Mercedes indeed was a beautiful women and a force of nature who was responsible for the world being able to enjoy one of the greatest literary talents.
Without Mercedes there world would have never experienced the transforming prose of the legend who was to become universally known as Gabo.
Mercedes — like Remedios the Beauty — was a transforming human being who through love and discipline tamed the wild talent of her husband so that he would produce not only the trail blazing novel of the 20th century but ground breaking stories about the miracles of underdevelopment.
Mercedes was born in 1936 in Magangué, Colombia.
The eldest of 7 siblings, Mercedes was the closest to her father who deposited into her the secrets of business success. Discipline and knowledge of customers were paramount virtues. And Mercedes excelled at both.
Later in her life these virtues would work wonders in grounding a young hyper-talented Colombian journalist who was flabbergasted by her at age 14.
At 26 she tied the knot flaunting even on that date what would become her trademark: an enigmatic beauty that did not trust anyone including Gabo. She only put on her wedding dress after she was told Gabo was waiting for her at the ceremonial site.
The couple lived an exciting life that went through peaks and valleys raising two talented children Rodrigo and Gonzalo.
Through 56 years of marriage Mercedes turned into Gabo’s manager, PR person and above all his trusted confidant.
Her common wisdom was highly appreciated by everyone who was around the couple as also was her incredible talent to uncover the true motivations of everyone that came near them.
She could tell who was a friend a foe or an opportunist.
And she abhorred celebrity gatherings and instead favored small groups of like-minded people.
She cultivated those friendships she thought would be loyal and lasting.
Her discretion was highly appreciated by heads of state including King Juan Carlos of Spain, Virgilio Barco of Colombia, Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro, who courted her to convince Gabo to bring his film institute to San Antonio de los Banos in Cuba.
And while to her death she remained an admirer of Castro, she was less than enthused by copycats like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. When Castro asked Gabo to write about the chavesian revolution and Chavez’s leadership, Mercedes relentlessly opposed the idea.
Eventually, Gabo did write an article about Chavez, which described the conditions that had elevated him to power and ended by describing two possible scenarios. One would take Venezuela to a better future. The other which he describe profusely was the doom of Venezuela.
Through the years I developed a closer relationship to Mercedes although Gabo had been closest to my life first through my father and then through my boss President Carlos Andres Perez. Once Mercedes and Gabo were visiting and I was at the time Chief of Staff to the President. They were having a dinner with the president and a few close friends. I had been invited to the dinner but due to a humongous amount of work I had on my desk was forced to decline. Mercedes called and said. “Bea, no job is worth tracing a new wrinkle on your face. The only wrinkles that are justified are those caused by joy.”
Later we reunited in Mexico and joined Mercedes in her 80th birthday celebrations. They lasted two weeks as she had an army of admirers that was larger than that for Remedios the Beauty.