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Macondo Express

'It’s coming,' she finally explained. 'Something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind it.' (From Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude)

The excerpt above describes one woman’s wonder at the arrival of the first ever train in Macondo, García Márquez fictional literary world of yellow butterflies and ascending beauties. And now its coming… again. Aracataca, Colombia, the Nobel laureate’s home town, will soon be a stop along the Macondo Route, a train service that will connect the town of 26,000 to the resort town of Santa Marta and others in the Caribbean department of Magdalena.

The real-life inspiration for surreal Macondo, Aracataca has gained international fame as the setting of García Márquez’s masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Local authorities claim numerous, frequent inquiries by literary pilgrims in search of Macondo. García Márquez once described tropical Aracataca as 'a good place to live where everybody knew everybody else, located on the banks of a river of transparent water that raced over a bed of polished stones as huge and white as prehistoric eggs.'

Like the Macondo of his writings, Aracataca stagnated. In his memoirs, García Márquez recalls a return visit with his mother in the 1950s, 'As far as the eye could see,' he wrote, 'there was no recollection of human life, nothing that was not covered by a faint sprinkling of burning dust. My mother stayed in her seat for a few more minutes, looking at the dead town laid out along empty streets, and at last she exclaimed in horror: “My God!”'

In a concerted attempt to make sure that life does not imitate art, Aracataca hopes to revive its sagging economy with investment in tourism. Along with the train, the town also plans to convert García Márquez’s childhood home into a museum that will mimic the colorful Buendía household of his novels and short stories. The old telegraph office and train station are also to be touched up.

Part of a larger provincial initiative, officials hope to entice tourists to the area, located near the spectacular Tayrona National Park and mystical Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park, whose snow-covered peaks are located an amazingly short distance from the Caribbean beaches below.

Gabo, as the popular author is lovingly known in Colombia, himself participated to much fanfare in the train’s inauguration in late May, his first trip home in over two decades. Long a resident of Mexico City, García Márquez has spent more time in Colombia recently due to the celebrations marking his 80th birthday next March, the 25th anniversary of his Nobel and the 40th anniversary of the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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