is making his readers aware of consistent problems in his society.

In terms of time, politics, and history, it is significant to note the style in which nearly all of the author’s works are written. Despite his status as a former journalist, his style is anything but dry and factual. In fact, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is credited with expanding and introducing (on a wide scale) magical realism, which is a mode of storytelling in which both realistic and fantastic or supernatural events are narrated exactly the same, thus making the reader believe that they are both truthful representations of what is occurring in the story. This is an important aspect to his writing because it allows for a kind of political, cultural, and even religious leniency since it combines the realistic aspects of the everyday world with aspects from indigenous culture. Stories about ghosts and spirits are given as much credence as those about everyday concerns and the melding of the two is like a melding of cultures—the indigenous and the modern. As one scholar notes, “Occurrences seen as supernatural in the First World (such as ghostly apparitions, human beings with the ability to fly, disappear, etc.) are presented as natural from a Third World perspective, while other occurrences seen as normal in the First World (magnets, science, and railway trains) are presented as supernatural" (Hart 115). Again, with the mindset that the author is a “people’s writer" he is taking aspects of folk culture and instead of evaluating them against the modern standard of reason, he gives them equal value and by doing so, validates them. Since he was raised on the stories of his grandmother, who often spoke of ghosts and supernatural events occurring within the framework of a “logical" story, he learned that both ways of thinking about the world are correct. In general, his attempt to incorporate both the real and the fantastic into the same work is admirable and speaks volumes about his social and political ideas because he seeks to maintain both the traditional and native as well as letting in the realistic and “grounded."

The author often uses the form of magical realism and the content derived from history and politics to address some of the most difficult and meaningful themes. He addresses war, suffering, and death with clarity and a political slant. As one critic notes, “The message of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ is that one must be determined to live—above all, to love—with fearless devotion to the very end, or else consign oneself to the ash-pits for those who have given up living before they are actually dead" (Valiunas 51). The author is not content to look at issues from the surface, but rather boils every story down to its most vital essence. These themes, like those in other tales, offer a very large message for his readers but perhaps it is this timelessness of theme combined with history and cultures that make his works so enduring today.

Other essays and articles on related literary topics can be found in the Literature Archives at Article Myraid •

Works Cited

Bell-Villada, Gene H. Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Hart, Stephen M. “Magical Realism in the Americas: Politicised Ghosts in One Hundred Years of Solitude, The House of the Spirits, and Beloved.” Tesserae: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 9.2 (2003): 115.

Krapp, John. “Apathy and the Politics of Identity: García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Contemporary Cultural Criticism.” Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 11.4 (2001): 403.

Marquez, Gabriel G. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.

Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America Berkley; University of California Press. 1993.

Valiunas, Algis. “The ‘Magic’ of Gabriel García Márquez.” Commentary 117.4 (2004): 51.

As a political activist, especially one who was present during or indirectly involved with some of the most violent and turbulent periods of Columbian history, Garcia Marquez makes several statements in his work about social and political responsibility. When the events of the Banana Strike Massacre are fictionalized in “One Hundred Years of Solitude“, for example, the author explores the social implications of such violence. At one point, he even makes a statement about how there was certain amount of social and political irresponsibility among the citizens of the village.

As one critic notes, “No amount of passionate denunciation can rouse the Macondones from their indifference, even as the Banana Company effectively inaugurates the clearest identity disparity witnessed in the novel: the Company owners and the banana workers" (Krapp 403). This is important because, although the reader has been hitherto coerced into focusing almost solely on the decaying state of the family and central characters, we are now being forced to look beyond the local and immediate to consider the larger historical implications of this small village. Although it is somewhat utopian, further influences from outside keep causing more problems and Garcia Marquez seems frustrated at the reaction of the characters, just as he might have been with his own people when after the Banana Strike Massacre, an official statement was released that made the event no longer seem violent—a lie in which many in Columbia were willing to believe. Just as in real life, the author expresses his thoughts about social and political responsibility when after the false report comes out, “There were no dead, the satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the banana company was suspending all activity until the rains stopped" (Garcia Marquez 332).

