Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Touching the hearts in Fuentesauco, Zamora, España

Francisco “Paco” Hidalgo Marcos is a distant cousin who lives in Fuentesauco with his wife, Dr. María Pilar Utrilla Mainz. I met this couple during my 2019 visit, but there were a lot of people in the room and it was difficult to understand much, except that he is a Silván descendant through his grandmother, Clara Silván.  This time, I had both of them to myself with my brother, Steven. What a difference it was to converse and enjoy each other.  There are so many thoughts in my head, I am unsure if I can tell it in words.  First, and foremost, is The Girl Immigrant book (Historia de un niña emigrante). When I put the book into his hands and told him it was my gift, the story of my grandmothers immigration from Fuentesauco to Hawaii, he touched it with reverence.  As I watched him turn the pages of the Spanish version of my book, I could not keep the tears from blocking my throat.  So, I will show in photos instead of words.

Paco does not know anything about his family on his abuela Clara Silván García side of the family tree. So, seeing the family immigration story listing Silván names took his breath away and brought tears to his eyes. He shared family names with us and pulled out a metal box filled with photos.  He is a proud man, soft spoken and simpatico. His hug and cheek kisses were heart felt and he seemed to be filled with the family spirit like me, wanting to know about our families. I will post on the Silván Facebook sight for further information.

Pilar, his wife, was a doctor before she retired and Paco was an economist professor. There are books everywhere…my kind of place. When she showed me their back patio, I smiled as she pointed to everything for me. Afterward, she trotted us all over the village to show us Paco’s grandmother, Clara Silvan’s house, the Plaza Mayor, a very rustic shop and the library.  She introduced us to everyone in her wake.  At the library, the librarian was very interested in my book, so I gifted her a copy.  Now, I can smile at the thought that Historia de una niña emigrante is in the Fuentesauco library!!

To the cementario next. We told them we had walked through the entire cemetery ten years earlier and found Hernandez Martin headstones, but no Silvans.  Maybe they did not understand us, I thought.  She practically marched us through the doors and over to a huge statue and burial stones. She pulled the flowers back and pointed to the etched stone, which was lost in time. SILVÁN!!! It was Clara Silvan’s stone. Amazing. The blue sky above us seemed to laugh at us.  How on earth do historians and genealogists find this stuff without local help???

Paco and Pilar treated us to a wonderful meal about 2:00, the big dinner hour.  After an ensalada Ruso, crusty bread,  merluza (hake fish) and green salad later, Pilar surprised us again. She gave us a huge bag of Garbanzos (Fuentesauco is the largest grower of these beans that my grandmother and then my other raised us on). There is no way to fit them in our luggage, but we didn’t have the heart to tell her that.  She raised her hand and showed us a key. Steven and I were perplexed until she mentioned Clara Silván. The key to her house that is about 1,000 years old.  Not a typo. Of course we went inside. Despite not being able to turn on the lights, we went from room to room with my camera flash and Steven’s phone flashlight. Thank you, Apple.

By the time this day was over, we were drunk with pleasure and exhaustion. 
Tomorrow, we drive to Madrid for our final sleep before walking onto a plane and walking off again at our own cities. We are ready.  But, wait. In Madrid, we will see Mercedes and Jenaro again, with their daughter, Cintia, who found me through ten years ago. We have been truly blessed with our Spanish family who continue to welcome us into their world.

Life is sweet.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Spanish cousins, knockers and a bodega

The Rio Duero flows through Spain and on through Portugal to the Atlantic Ocean.  And it is synonymous with wine, vineyards, farming, Zamora, Castilla y León and more, more, more.

I saw this view for the first time ten years ago during my first trip to Toro, one of our ancestral villages here in Spain.  Then, the same as now, seeing the valley stretched before me with the Duero River far below is still thrilling.  The panoramic view goes for miles in all directions.  Tomorrow, I plan to walk down to the bridge and the water. It will take me longer coming back up the hill, but I tell myself it will be worth it.

