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Gabriel García Márquez was born in the small town of Aracataca, Colombia, in 1928. He lived with his grandparents. God, the saints, miracles, ghosts, ancestors, war, politics, farming—all were part of the fabric of García Márquez's childhood. From his grandmother García Márquez heard extraordinary stories of sometimes impossible events, told in a matter-of-fact way. For his grandmother, miracles were no less real than politics, and history had its magical aspects.
García Márquez found a way to express that point of view in One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel about a family whose lives are shaped by the intersection of magical and everyday happenings, and whose stories, however fantastical, illuminate the political and practical realities of Latin American life.
When One Hundred Years of Solitude was published in 1967, its equal treatment of reality and fantasy was given the name "magical realism." But García Márquez has made it clear that he does not see his work as a fable or fairy tale; in his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, "The Solitude of Latin America," he pointed out the tenuous line he sees between reality and fantasy in Latin American life:
[Outsiders] have been struck by the unearthly tidings of Latin America, that boundless realm of haunted men and historic women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend. [As] creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of [our] imaginations, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. That is the crux of our solitude.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a work of metafiction—that is, we realize at the end that we have been reading a story about reading a story. We have been reading about the Buendías only because Aureliano (IV) has been reading the story of the Buendías in a book written by the prophetic gypsy Melquiades. The novel we hold in our hands is Melquiades' story. As Aureliano (IV) finishes it, we finish the novel written by García Márquez, and both Macondo and the Buendías disappear, contained within the pages of a book, real and not real. That is a bit of magical realism that you participate in as a reader of García Márquez.
García Márquez wrote his novel in Spanish, his native language. One Hundred Years of Solitude touches on the colonial history of Colombia, and all Latin America, during which time the Spanish language was forced on Americans. The first Americans to encounter Spanish used it as necessary, but kept their native languages intact. But with each passing generation, Mayan, Quechua, and the other native languages of the Americas became less common. Millions of people still speak native languages today, but gradually Spanish and Portuguese became the dominant languages of Latin America.
Today, most Latin Americans (at least those of full or partial European heritage) see Spanish (or, in Brazil, Portuguese) as a language they have made their own, distinct from the European original, and a suitable vehicle for expressing themselves.