The Washington Post
Monday, March 25, 2002

Years of Solitude at Garcia Marquez's House

By Ibon Villelabeitia

ARACATACA, Colombia—From his small, cheerless office, Ancizar Vergara watches the dusty almond trees lining a quiet back street. It is past noon on a bright,
sultry day and the mail has not arrived.

A slow breeze blows and Vergara, a diminutive man with prematurely gray hair, opens the doors and windows of a white clapboard house onto an unkempt back
yard. "Some people come from far away to gather a handful of earth from the garden, but it gets lonely. We don't have many visits," he said.

Vergara is curator of the house where Colombia's acclaimed Nobel-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born 75 years ago this month and which is now a

Garcia Marquez spent his early childhood in this house, tucked away in the somnolent Caribbean town of Aracataca, listening to his grandmother's fantastic tales that
later shaped his exuberant literary world.

But today the place is a forgotten two-room shack with cobwebs and sparse furnishings.

Declared a national monument after Garcia Marquez won the Nobel in 1982, the museum receives few visitors and survives mainly on charity. Vergara says he can't
remember when he last received his monthly paycheck of $193 from the government.

After years of isolation, Vergara is beginning to seem like one of Garcia Marquez's characters—in particular, the retired officer in the novella "No One Writes to the
Colonel" who waits 15 years for a pension check.

"Sometimes weeks or months go by and I sit here alone and nobody comes. I read or send letters to the ministry asking for funds but normally there's no reply," said
Vergara, 45. "Sometimes I fear I'll become a ghost from waiting so long."

No one knows for sure when Garcia Marquez, who lives in Los Angeles, was last here, Vergara said.

Aracataca, a tumble-down town of 45,000 people, lies on a sun-drenched plain of banana plantations and dry bush shrilling with the sound of cicadas one hour's
drive from the port city of Santa Marta and about 390 miles north of the capital Bogota.