ARACATACA, Colombia – Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his homeland had a relationship as conflicted as any in his twisting, impassioned novels.
Colombia inspired and dismayed Garcia Marquez in equal measure, and the feeling was often mutual.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the sleepy hamlet that inspired the fictitious hometown Macondo in the Nobel laureate's "One Hundred Years of Solitude."
Some here say, with not a little bit of rancor, that Garcia Marquez didn't use his considerable wealth and fame to help the impoverished town of 45,000 overcome its perennial neglect.
An aqueduct officials have promised for decades to relieve frequent water outages has never been completed despite numerous ribbon-cutting ceremonies. And when the town sought to convert his childhood home into a museum, Garcia Marquez reviewed the blueprints but didn't donate a penny.
"He should've thought more about his hometown and not left us on our own," said Mariby Zapata, a 31-year-old dentist.
Although he evoked his homeland's beauty in his novels and visited frequently, Garcia Marquez never resided there permanently after his career took off, instead spending his time in Europe and Mexico, where he died on Thursday at the age of 87.
Some of Garcia Marquez's mixed feelings toward Colombia stemmed from how he was treated for his leftist political views. He fled the country in 1981 after friends and government officials warned him that the army wanted to interrogate him for alleged ties to the now defunct M-19 guerrilla group.
When he was awarded the Nobel Prize a year later, conservative President Belisario Betancur attempted to quash the international backlash against the author's treatment by offering Garcia Marquez ambassadorships in Europe. But it was too late. Garcia Marquez would always maintain a critical distance from his homeland, proclaiming himself a "wandering and nostalgic Colombian."
In the 1990s he tried to mediate in the country's long-running civil conflict but the effort didn't go anywhere. In death, however, he's had more luck: among those expressing effusive praise and sadness included the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Marxist rebel group's fiercest enemy, former President Alvaro Uribe.
Still, his lifelong friendship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro continues to irk many in what remains one of Latin America's most conservative countries. Shortly after his death was announced, recently elected congresswoman Maria Fernanda Cabal, an ally of Uribe, posted on Twitter a photo of the two under the heading: "Soon you'll be in hell together."
But whatever his ideology, Garcia Marquez always sought to use his proximity to those in power to strengthen the country's democracy and bring about peace, Betancur said.
"He's the most eminent Colombian of all times," the 91-year-old former leader declared in a telephone interview.
Associated Press Writers Vivian Sequera, Camilo Hernandez and Libardo Cardona contributed to this report from Bogota.