Over spring break, students enrolled in Spanish 318 are getting the chance to glimpse the enchanted world conjured by Gabriel García Márquez in his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
From March 10-17, eight students taking the course “A Journey Around Macondo,” taught by Assistant Professor of Romance Languages Nadia Celis, are exploring northern Colombia. Led by both Celis and Christine Wintersteen, Bowdoin’s director of international programs and off-campus study, the group is exploring the milieu that gave birth to Márquez’s fictional town of Macondo, where One Hundred Years of Solitude is set.
“Macondo … has been frequently regarded as both a metaphor of Latin America as a whole and as ‘the village of the world’,” Celis said. “The village is the fictional synthesis of several towns and cities in the region of Colombia where Gabriel Garcia Márquez lived during his formative years.” That region includes Cartagena and the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia, particularly the towns of Aracataca, Barranquilla and Santa Maria.
Celis said she designed “A Journey Around Macondo” to examine both the land and culture that gave birth to Macondo and the universal themes of the novel. “My attempts to illustrate [for students] the space that informed Gabriel García Marquez’ imagination — through strategies ranging from videos to Google Earth — as well as to document the history and social conflicts that influenced his work, have proved successful in engaging students with the text, the language, the culture and the human-interest themes in the novel,” she said.
More personally, Celis said she has long been nursing a hope to bring her students home with her. “As a native of the Colombian Caribbean and a professor of its literature, it is my dream to bring my students ‘home,’ and have them touch and smell a world greatly misunderstood from the outside,” she said.
Throughout the trip, students will hear talks by scholars, tour museums, meet Colombian university students and and visit sites important to García Márquez. All the academic activities will be conducted in Spanish.
García Márquez’s fans — including literary critics, international scholars and casual readers — have become increasingly interested in exploring Márquez’s native region and in learning about the work of other writers and artists who shared his background, Celis said. García Márquez’s childhood home is now a museum in Aracataca, and several spots important to him, such as a cafe in Barranquilla where he and his contemporaries once met, have been restored for visitors.
The students are staying in a hostel in central Cartagena, and will board at small hotels when they travel outside the city. The trip was optional, and eligible students received financial aid to help cover the $1,500 cost of the trip.