The Colombian government celebrated the 80th birthday of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Tuesday with a vow to rebuild the author's childhood home in the banana-producing town of Aracataca and convert into a museum.
Culture Minister Elvira Cuervo de Jaramillo said the government would spend US$500,000 to reconstruct the home where the author drew inspiration for his trademark literary style that later became a much-emulated genre in itself: magical realism.
His 2003 autobiography Living to Tell the Tale says that it was on the patio of his thatch-roofed home that the young author eavesdropped on his grandmother and aunts, whose matter-of-fact telling of ghosts visiting in the night and opera-singing parrots would later pepper much of his literature.
Jaramillo said she hopes the reconstruction -- approved by Garcia Marquez -- would draw as many literary pilgrims to Aracataca as Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.
"The importance of this home to the work of Garcia Marquez is that the original title of One Hundred Years of Solitude was going to be called La Casa" said Jaramillo, referring to the author's masterwork, which has sold over 30 million copies in translated editions worldwide.
Although Garcia Marquez left Aracataca when he was nine, the town's 53,000 residents awoke on Tuesday to the sound of 80 cannon blasts. The town has hosted celebrations involving public readings and accordion-heavy vallenato music since Saturday.
"In spite of our limited resources, we were still able to organize a mass, popular celebration," Aracataca Culture Secretary Rafael Dario Jimenez said.
It was unclear where Garcia Marquez, who has lived in Mexico City for decades, was celebrating his birthday. Local media reported that the author was in Cuba, where he is a frequent guest of President Fidel Castro.