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Renovating a literary giant's childhood home

After numerous failed tourist schemes, Aracataca residents hope a Garcia Marquez museum will succeed.

The home was originally built in 1910 by Garcia Marquez’s grandfather, who moved to Aracataca to escape the wrath of a neighboring village after he killed a man in a duel.

The house was filled with quirky relatives who told the young Garcia Marquez tales of people who could move chairs just by looking at them and make worms emerge from the heads of cows.

Plagued by floods, wind storms and locusts, Aracataca was a raw, frontier outpost, populated by banana workers from the United Fruit Company, immigrants, gypsies and even escapees from the penal colony at Devil’s Island.

“One afternoon, we heard shouts in the street and saw a headless man ride past on a donkey,” Garcia Marquez wrote in his 2003 autobiography. “He had been decapitated by a machete during a settling of accounts on a banana plantation.”

But like the fictional Macondo, Aracataca fell on hard times.

The United Fruit Company pulled out following a massacre of banana workers in 1928. The economy stagnated. After moving away at age 9, Garcia Marquez returned with his mother in 1950 to sell the family house. In his autobiography, he described what he found in Aracataca.

“All that remained were the dusty almond trees, the reverberating streets, the houses of wood and roofs of rusting tin with their taciturn inhabitants, devastated by memories,” he wrote.

It’s no wonder that "In Evil Hour," one of Garcia Marquez’s first published novellas about life in Aracataca, was originally titled "This Shitty Town."

Decades later, Aracataca still seems like an off-the-map village with little connection to the modern world.

The town is dominated by pool halls. Rather than cars and trucks, bicycle taxis fill the streets. There are no fine restaurants, no hotels for tourists, and no book stores to purchase copies of "No One Writes to the Colonel" or "The General in his Labyrinth."

Yet thanks to a few energetic residents, Aracataca still has a pulse.