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Garcia Marquez, godfather of magic realism, dies

MEXICO CITY -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel-winning Colombian author whose “magical realism” told epic stories of love, family and dictatorship in Latin America, died Thursday at the age of 87.

Known affectionately as “Gabo,” the author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera” was one of the world's most popular Latin American novelists and the godfather of a literary movement that witnessed a continent in turmoil.

The longtime journalist was a colorful character who befriended Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was once punched by fellow Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and joked that he wrote to make his friends love him.

Presidents, writers and celebrities mourned his death.

“One thousand years of solitude and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted.

He later declared three days of national mourning.

“The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers,” U.S. President Barack Obama said.

The cause of death was not revealed but Garcia Marquez had been hospitalized for pneumonia on March 31 and discharged a week later to recover at his Mexico City home.

His wife Mercedes and two sons were reportedly by his side at home when he died.

The family said his body would be cremated and officials announced a public tribute will be held in Mexico City's Bellas Artes Palace cultural center Monday.

Born March 6, 1927, in the village of Aracataca on Colombia's Caribbean coast, Garcia Marquez was the son of a telegraph operator.

He was raised by his grandparents and aunts in a tropical culture influenced by the heritage of Spanish settlers, indigenous populations and black slaves. His grandfather was a retired colonel.

The exotic legends of his homeland inspired him to write profusely. His masterpiece, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” was translated into 35 languages and sold more than 30 million copies.

The book, published in 1967, is a historical and literary saga about a family from the imaginary Caribbean village of Macondo between the 19th and 20th century — a novel that turned the man with the mustache and thick eyebrows into an international star.

It was rich in “magical realism,” which Garcia Marquez has described as the notion that behind reality as we perceive it, there is much more going on that we do not understand.

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