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Alvaro Cepeda Samudio


Alvaro Cepeda Samudio was a Colombian journalist, novelist, short story writer, and filmmaker. Within Colombia and the rest of Latin America, he is known in his own right as an important and innovative writer and journalist, largely inspiring much of the artistically-, intellectually- and politically-active climate for which this particular time and place, that of mid-century Colombia, has become known. His fame is considerably more quaint outside of his home country, where it derives primarily from his standing as having been part of the influential artistic and intellectual circle in Colombia in which fellow writer and journalist Gabriel Garcia Marquez—with whom he was also a member of the more particularized Barranquilla Group—and painter Alejandro Obregon also played prominent roles. Only one of his works, La casa grande, has received considerable notice beyond the Spanish-speaking world, having been translated into several languages, English and French among them; his fame as a writer has therefore been significantly curtailed in the greater international readership, as the breadth of his literary and journalistic output has reached few audiences beyond those of Latin America and Latin American literary scholars.

Alvaro Cepeda Samudio was born in Barranquilla , Colombia, two years before striking United Fruit Company workers at Cienaga's railroad station were massacred by the Colombian army, an event that with age became pivotal to the writer's social- and political-consciousness, as evidenced in its central role in his only novel, La casa grande. Known as the Santa Marta Massacre, the incident is also depicted in Cien anos de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) (1967), the seminal novel of his close friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and served a similar motivating principle in his dedication to social and political awareness through journalism and literature, among other means. He enrolled at the Colegio Americano, an English-language school in Barranquilla, for elementary and high school. In the spring of 1949, he traveled to Ann Arbor, MI, USA and attended the University of Michigan English Language Institute for the summer term. For the fall term in the 1949-50 school year he attended Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. For the winter term, he attended what is now Michigan State University (then Michigan State College) in Lansing, MI before returning home to Barranquilla.

Cepeda Samudio's final publication of fiction was the short story collection Los Cuentos de Juana (1972), with illustrations by his good friend Alejandro Obregon. One of the short stories was developed into a film, Juana Tenia el Pelo de Oro, which was released in Colombia in 2006.

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