Aracataca is a universe

By Mario Vargas Llosa

 

Aracataca is not some lost town choking in heat and overlooked by God and man, stuck down among the deserts, and ocean, and mountains of Colombia. Aracataca is a universe, and behind those fragile wood and corrugated tin walls sparkle a thousand and one adventures and the most extraordinary characters in creation.

 

If you don’t believe it, just ask the town’s most illustrious son, señor Gabriel García Márquez, a writer by profession, who swears that the epic of One Hundred Years of Solitude, all the dazzling stories of Macondo, he heard as a boy from the mouths of his grandmother and other neighborhood women, big talkers all of them. Their parroting and gossiping and slanderings and fantasies were the clay stored in his memory that he later used to fashion his fabulous fables.

 

That is why, if you go to Macondo—I mean, Aracataca—do not be deceived by appearances. At first sight you might think that nothing ever happens here, that the sultry air has made people lazy, and that everyone’s biggest worry is whether they might miss siesta–preferably spent in a hammock–or a cold beer in the little bar on the corner, listening to salsas and ballenatos.   Not true! Here everyone, old, young, men, women, are frantically busy.

 

Doing what? Why, dreaming, fantasizing, inventing. That’s the most illustrious and most ancient of human endeavors. Starting from this world, you imagine another that is more original, more beautiful, more perfect, and then, calling on your mind and sensibility, you transport yourself there for a better life. Which is why if you judge by appearances and think we are poor, you are mistaken. In fact, if you enter the real Aracataca, the dream Aracataca, you will find that we are extremely rich, the most prosperous men and women on the entire planet. Also those with the most lively and surprising and luxurious lives. In our universe, there is no such thing as the impossible: anything can happen. The sun can come out at night and the moon in broad daylight, and the law of gravity can be suspended so that people can take a nice little stroll among the clouds if they feel like it. Here fat folks are thin and thin fat, ugly girls are pretty, children are old, dogs meow and cats bark, and there is no difference among living, dead, and ghosts, which is also true for mice and butterflies, or barnyard hens.

 

To know the real Aracataca, you must close your eyes and let fantasy gallop off with you.