Gabriel Garcia Marquez laid to rest near his home in Colombia

Relatives and friends of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez depositing his ashes in a memorial erected in his honour in Cartagena, Colombia.
Relatives and friends of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez depositing his ashes in a memorial erected in his honour in Cartagena, Colombia.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY/UNIVERSITY OF CARTAGENA

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA • The ashes of Nobel literature laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez were laid to rest on Sunday in Cartagena, the jewel of colonial architecture on Colombia's Caribbean coast, following a tribute to the author.

"There is joy mingled with sadness," his 85-year-old sister Rosa Aida Garcia Marquez, one of the author's 10 siblings said.

His ashes will be kept in a former convent near the home where he liked to stay.

Huge yellow butterflies, a symbol of magical realism - the genre Garcia Marquez helped make famous - graced the cloister's trees for the ceremony, which was attended by his widow and some 400 guests, most dressed in white.

"It's an honour for the city of Cartagena to host such an event," Mr Gonzalo Garcia Barcha, a son of the celebrated Colombian writer said.

Garcia Marquez, the author of One Hundred Years Of Solitude, died at the age of 87 on April 17, 2014, in Mexico, where he lived with his wife Mercedes Barcha.

"The family is here," Mr Garcia Barcha said; relatives had arrived in recent days from France and the United States.

Dr Edgar Parra Chacon, president of the University of Cartagena, to which the cloister is attached, expressed what he said was a "great honour to receive Gabo", the affectionate nickname given to the writer.

The Claustro de la Merced, or Cloister of Mercy, is about 100m from the family's seafront home.

Garcia Marquez's two sons, Mr Garcia Barcha, a designer who lives in Paris, and Rodrigo Garcia Barcha, a US-based film-maker, unveiled a bronze bust of the author by British sculptor Katie Murray, which stands in the courtyard.

The family placed the ashes inside stonework under the bust earlier during a private ceremony.

Only a portion of Garcia Marquez's ashes are being held in Cartagena, however. The rest will remain in Mexico, where he lived since the 1980s.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who once saluted Garcia Marquez as "the greatest Colombian of all times", was absent from the funeral, despite being on the invitation list.

The writer earned widespread admiration for his fervent defence of the rights of victims of Latin American dictatorships.

There was no unanimity around the placement of the writer's ashes.

"The homage to Garcia Marquez... should take place at his native Aracataca," the village where he was born in 1927, said Mr Nereira Esparragoza, 51.

Ms Katia Manjarrez, 53, a Cartagena businesswoman, went further, saying: "We should respect the country he loved, Mexico."

As much as the presence of the author's ashes could be a boon to her city, she said, "for him, Cartagena and Aracataca were less important".

But near the walled city's famous Clock Tower, 62-year-old Gustavo Cabarcas said the ashes belonged in Cartagena. He said: "For us, it is a source of joy that they remain here."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Gabriel Garcia Marquez laid to rest near his home in Colombia'. Print Edition | Subscribe