In the conclusion of One Hundred Years of Solitude:

[I]t was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind ...

We know why Macondo is a city of mirrors:

José Arcadio Buendía dreamed that night that right there a noisy city with houses having mirror walls rose up. He asked what city it was and they answered him with a name that he had never heard, that had no meaning at all, but that had a supernatural echo in his dream: Macondo.

But why did Gabriel García Márquez (or Gregory Rabassa, the translator, if that's the case) say it was a city of mirrors (or mirages)?


1 Answer 1


In the beginning, Macondo was a city solidly set in reality. Magical things happened, but everybody agreed they happened. However, as time passed by, gradually the hold of Macondo on reality started slipping. Things became increasingly illusory. There are several instances of this:

  • Fernanda's prolonged correspondence with the imaginary doctors.
  • The massacre of over three thousand people.
  • The inability of the soldiers to see José Arcadio Segundo.
  • The brothel frequented by Aureliano (Babilonia).
  • Santa Sofía de la Piedad's battle of attrition against the decrepitude of the house.

Of these, I think the massacre is the strongest bit of evidence. Three thousand four hundred and eight people were slaughtered, and history was so convincingly re-written that nobody except José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano believed it happened. Consider Úrsula's thoughts about José Arcadio Segundo when the latter spoke of these deaths to her:

Only then did Úrsula realize that he was in a world of shadows more impenetrable than hers, as unreachable and solitary as that of his great-grandfather.

Yet José Arcadio Segundo was the one who had the most complete grasp of the real world.

The description of the brothel that Aureliano frequented is also telling:

Her eternal smile seemed to have been brought on by the credulity of her customers, who accepted as something certain an establishment that did not exist except in the imagination, because even the tangible things where unreal: the furniture that fell apart when one sat on it, […] the frames with prints cut out of magazines that had never been published. Even the timid little whores who came from the neighborhood: when the proprietress informed them that customers had arrived they were nothing but an invention. […] [As] soon as they got their peso and fifty cents they would spend it on a roll with cheese that the proprietress sold them, smiling more than ever, because only she knew that that meal was not real either.

These things seem to indicate that, a little by little, Macondo was slowly becoming less and less real, more and more mirage, until, of course, it was wiped out from reality in its entirety.

"Oh, my son," he sighed. "It's enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment."

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