1677328347 The True Story of The Colonel Has No One to

The True Story of “The Colonel Has No One to Write To”

The old man went to the port post office every Friday to look for a letter carrying the veteran’s pension. Failing to arrive, he saw no alternative but to sell his murdered son’s gamecock, the last possession on earth that anchored him. In El Colonel no tiene que le scribe, Gabriel García Márquez reflected on the existential angst of an ex-combatant in the War of a Thousand Days, a civil war that raged in Colombia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The writer recounted repeatedly that inspired by the fate of his grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía. What was recorded is that the grandfather died before the law that rewarded veterans came out and it was actually the grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán Cotes, who did all the paperwork, two Colombian investigators just revealed.

Colonel Márquez’s life is almost as fascinating as the characters his grandson invented. He fought on the side of the Liberals until 1902, when he surrendered with all his troops in Riofrío, Magdalena department. He did so in front of Florentino Manjarrés, whose confidant was José María Valdeblánquez, one of his two sons had the colonel out of wedlock. The other, also a Conservative, had been killed by Liberals in a previous war. Defeated before his son, Colonel Márquez returned to civilian life and lived as a war veteran for more than three decades until his death in 1937. García Márquez lived with him, his parents left him in their care since he was a baby, and he always said one of his first childhood memories was of sleeping on a mattress next to the colonel’s bed. In the novel, it is this sad and defeated man on the battlefield who spends his entire life waiting for a pension while contemplating selling the gamecock.

Petition before the authorities of García Márquez's grandmother, demanding a widow's pension from Colonel Márquez, a veteran of the War of a Thousand Days.Petition to the authorities of García Márquez’s grandmother, who demanded a widow’s pension from Colonel Márquez, a veteran of the Thousand Days’ War Valledupar City Archives

In real life things were different. One of the investigators, Ernesto Altahona, 37, and the other is Carlos Linan, a gabolologist, found in a file the trip that followed the colonel’s pension application. Altahona, who has dedicated himself to the cryptocurrency business in the United States, got there because he spends hours delving into the archives of his city of Valledupar, the cradle of Vallenato, purely as a hobby. During one of these searches, he came across the documentation of García Márquez’s grandfather and discovered something that not even the writer’s biographers had found: that in reality first the grandmother and then her children obsessively pursued this pension because they had participated in this remoteness War.

Before his death, the colonel prepared all the documentation but never edited anything in the Napoleonic Colombian bureaucracy. Tranquilina Iguarán obstinately took care of it. However, he got nothing. After his death, the eldest son tried, also without success. “The money never came. Identical to what happens in the book,” explains Altahona, who insists that until now no one has made such a precise connection between what the greatest character in Colombian literature tells in fiction and what actually happened has. García Márquez buried with him many of the myths surrounding his life as an abandoned child, a talented journalist and later a world-renowned writer.

Documents from the War Archives.Documents from the War Archives Archives of the City of Valledupar


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One of the most interesting strands of this story is the life of José María Valdeblánquez, stepbrother of the writer’s father. I mean his uncle. García Márquez’s autobiography available to live claims that he was a senator during the Thousand Days War and in that state attended the signing of the Liberal capitulation at the nearby Neerlandia farm. “Before him, on the side of the vanquished, his father,” he writes in his memoirs. The data is inaccurate. Valdeblánquez, the researcher Altahona explains, rose socially during the war when he became the right-hand man of the conservative Manjarrés. Later, raised to the reputation of a virtuous man, he became a senator. Curiously, during his life he wrote several books of some importance in the region, such as the history of the department of Magdalena and the territory of La Guajira. What uncle and nephew had in common, books. And an event that the one experienced as a gift and that the other took down in literature as a myth, leading to the writing of a novel that will last until the last sun of mankind.

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