Without a strong internet in several of the villages we stayed in over the past week, I have not been able to post any notes about the stunning congreso filled with other historians and authors like myself.  For me, meeting so many other like-minded people from around Spain and the United States, I will take away good memories. Despite being nervous about my presentation about my book, The Girl Immigrant and my research to write it, everything went smoothly and I am glad it is over. Sharing our ancestral immigration stories never gets tiresome for us. 

The local costumes and dances differed in each town. I tried to dance to all of them.  I do not think I can remember ever seeing so many happy people; smiles, laughter and music. This particular event was In Montehermoso, not far from Coria where we walked our legs off going through the streets and looking into old doorways and archways. 

And then the door knockers here in Toro.  We walked toward Plaza de San Francisco with our Toro map to find the bull ring.  Along that street, the doors were so old and the knockers were so unique, I kept focusing on the doors and we nearly missed the Plaza de Toros, which is now used for musical events.  The “hand” knockers have fascinated me for years and these were antiques along with their peeling doors. But they are also wonderful.  My shiny brass hand knocker on my own door is a shadow of these.  Note the top left knocker. Amazing.

When I told Steven about the underground wine bodega that my cousins showed me beneath his friend’s shop here in Toro, we decided to retrace my steps.  The young shop worker is a 4th generation shopkeeper and despite being nervous with his English, he did very well between our Spanish and his explanations.  He led us deep into the bowels of the earth beneath the shop, in what was once a house.  He said at one time there were about 300 of these underground bodegas where grapes were pressed into wine in an elaborate and complicated ritual along with their water storage.  3,000 liter barrels were at the bottom of the very steep stone steps and then the large press and a smaller press (200 years old). Bottles of wine were in shelves and on tables. I saw a thick rope hanging from a deep ceiling hole and he said that is used to pull up buckets of water.  He was speaking English much better after twenty minutes and his nervousness seemed to disappear. 

While my brother Steven works every evening in the privacy of the hotel room, I wander through the labyrinth of Toro, feeling the spirit of my great grandmother Rita Trascasas Marzo (Silván) and the families before her. 

Like dessert, I saved the best until last:  Her name is Mercedes Trascasas, my cousin and kindred spirit.

Seeing my Trascasas cousins again was a lovely, sweet time as we exchanged stories, memories and enjoyed an elaborate meal at a new restaurant on the outskirts of town. Pulpa (octopus) from Galicia served on potato slices with partially melted cheese on top was the appetizer.  And the main dishes kept coming…bacalao (cod) after a bean soup and the best bread ever.  And rice pudding, arroz con leche…And wine.
Tomorrow, we drive to Fuentesauco to visit Francisco “Paco” Hidalgo, a Silván descendant that I met in 2019 with the help of Mercedes and her husband Jenaro Costas and their daughter, Cintia.  Another adventure to walk-in Abuelita’s footsteps. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Where is the Mayor?

A musical welcome, and hugs and smiles have been non-stop.  When we Americans arrived in Jarandilla De la Vera for the genealogy conference, we were met by a local musical group dressed in their local costumes, playing music, dancing and just overall blasting us into a welcome we will never forget.  They accompanied everyone up the long steep driveway in front of the Parador de la Jarandilla and into the stone archway.  In the upper patio stood a large group of Spaniards who were all clapping wildly to welcome us into the huge, gorgeous plaza. The festive atmosphere was very emotional. 

The emotions zipping through the air since we arrived in Jarandilla de la Vera among Americans and Spanish relatives have left everyone a little off kilter.  The locals are thrilled to have us here, part of a 2-year project in the making.  It took me by surprise when a few people have recognized me either from seeing me in the documentary, Pasaje a Hawaii, or from the Hawaiian Spaniards Facebook site where I am an administrator.  By morning, the entire arrival sequence was printed in five newspapers and two television stations, including a national station.

