"I have always considered myself a journalist": Nobel Prize Laureate Gabriel García Márquez dies at 87

By Alejandro Martínez

Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author who worked as a journalist for years and promoted excellence in the profession, died today in Mexico City at the age of 87, the BBC reported.

His death was confirmed by his former Random House editor Cristóbal Pera, The New York Times said.

Earlier this week his family reported that his health was “very fragile." The writer had battled with lymphatic cancer for over a decade but his family decided not to put him through oncologic treatment because of his advanced age, according to Spanish newspaper El País. However, he was receiving treatment to alleviate his symptoms.

García Márquez, who was affectionately known as "Gabo" among his fans, as born in the town of Aracataca, Colombia on March 6, 1927, according to his obituary in the BBC. He was a literary pioneer who was considered one of the 20th Century's greatest masters of prose in Spanish and one of the most representative exponents of the magical realism genre. He used to say that his surrealism was inspired by Latin American reality, the BBC noted.

He wrote his first novel at age 23 but took seven years to find a publisher. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 for his book "One Hundred Years of Solitude," which has sold more than 20 million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Novelist William Kennedy described the book as “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

García Márquez began law school in the 1950s but dropped out to become a journalist. He lived humbly in the Colombian cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla working as a reporter in local newspapers.

"It was a bohemian life: finish at the paper at one in the morning, then write a poem or a short story until about three, then go out to play skittles or have a beer," he said in a 1996 interview with The UNESCO Courier.

He didn't stop producing journalism even after he had earned literary fame, the BBC said.

In a 1996 speech read before the 52nd General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), García Márquez called journalism "the best job in the world":

Journalism is an insatiable passion that can only be digested and humanized by its brutal confrontation with reality. No one who hasn't suffered it can imagine that servitude that feeds on the unexpected occurrences in life. No one who hasn't lived it can even conceive the supernatural beating of the heart produced by news, the orgasm of having an exclusive, the moral demolition of failure. No one who wasn't born for this and is willing to live only for this could persist on an occupation that is so incomprehensible and voracious, with an ouvre that is over after every news item, as if it were going to last forever, but that doesn't allow for a moment of peace while it starts all over again, with more ardor than ever in the next minute.

In 1994, he helped create in Colombia the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for the New Ibero American Journalism (FNPI) with the purpose of promoting ethics and best practices in the occupation.

In an FNPI special section dedicated to García Márquez -- which includes anecdotes about the author, speeches, quotes, photographs and video interviews -- the FNPI's general director Jaime Abello Banfi said that Gabo will be remembered "as a genius creator and a human being full of wisdom, humor and tenderness." He thanked his legacy and committment to journalism.

"Gabo leaves us his strength," Abello wrote. "We accept with seriousness and enthusiasm, along with our teachers and allies, the responsibility of helping more journalists from Ibero America to know his ideas, study them, apply them and even question them, but always with the conviction that this is a carpenter's occupation, that it's learned and perfected with practice, listening to people and awakening the senses to see what nobody else sees, to inform societies in a better way."

Last year FNPI launched the first edition of the Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Award to promote journalistic excellence and the values the renowned author believed in. The second edition of the award was launched last month.

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.