Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez died Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Mexico City at age 87. Julio Ortega, professor of Hispanic studies, reflects on student encounters with “Gabo’s” works of literature and the larger world of Macondo, his fictional town. “In fact,” Ortega said, “he has been an old friend of hundreds of students at Brown.”

I was discussing with my class García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude when the news came to us. Gabo and Carlos Fuentes were most beloved authors at Spanish-speaking Brown. One student gave me the news in a terse email: "Gabo is back to Macondo.” She is right: He is alive in our reading.

Laughing like old friends: Former President Ruth Simmons met García Márquez in 2007, when she delivered an address at the University of Guadalajara.
Laughing like old friends Former President Ruth Simmons met García Márquez in 2007, when she delivered an address at the University of Guadalajara.
I always encourage students in my course on Gabriel García Márquez to write a well-crafted research paper, but some students produce other amazing creative work — short movies, photography, paitings, and once even some “magic realist” cooking in Macondo!

García Márquez was fascinated by my stories about my students’ interpretations of his books. He would like, he told me, to enter my class unnoticed, take a seat in the last row, and silently listen to the students’ comments.

In 2007 President Ruth Simmons was invited by the Julio Cortazar Chair at the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico, to deliver a talk on education. She and García Márquez met and laughed like old friends.

In fact, he has been an old friend of hundreds of students at Brown.