While this might seem like a twist or plot contrivance, knowing the actual events in Columbian history as they relate to the fictionalized telling of the tale about the Columbian Banana Strike Massacre makes the story much more powerful and relates the author’s feelings about responsibility. In general, it seems that Garcia Marquez wants his readers, especially those who are Columbian, to find a voice in the political chaos of the years since active colonialism yet he also seems to want to gently scold or warn them about the dangers of allowing atrocities to continue when peace could be possible. This is a particularly potent political and social message coming from a man who has seen and reported on one of the worst and most devastating periods in the history of Columbia. The author also discusses the corruption behind regional politics by examining certain key characters such as Senator Onesimo Sanches in “Death Constant Beyond Love" and looks at the way he is representative of what is wrong with contemporary politics and how citizens can be impacted by such leadership. Again, by presenting a figure who is firmly based in Latin American political reality and demonstrating how those around him react to his corruption, the author is not just telling a story, he is making his readers aware of consistent problems in his society.

In terms of time, politics, and history, it is significant to note the style in which nearly all of the author’s works are written. Despite his status as a former journalist, his style is anything but dry and factual. In fact, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is credited with expanding and introducing (on a wide scale) magical realism, which is a mode of storytelling in which both realistic and fantastic or supernatural events are narrated exactly the same, thus making the reader believe that they are both truthful representations of what is occurring in the story. This is an important aspect to his writing because it allows for a kind of political, cultural, and even religious leniency since it combines the realistic aspects of the everyday world with aspects from indigenous culture. Stories about ghosts and spirits are given as much credence as those about everyday concerns and the melding of the two is like a melding of cultures—the indigenous and the modern. As one scholar notes, “Occurrences seen as supernatural in the First World (such as ghostly apparitions, human beings with the ability to fly, disappear, etc.) are presented as natural from a Third World perspective, while other occurrences seen as normal in the First World (magnets, science, and railway trains) are presented as supernatural" (Hart 115). Again, with the mindset that the author is a “people’s writer" he is taking aspects of folk culture and instead of evaluating them against the modern standard of reason, he gives them equal value and by doing so, validates them. Since he was raised on the stories of his grandmother, who often spoke of ghosts and supernatural events occurring within the framework of a “logical" story, he learned that both ways of thinking about the world are correct. In general, his attempt to incorporate both the real and the fantastic into the same work is admirable and speaks volumes about his social and political ideas because he seeks to maintain both the traditional and native as well as letting in the realistic and “grounded."

The author often uses the form of magical realism and the content derived from history and politics to address some of the most difficult and meaningful themes. He addresses war, suffering, and death with clarity and a political slant. As one critic notes, “The message of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ is that one must be determined to live—above all, to love—with fearless devotion to the very end, or else consign oneself to the ash-pits for those who have given up living before they are actually dead" (Valiunas 51). The author is not content to look at issues from the surface, but rather boils every story down to its most vital essence. These themes, like those in other tales, offer a very large message for his readers but perhaps it is this timelessness of theme combined with history and cultures that make his works so enduring today.

Other essays and articles on related literary topics can be found in the Literature Archives at Article Myraid •

Works Cited

Bell-Villada, Gene H. Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Hart, Stephen M. “Magical Realism in the Americas: Politicised Ghosts in One Hundred Years of Solitude, The House of the Spirits, and Beloved.” Tesserae: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 9.2 (2003): 115.

Krapp, John. “Apathy and the Politics of Identity: García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Contemporary Cultural Criticism.” Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 11.4 (2001): 403.

Marquez, Gabriel G. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.

Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America Berkley; University of California Press. 1993.

Valiunas, Algis. “The ‘Magic’ of Gabriel García Márquez.” Commentary 117.4 (2004): 51.