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Magical Realism, Colombia

“Magical realism, Colombia” is the perfect phrase to define the experience of discovering the Colombian Caribbean through its literature. Today DINKtravelers invites you to learn more about it.

Reading is a way to travel, since it gives us the opportunity to imagine the landscapes and places that authors describe in their stories. But in DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, we have found a different way to travel, by visiting the places that inspired those stories. For example, in the past we did it with Dostoevsky and Dracula,or with the stories of our childhood like Anne of Green Gables and The Sleeping Beauty. This time won’t be the exception. Are you ready?

Magical Realism in Colombia

Cities are perfect places to visit and discover wonderful buildings, celebrations and traditions. Moreover, they give us the opportunity to know more about their inhabitants and their diverse personalities. Musicians, artists and novelists portray the best of their countries of origin in their work. Today, in DINKtravelers, we will tell you about two cities in the Colombian Caribbean that are full of magical realism, a literary genre that became very popular in the twentieth century and that is closely linked with the streets of Colombia.

Main Features of Magical Realism

What is magical realism? It’s a literary genre whose purpose is to portray what´s surreal and strange in everyday life. In other words, it is meant to reflect reality but with literary creativity. This genre has several characteristics: it plays with time, includes several narrators, and shows the life of characters whose fantastic traits and actions are sometimes unexplained. Also, it develops stories in exotic settings, mostly in Latin America.

Magical Realism in the Colombian Caribbean

Many magical realism novels that became internationally famous were written in Latin American countries. However, one specific country became the most popular magical realism destination: Colombia. It’s one of the main places where this literary genre has been developed. Among the most famous works we find: Ilona Arrives with the Rain, by Álvaro Mutis; A Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, and Big House, by Álvaro Cepeda.

All these authors have one thing in common: the Colombian Caribbean, a place which influenced the transmission of ideas to other countries. Álvaro Cepeda used to travel to and from Colombia, while García Márquez was born and raised in the Colombian Caribbean.

Magical Realism in Barranquilla

Barranquilla is located on the coast of Colombia. Its history is strongly linked with the Magdalena River, which is constantly mentioned in the novels by Gabriel García Márquez. For this reason, Barranquilla has become an icon in the search of magical realism in Colombia.

Barranquilla is also a city known for its multiculturalism. It’s home to many different kinds of people and it’s the place where twentieth-century writers such as Cepeda and García Márquez, held their literary meetings. They would meet for coffee and exchange ideas that helped create de literary genre of magical realism.

The Barranquilla Carnival

One of the national events that is best for understanding what magical realism is takes place in the city of Barranquilla. We are talking about the Barranquilla Carnival, which was declared Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO in 2003. It takes place on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. That day, the streets of Barranquilla are filled with colorful feathers, people wearing disguises, and dances that show the region’s multicultural heritage. We recommend planning your trip so that it coincides with this event.

Magical Realism in Cartagena

The city of Cartagena was declared World Heritage in 1984. Its tropical beauty and historical value are reflected on its forts and castles. Modern and historical architecture also come together in colorful houses and an extraordinary, exotic landscape.

There are several places worth visiting in Cartagena. One of them is Getsemaní, the oldest neighborhood, which inspired García Márquez when he wrote Love in Times of Cholera. Once there, take a walk along Plaza de la Santísima Trinidad (Holy Trinity Square) and discover some colorful buildings that tell the story of the city.

Other activities that are full of magical realism include taking a cruise tour along the Magdalena River or walking along Cartagena’s paved streets.

Gabriel García Márquez & Cartagena de Indias

Gabriel García Márquez lived in Cartagena de Indias with his parents for some time. You can visit his former home when you travel to the city. It’s evident that he drew inspiration from Cartagena to write his novels. For this reason, if you travel to Cartagena, you should go on a literary tour to discover more about his relationship with the city. With the aid of an audio guide available in tourist offices, you can visit the streets near the fort of Cartagena, as well as other iconic sites. As you go on this walking tour, you’ll listen to commentaries by the famous author about his novels.

García Márquez passed away in Mexico in 2014. However, by request of the author, his ashes were taken to Cartagena and buried in the Claustro de la Merced (Merced Cloister). It’s located near the house where he lived and it faces the sea. Visit this place as part of your trip.

Traveling inspired by literature is a unique experience! This literary tour in two cities of the Colombian Carribean allows you to enjoy the cultural heritage left by the Nobel prize winner of this country.