Mexico has farewelled its beloved adopted son, Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in a national tribute filled with the late Nobel laureate’s favourite flowers and music.
A coffee-coloured urn containing his ashes was placed on a podium, surrounded by yellow roses, in Mexico City’s domed Fine Arts Palace as a string quartet played classical music.
Dozens of guests applauded when his widow, Mercedes Barcha, arrived dressed in black with their sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo, at the cultural centre, where Mexico pays tribute to its late artistic icons.
Hundreds of fans filed past the urn to pay their last respects to the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, taking pictures and short videos with their smartphones.
Some of the guests even danced as a three-piece vallenato band played folk songs from his native Colombia with an accordion, drum and guacharaca, a percussion instrument.
Known affectionately as “Gabo,” Garcia Marquez died on April 17 in the Mexico City house where he lived for decades with his wife and two sons. He was 87.
Garcia Marquez first moved to Mexico in 1961 and it was there the veteran journalist wrote his seminal novel, a family and historical saga that was published in 1967.
He was a leading exponent of “magical realism,” a style of story-telling that blends fantasy and realistic elements.
The cause of his death has not been disclosed but he died a week after a bout of pneumonia.
The palace was decorated with the late writer’s favourite flower, the yellow rose that he so often wore on his lapel for good luck.
Many mourners wore the rose as violins played Beethoven. A large portrait of Garcia Marquez hung on a wall.
The vallenato trio offered a performance to the crowd outside the palace. Then, people took turns reading pages from One Hundred Years of Solitude.
“He loved this country. He was very grateful and felt as Mexican as any other person,” Jaime Abello, director of the Ibero-American New Journalism Foundation founded by Garcia Marquez, told MVS Radio.
His native Colombia will hold its own ceremony at Bogota’s cathedral on Tuesday for the man President Juan Manuel Santos hailed as “the greatest Colombian of all time.”
On Wednesday, to mark World Book Day, Colombians will have readings of Garcia Marquez’s novel No One Writes to the Colonel in more than 1000 libraries, parks and universities.
The family has not said where the author’s final resting place will be but Colombia hopes his ashes will be divided between his homeland and Mexico.
His wife Barcha “says that it is a very difficult decision that will be taken in due time,” said Rafael Tovar, president of Mexico’s National Culture and Arts Council.