Monday, April 17, 2017

A Spanish Day in Benagalbón, eating sardinas, boquerones and...more

When Miguel Alba Trujillo made an appointment for me at the Juzgado (court) and offered to help me look for documents for my Ruiz ancestors, I was relieved and happy.  However, the day turned out to be so much more than a document search.  Once we arrived in Victoria de la Rincon, Miguel's friend told us to return at 4:00 after the senior clerk left.  Evidently the other fellow frowned on the public fingering their way through the old document books.  And his friend would wait for us...the big man would be gone.  Hmmmm, interesting.

So, we had three and a half hours with my limited Spanish, I hardly knew Miguel and I floundered just a heartbeat.  So, there we are.  Miguel is also an author of six books.  The book titled S.S. Heliopolis, encompasses the history of the first of the six immigrant ships that sailed from Spain (and Portugal) to the Hawaiian Islands paid for by the sugar plantation kings in 1907).  He kindly gave me a signed copy the day I arrived in Spain.  Today, he shared his time and he drove El Carro for me (smiling here).

My Spanish, so far, was not letting me down.  He led me to the boardwalk.  The sea was turquoise, inviting and beautiful.  On and on we walked until we reached a high, stone wall and a stairway that went up about a mile (or so?) above the crashing waves and rocks below.  It was breathtaking and he proudly told me about Benagalbón and Victoria de la Rincon.  In 1908 there was a railroad from the town into Malaga City that ran through three tunnels.  During the Civil War, German planes bombed the area and many of the townspeople ran into the tunnels to hide.  Unfortunately, there was an avalanche and... sad story.  Miguel is a historian and loves to share the history of Benagalbón and the surrounding area in his books and stories.  I found him fascinating to listen to because I learned so much in those short hours.

We met one of his friends (an attorney/writer) named Salvador Dominguez Ruiz at the Cafe Eduardo for coffee.  He has friends in every corner.  While we walked or sat on the patio of the restaurant, friends were constantly coming up to Miguel for a handshake, a hug, or a smile.  He introduced me to everyone...his friend from Arizona who is looking for Ruiz family information.  One gentleman lifted my hand to his lips when Miguel introduced me.  Very sweet.

Then it was 2:00 and Miguel led me back to the sea and onto the sand to Aquí te Espero (restaurant).  Oh my!  He ordered for us and the food kept coming.  An ensalada mixta (salad), sardinas (sardines), boquerones (fried anchovies), and calamaritas (baby calamari).  He showed me how to eat the sardinas (still have a tiny bone stuck in my throat). I ate only two of them.  No thank you.  Then I ate the boquerones.  I do not like anchovies, but my brother (Steven) loves these, so I tried them too.  I liked them very much.  (Sorry, Steven, when you get here we will have to share them now...)  Then Miguel showed me how to eat the calamaritas.  Pull out the boney thing (I did), pop it into my mouth (I did).  Chew it slowly (I did).  Reach for another one.  (I did not).  So, red wine, a salad and the boquerones was good for me.  He ate everything else.  Then, café con leche for me.  His beer was gone and he ordered dessert.  Oh boy.
It was tranquil sitting there with the sounds of the sea breaking against the sand and rocks, seagulls squawking, and flowers everywhere.  He shared photos of his pretty wife, his three grown sons, his love of history and I shared a video of the day I danced flamenco... A woman across from me was nursing her baby on her right and eating lunch with her left hand, inching the bites toward her mouth while trying not to disturb her infant.  A baby girl sat in a stroller next to me, grinning and flirting with me.  An entire family was on a long table beside us and all of the children had plates of french fries in front of them for their meal.  A day to remember.

At 4:00 we were back at the Juzgado poring over antique document books.  I learned that the books only go back to 1871.  My great-great grandfather, Juan Ruiz Vallejo, was born in Benagalbón in 1840.  My great grandfather, Francisco Ruiz Garcia, was born in 1861.  I did not know when my great, great grandmother, Maria Garcia Garcia, was born but I assume somewhere about 1850ish.  So, no birth documents.  Miguel suggested we might find their matrimonial documents and I guessed about 1885.  He pulled down every book from that dusty shelf and looked up all the Ruiz names.  NOTHING.  I was obviously disappointed and his face showed that he was sad for me.  However, I was very happy when we found the document for Steven A.'s grandparent's matrimonial document so I could share it with him.  I didn't go away empty handed!  Also, the clerk told me I should look in Malaga City and Miguel wrote down the name and address for me to look further for information.  Another day trip.

Afterward, Miguel took me to the Benagalbón library, introduced me to everyone in there and pulled his books off the shelf to show me the histories about the town.  And then he gave me a signed copy.  I can now read (haltingly, because it's in Spanish obviously) about my ancestor's village.

Then, we walked all the narrow, streets up and down the hills talking to people in restaurants and grocery stores as well as a museum...he kept asking everyone if they were familiar with the Ruiz Garcia or Ruiz Romero names and introduced me.  One man was very old, could barely hear and had no teeth in his mouth.  He was dressed like a fine gentleman, sitting outside of a shop.  Miguel told me his mind is still very sharp and he doesn't forget names.  When he heard the Ruiz name, his eyes lit up and he pointed to several houses all around us.  The town is full of Ruiz people!

My Spanish, by now (with the help of my translation APP on my phone) was being very kind to me.  It was a delicious feeling to actually speak Spanish all day.  I wish I'd done more research on where I rented my house and chosen a village like this one.  But, alas.  I'm here now.

Just before I drove back to Calahonda (an hour's drive), Miguel agreed to drive me to Chilches, a neighboring village where my friend's family came from.  The white village was small, up in the hills and the streets so narrow, I closed my eyes when Miguel maneuvered El Carro between the cement buildings and cars parked sporadically in every direction.  We found the church and the square for a photo and then we said our goodbyes.

It was a perfect day.  El Carro brought me back to Calahonda safely.

The only glitch in the evening...I am back to a bathtub again since I can't figure out how to work the shower.  Chloe turned it on for me when she was here, but three days afterward I decided to take a bath and I couldn't get it back on again.  **&%#%^&*()  But I have so many other pleasures... I no longer care if I have to get on my knees to wash my hair.  At least I have indoor plumbing.  I say always look for the silver lining and that's exactly what I am doing.

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