‘Gabo’ will have a Center to promote his legacy through the lessons of journalism

When Colombian literature Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez died in April 2014, in addition to the sadness that followed, a need arose in the Colombian community to ensure his legacy would continue from generation to generation.

The legacy they wanted to pass on went beyond his literary work, which gained momentum internationally in 1982 after García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature for '100 years of solitude'. For those who knew him best, the most important thing was to convey all those aspects that moved 'Gabo' – as he was affectionately called – to make a better society.

For this reason, a few months after his death, the Colombian Congress approved the Law of honors that established the creation of an International Center for the legacy of Gabriel García Márquez, known as Centro Gabo, in the city of Cartagena as "project of public interest". The Center would expand the mission of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism (FNPI), created by Gabo himself.

Despite being in the charge of the FNPI, the Center was conceived as a public-private and academic alliance with the objective of promoting this legacy by "awakening and encouraging vocations in the arts and sciences, promoting critical and innovative thinking, and inspiring and educating the public in the ethical and creative use of the power to investigate, tell and share stories,” according to the Center's site.

"This project in the Foundation means that not only do we start as a missionary to deal with journalism, which was the raison d'etre of the creation of the institution and the work we have done over these years, but we also started to take care of our founder and his legacy in other fields; but always trying to establish the conceptual kinships that have more to do with journalism," Jaime Abello Banfi, general director and co-founder of the FNPI, explained to the Knight Center. "Because we believe that journalism is really an essential root that helps explain much of what García Márquez did in his life and in his work."

To permeate the different aspects of society, the Gabo Center established the five dimensions or branches of García Márquez that are the guide for carrying out activities: the personal Gabo, Gabo the citizen, Gabo the educator, the enterprising Gabo, and Gabo the researcher and storyteller.

For example, Abello believes that if there was a way in which García Márquez lived as a citizen, it was through journalism that he expressed his political concern. Abello recalled how, for example, in his first article published on May 10, 1948, Gabo told of a curfew in Cartagena with political depth. And then in his book 'The Story of a Ship-wrecked Sailor,' in the middle of his fictional story, García Márquez denounced the corruption of the government of Rojas Pinilla when he pointed out that the ship of the Colombian Navy was sinking because it carried illegal cargo. "It is a complaint made at a time when the country is subject to a dictatorship," Abello said.

He sees these same characteristics as an entrepreneur –at the founding of a magazine and a newspaper – or as an educator, with his journalism workshops, to mention just a few examples.

"Journalism is a leitmotiv that is present in the different aspects of García Márquez's life. But that as well as García Márquez is more than pure literature and is also more than pure journalism. There comes that connection that we want to highlight and that we find very interesting and fun about which we are going to do many things in the future at Centro Gabo," he added.

Some of these activities and projects have already begun. The first one was called ‘Cronicando,’ a journalism workshop aimed at children and young people in the poorest neighborhood of Cartagena.

"We do it not so much to turn them into reporters, but because we realize that journalism gives tools, contributes to human development, to citizen competencies, contributes to expanding the expressive possibilities and creativity of people," Abello said.

Another of the first projects is called  ‘Convivencias en Red’ and seeks, through FNPI’s Journalistic Ethics Program and its Ethics Office, to offer tools to the public for better use of social networks. "We think that journalistic ethics provides elements of judgment, provides good criteria, provides guidelines, provides narratives that serve citizens to better use social networks."

This and other projects have been done without even having the physical site of the Center that will be located in the Proclamation Palace. This building is a historical and cultural heritage site of the region since it was the place where Cartagena declared its independence in 1811, and has been the seat of government since then.

The Colombian State is restoring the site and part of it will belong to Centro Gabo. There will be an interactive exhibition about the life and work of García Márquez, an auditorium, rooms for workshops and exhibitions, shops, cafeteria and restaurant. They expect the restoration to be complete by June 2018.

Abello likes to emphasize that this Center does not seek to be a place of pilgrimage where García Márquez and his legacy are seen as something closed and sacred, but rather a "starting point" for the Nobel legacy to inspire. However, he assured that the Center will receive with "open arms" all visitors who seek to know and honor the memory of Gabo.

"We do it a little to ensure Gabo's legacy, and I know it's an idea that he would love and that his memory is a useful memory to have a better society, a useful memory to have a better country, a better Latin America and a better future for humanity," he concluded.

On November 3, the official launch of the Gabo Center's digital site will take place in Cartagena. During the event, which will be attended by the Minister of Information Technology and Communications (ICT) of the country, David Luna, and the Governor of Bolívar, Dumek Turbay, the progress of the project as well as its objectives and activities will be discussed.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.