‘100 Years of Solitude’ Helped Me Get Closer With My Dad & 6 Other Invaluable Life Lessons

Aside from helping mend my relationship with my father, this novel has helped illuminate broader truths to me as a writer

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Photos: Editorial Sudamericana/ Courtesy of Suanny Garcia

When I left my hometown of Miami, to attend college in Amherst, Massachusetts, I couldn’t have imagined how it would shape my life. I was so excited to leave home, but I never would have guessed that I would spend the next four years searching for a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar place. The irony, right?! When the time came to choose my courses, I became increasingly interested in Latinidad and Latinx studies. I asked myself the same question all college students do: who am I? This introspection led me to courses that delved deeply into Latinidad, including one particularly elective that piqued my curiosity.

My father once spoke to me about the novel 100 Years of Solitude by acclaimed Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. That’s the reason I decided to sign up for the class with professor Ilan Stavans because I wanted to read what my father said was one of the greatest works of Latin American literature. And it was a glorious semester of deep diving into the work, the motives, the characters, the cycles García Márquez describes that are so emblematic to Latin America. If only I could remember it all ten years later. What I remember vividly is sharing with my father what I had learned from the literature. 

It brought me a little closer to him, despite our strained relationship. The distance between our worlds — he in Cuba, I in the U.S .— had always been a challenge to navigate. Growing up, this geographical and emotional gap often made it difficult for us to connect. And here is my queue to romanticize literature because… it did help us connect! Both then and now. Aside from helping mend my relationship with my father, this novel has helped illuminate broader truths to me as a writer. Allow me to give you a breakdown.  

  1. It’s okay if your bestseller comes later in life  

For one, it has taught me that true masterpieces can emerge later in life. García Márquez was 39 when he began writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, which was published two years later. Although he had several works published before this novel, it was this one that truly established his legacy. Legend has it that while on a trip with his wife, he suddenly asked her to take him home because he had the idea for the novel. He then sat down and wrote it within a few months.

I mention this because we live in a time when the internet has made us forget that life isn’t just about the present moment. It is possible to create better, greater works in the future. Many authors, especially, hope their first work will be their greatest and a No.1 bestseller. While there’s nothing wrong with those aspirations, we often overlook the fact that we have a lifetime to perfect our art.

  1. Literature does have a tangible influence on reality 

Following the success of the novel, it’s incredible to see how much it has impacted reality and the world we live in today. The fictional town of Macondo has inspired architects and urban planners to create real-world structures and environments that evoke the magical realism of García Márquez. For instance, there have been cafes, libraries, and cultural centers designed with elements reminiscent of Macondo’s lush landscapes and fantastical elements. There is even one cafe in Miami dubbed “Macondo” with a mural featuring yellow flowers. 

As a writer, this makes me hopeful for written worlds not yet created that will ultimately become part of our reality — and I’m not just talking about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Disney. 

  1. How do we separate the art from the artist? 

As much as I praise the novel, I do have my qualms and critiques about the artist himself. While García Márquez was undeniably a brilliant novelist and thinker, I find myself in disagreement with many of his ideologies. One of the most notable points of contention for me is his staunch support of the Cuban revolution and his close friendship with Fidel Castro. As someone born in Cuba who has witnessed firsthand the realities and discontents of the revolution, I cannot support this stance.

However, this disagreement does not diminish that his works have significantly broadened my understanding of Latin America, prompting me to think critically about the region and the profound role of literature in shaping our perceptions of the world. In a society that lacks tolerance for different opinions, it’s important we consider the work and opinions of people we don’t always agree with. It might come as a surprise all there is to learn here, too. 

  1. Preserving family and identity as an immigrant 

Growing up with 12 uncles, most of whom reside in Cuba, I found my own family mirrored in the Buendía Family — the novel’s central lineage spanning 17 members across generations. Whenever I visit Cuba, I witness new generations of children carrying our shared last name. This experience isn’t unique to me; many in Latin America come from families with double-digit memberships. Perhaps that’s why García Márquez’s novel resonates so deeply — it beautifully captures experiences common across Latin America, in its entirety rather than just a few regions. 

This often strengthens our respect for the elder members of our families and the narratives they pass down. I want to remember what my father said about his father early enough so that I can pass that information on to my children.

  1. The true magic of higher education 

I learned about this course in college and I often ask myself if I would have had I never attended college. Online tools can teach anyone how to achieve financial success on their own terms. But honestly, I’m a bit worried about what this means for higher education — not just the technical stuff or job-specific training, but the kind that really teaches you how to think critically.

A lot of young people these days are skipping the traditional college route and diving into entrepreneurship, and I get it. There’s this idea floating around that you can make a lot of money quickly and avoid the massive debt that often comes with a degree. But here’s the thing: higher education isn’t just about getting skills; it’s about learning to see the world from different angles and questioning things.

Critical thinking skills are not just good for personal growth — they’re crucial for being a thoughtful, informed member of society who can navigate a complex global landscape.

  1. What’s real, and what’s magical? 

While the novelist embraced magical realism, he often said, “surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America.” He saw magical realism as the everyday reality in Latin America and he created a world out of it in 100 Years of Solitude, a world in which yellow butterflies appear out of nowhere and flowers raining from the sky: “the sky rained so much and so many days in a row that the world ended with flowers”.

García Márquez described magical realism as a technique that integrates fantastical elements into a realistic narrative without causing disruption to the reader’s suspension of disbelief. For him, the extraordinary events in his stories were presented as natural occurrences within the fictional worlds he created.

Ten years following college, 100 Years of Solitude is still on my mind. It takes me back to those days when life was brimming with possibility. The novel taught me that art isn’t about reaching a final destination, but about embracing the ongoing journey of creation. That idea has stuck with me all these years and fuels this constant urge to keep creating, to keep exploring new ideas.

100 Years of Solitude isn’t just a novel I studied in college; it’s a reminder to me that art and life are intertwined. Because of this, I am certain that I know what García Márquez meant when he said his magical realism is just his reality. 

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100 Years of Solitude Colombia father-daughter Father's Day Gabriel García Márquez’ literatura literature padres
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