Saturday, August 24, 2019

Paco Silván - a new family member

With the fantastic help from Mercedes and Jenaro, I have found several Trascasas cousins in the memorable village of Toro over the past two visits here. Today, their daughter Cintia, pushed me forward in Fuentesaúco, the village of my grandmother, who I have always called abuelita. The scenario was magical today as she became my Spanish spokeswoman, interviewer and excited cohort.

She drove to the village, 35 km/40 minutes SW if Toro. The small plaza at the entrance to Fuentesaúco has a stone wall surrounding a small garden. We saw about ten men perched on the wall, some with canes, some with hats, all conversing.  Jenaro pulled me along and asked the gentlemen if they knew of any Silváns in the town.  Oh, yes, I know Silvano Juanis.  Hmmm, my great, great grandfather was Juan Silvan... He gave us directions and we thought we’d start there. In the meantime, a woman walked by, heard the conversation, told us she was of that family and it wasn’t Silván...but she knew a man whose family was named Silván. My heart sped up.  She walked us through two streets nearly to the Iglesia de Santa Maria, where my grandmother was baptized, and knocked on the door of a non-descript house.  When the man answered, Cintia and Jenaro explained about my family, and he invited us inside.

His name is Francisco Hidalgo Marcos and his grandmother was Clara Silván.  His Spanish was eloquent and he was dressed like an academic, not a farmer as I assumed were most people in the village. The more Cintia talked to him, the more interested he became. When he pointed to a picture on the wall I hadn’t noticed earlier to say it was his grandmother, I became so emotional I couldn’t talk. She and my abuelita could have passed for sisters.  A Silván link living in Fuentesaúco at last. I’m not sure if Cintia was more excited or I was.

Paco, as he is called, walked all of us to Calle San Salvador where my grandmother lived before she left Spain at the age of nine with her family. My cousin Felix Gonzales had calculated where #6 house would be located and he was right. At first, it looked like a barn like area, but I peeked through a hole and spied an open area with a house at the back. I tried to imagine what it would’ve looked like in 1901 when she was born and 1911 when she left, but couldn’t. Instead, I have a photo.


And then Paco  led us down another street and knocked on a lovely blue door where a woman about eighty answered. She was his cousin, Sarita and she opened the door from the street and we walked into an oasis with gardens, flowers, sitting areas and a huge fig tree that shaded the table and chairs.  We sat down at her invitation and told us that their grandmother Clara Silván was raised by her aunt Petronila, but they couldn’t remember other names.

Now, I can imagine the house at #6 Calle San Salvador.  One would never know what lay behind the small door at the street edge.  The front expanse she had created her garden in must have been the area for their food garden and pigs and chickens.  The house sits back from the garden. Amazing how large the area is compared to the small house.

Paco led us to still another woman, his aunt who is ninety one named Louisa. She remembered that Clara’s father was named Pedro. I thumbed through my ancestry tree and couldn’t find a sibling to my great grandfather named Pedro. Cintia was beside me when I glanced down to read the name of my great,  great grandfather and nearly toppled off the narrow sidewalk—-Celestino Pedro Silván Hernández. PEDRO.

I turned around to Paco and showed him the photo of his great grandfather. His eyes filled with tears and it was his turn to spill emotion. He was so excited and asked me to send it to his phone. Yes, the man has email and WhatsApp - very savvy.  He is going to find a copy of his mother’s Will and read family names.  Very exciting.

We all went to a small outside café and drank Coca Cola and beer to discuss our wonderful find.  And then, Cintia drove us to a  restaurant in a village near Zamora called Perigón.  While we waited for a table at Bodega Antigua, Cintia led me into a deep dungeon-like cellar (bodega) down  51 narrow steps  where wine was made in old times.  It was similar to the one in Toro but much larger.  I’d wanted to go to a subterranean wine bodega, but we were told that they aren’t open to the public unless you know the owners because they are all private.  More research needed here, I think.

Later, Mercedes had organized a Trascasas cousin’s  party for me.  I could get used to being treated like a princess (smile.). One cousin named Rafa brought along my  book, The Girl Immigrant, and shyly asked me to sign it for him and his wife María.  When I picked up my pen, he picked up his phone to photograph me signing the page.  It was very moving and he thanked me several times as if I’d given him a special gift.

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