A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: A Son's Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha
July 22, 2021
A thoughtful memoir from filmmaker Rodrigo García is about processing and learning how to deal with the fame, aging, and death of his father, Gabriel García Márquez.
A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: A Son's Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha by Rodrigo García, Harpervia
Whether you're an avid Gabriel García Márquez fan or just enjoy well-written biographies and memoirs, you’ll enjoy A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes. This thoughtful memoir from his son, filmmaker Rodrigo García's point of view is about processing and learning how to deal with fame, aging, and death. In short chapters–almost diary entries, as they are written in the present-tense and some are no more than a paragraph long–García gives readers glimpses at his and his family's lives navigating García Márquez's dementia, terminal illness diagnosis, and dying process.
García doesn't shy from the harshness of life, and instead, shows that acknowledging and examining the difficulties sometimes reveals realizations, even if it takes a while:
I didn't realize until well into my forties that my decision to live and work in Los Angeles and in English was a deliberate, if unconscious, choice to make my own way beyond the sphere of influence of my father's success.
Comparing the work of father and son is an interesting juxtaposition—Where Gabriel García Márquez's novels are expansive and encompassing of cultures, histories, and communities, Rodrigo García's is mostly nuclear and internally focused, searching for meaning through his writing. García includes brief vignettes of memories with his parents as he recognizes the values they instilled upon him without ever revealing anything too much like a tell-all.
It's heartening to see that the family does not let themselves lives in the shadow of the acclaimed writer's fame. For example, in response to being called "the widow" in the Mexican president's address at a memorial service, Mercedes stated: "No soy la viuda. Yo soy yo." (I am not the widow. I am me.) Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes likely provides more insight to Mercedes's life and disposition than other biographies. She's a strong-willed, orderly woman who distracts herself by watching the news and is unfortunately addicted to smoking, which ultimately led to her death in 2020, which García touches on briefly. But mostly, he relates his observations of life with his famous father.
García comes to and then reconsiders conclusions about what the sadness of losing his parents has taught him, such as when he was editing a film he wrote that involved the death of a father:
The fact that I have to work on this as my father is in his final weeks is a grim coincidence that is not lost on anyone. […] I hate myself for having written such a story. I overeat, chocolate mostly, to deaden some of the pain. Maybe the only story worth telling is one that makes you laugh. I’ll do that next time, I’m sure. Or perhaps not.
García struggles with mixed emotions when it comes to his father and telling their story, but this inconclusiveness is a natural part of life, and it seems the benefits outweigh the consequences, especially when both his parents have passed away. I'm inspired by García's book as an outlet for grief. Through sharing stories and photos of the late Gabo and Mercedes in this short book, García gives them renewed life in the minds of readers, old and new. While García Márquez may best be remembered through his masterful works as an author, I think this book also proves that the author's support system—his family—are just as important and beautiful of a legacy.