Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia pays tribute to author Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Media captionPresident Juan Manuel Santos: "The world knows about Colombia because of Garcia Marquez"

Colombia has paid tribute to its most celebrated author, Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died on Thursday aged 87.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos led a ceremony in Bogota's cathedral, which was also attended by the author's sisters.

On Monday, a formal commemoration in honour of Garcia Marquez was held in Mexico City, where the author lived.

He was cremated in Mexico in a private family ceremony last week.

Family members have not yet revealed what they intend to do with his ashes.

There have been suggestions that they may be divided between his birth country and Mexico, his home for several decades.

Ahead of the event in Bogota's cathedral, organisers said it would not be of a religious nature, but it began with prayers led by Ruben Salazar Gomez, the Archbishop of Bogota.

Committed to peace

Colombia's National Symphonic Orchestra and the Saint Cecilia Choral Society then played Mozart's Requiem.

Afterwards, President Santos addressed the audience and called Gabo, as Garcia Marquez was affectionately known, a "giant man".

"Gabo was committed to the fate of his country and Latin America. (...) He was especially concerned about achieving peace (in Colombia)," the president said.

The Colombian government and the largest rebel group, the Farc, have been in negotiations since November 2012 to end a 50-year civil conflict which has killed an estimated 220,000 people and displaced more than five million others.

The ceremony was broadcast live on state television and radio, as well as on giant screens outside the cathedral.

On Wednesday - to coincide with World Book Day - Colombians will further remember Garcia Marquez by organising readings of his novella No One Writes to the Colonel at more than 1,000 libraries, parks, universities and schools.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A large photograph of the author has been placed on the facade of the National Library in Bogota

Twelve thousand copies of the novella have already been handed out for the reading.

President Juan Manuel Santos also attended the event at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts on Monday.

He told the BBC: "The world knows about Colombia through Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He represented what Colombia is in many ways. His magic realism is - and he said it - is not an invention. It's a description of what Colombia is."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Fans of Garcia Marquez queued to pay their last respects to the author at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City

Thousands of fans filed past the urn containing his ashes. Joseline Lopez, a Venezuelan medical student, said she had come because she wanted "to thank him for the pleasure he gave me in reading books".

Referring to his best-known novel she said: "One Hundred Years of Solitude will survive 100 more years in our hearts."

Nelly Hernandez, a teacher, said that the author was "a watershed in my life". "He taught me to relish life through literature."

The cause of his death has not been disclosed, but he had been treated for pneumonia shortly before he died.

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