Magic Realism

"It is life, more than death, that has no limits."
— Gabriel García Márquez

Since August 5th, 33 miners are trapped inside a mine in San José, Chile, at 688 meters below the ground. All miners are alive, waiting for their rescue that will take about 4 months. The wife of a trapped miner said for a CNN report today that poverty forced her husband into being a miner, that he doesn’t like darkness or closed spaces, but after talking to him, what worried him the most about being trapped were “the souls of death miners” around them.

Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize winner Colombian writer, is known for his “magic realism”, a literature genre where abnormal events are taken as normal by the characters in a crude or harsh realistic atmosphere. For example, one of my favorite short stories “Un Señor Muy Viejo Con Unas Alas Enormes” tells the story of a fallen angel who is placed inside a hen house, mistreated and taken advantage of by the town’s people.

In his book with Plinio Apuleyo “El Olor de la Guayaba” , García Márquez says he’s never seen the “magic” part of “magic realism”, that everything is based in day to day reality in Latin America. He tells the story about how a flood once hit a circus and how all the floating wild animals could be considered a fantasy scene, but in fact was normal local news.

I always remember Magic Realism and García Márquez’s statement when I hear or experience the “usual-unusual news”. I remember a few years ago reading in a Dominican Republic newspaper about how a family stole a corps from a hospital to avoid paying the services. The thing was, they stole the corps in a “pasola” which is like a Vespa motorcycle, and they had a picture of the body placed horizontally on the motorcycle’s seat. It is really not that unusual when you have seen people transport huge gas tanks, washing-machines or an entire 4 person family in the pasolas.

What does this have to do with innovation? I like thinking innovation happens in a world where anything can occur, either that you can create that world or that you act upon the unbelievable… while still being realistic about it. Literature can be part of the creative Latin cultural heritage I once commented in an earlier post. To truly believe, as I quoted García Márquez: "It is life, more than death, that has no limits."

As I write this article, an entire organization and government is working to help the trapped miners in Chile, planning and executing the best ways to get them out as fast as possible without causing any mayor risk. They are concerned about the trapped miner’s nutrition and keeping them in the best health conditions possible. The technological challenge of the rescue is complex and problems like this push organizations and government to cooperate and to innovate. Innovation or not, let’s hope everything turns out all right.

I just wonder, has anyone thought how to solve the miner’s biggest mental concern about “the souls of death miners” around him? Why not? Innovation for magic realism.

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