Then, the different side tours of the local areas began. One specially gave me giggles (yes, I am tired). We were told we would go on a cheese tour in a nearby village and then move on to Villanueva De la Vera where the mayor would welcome us. Instead, we watched the cheese village in the rear view mirror and we wondered what happened? The people around me and my new friend, Victoria, stared about with questions, just as we did.  We watched the petite female driver continue along the narrow, serpentine road for another thirty minutes, follow the narrow streets and stop. What? 

Everyone got off and the group leader told us the mayor was going to say a few words and then we would have music and food.  So, we started following her. Imagine about thirty people scattering across rigid cobblestone streets that were as narrow as a goat track.  They were more like alleyways, with old stones holding up walls that we knew were ancient because we saw the year etched above the stone doorways. I found one that was 1846, one hundred years before I was born. There were many older dates, French drains along the middle of the walkway where water gushed along the channels.  We dodged the waterways and kept the group in our sights. Long, narrow and tunnels, rocky and dark.  The streets interconnected each other, flowers were in pots everywhere and dilapidated buildings were on every corner.  Where was this mayor waiting for us, I wondered.

The group of people was disjointed and nobody seemed to know where we were going. Nearly thirty minutes of walking steadily through tangled streets, looking into deep niches in rocky walls, we heard music. We followed the sounds and my cousin, Dennis Moreno, and I hiked up wide stone steps and the others followed. Before I knew it, Dennis had joined the throng of dancers inside the large room and danced with the women dressed in their local costumes. All the ladies helped others learn the dance.  I held back until I couldn’t anymore,  I jumped in and tapped my toes and wiggled my way through one sequence. When the music ended and the Spanish woman told me, between grins and hugs, that I’d just danced la jota, I felt my chest squeeze. La jota? My abuelita used to dance la jota and I felt tears.  When the local women heard me, every one of them rushed in for hugs.  The atmosphere continues to amaze me, filled with more emotions than words can convey.  There is a photo of me dancing Abuelita’s dance on someone else’s camera and I will post it when I see it.   Until then, my memory will work for me.  And as we all drove away on the bus afterward, we were all still asking, “Where’s the Mayor??!”

Taxi! The train! And flamenco too. 💃🏻

 Oblivious to the craziness that lay ahead of us… me at Maria Zambrano Train Station in Malaga

Overconfident, I led my brother into the station, through security and through the gates.  Waving my train ticket with coche (car) 4 clearly showing us where to go as we walked along the AVE bullet train, we began counting. We found coche 1, 2, 3, cafetería and then 5 and 6. Hmmm. Maybe the cafeteria train? I directed Steven to push all our luggage up the steps (it wasn’t easy) and we pushed them into a slot.  When I found our seat, a young woman was already there. I asked her if this was coche 4. “No, cinco (5).  I hurried back to Steven with the news and we were indecisive. What to do?  And then, along came a train hostess who looked at the ticket, stared at the coche 4 printed there and pursed her lips.  She pointed toward the cafeteria and asked me to wait for a supervisor because she thought we may be on the wrong train.  Huh? It was the train 2123 at 11:55 a.m.  Steven and I pushed all four bags into the shelving on the empty cafeteria car. Steven stood guard and I headed to the other end.  I was happy when the train doors locked and it began to move. They wouldn’t make us get off now…but we had no seat.  I give Spanish trains a 5* though, because a supervisor found me, stared at our ticket, changed it to coche 3 and we were soon seated for the 2-1/2 ride ahead of us. All good.  I would have ridden in the food car if there’d been seats…not far to go for coffee.  So much for over confidence.

We arrived at Atocha, Madrid’s train station and again, I led my brother along the marble-floored building stretching my neck to look out the high windows.  If I could see the street, I’d get my head straight. The Hotel Mediodía was across the street, just past the giant roundabout, hundreds of people, too many cars to count whipping around it and the taxicabs.  But, we found it just fine. So, overconfidence paid off that time.  Cafés were strewn along the street with people sipping coffee, some with dogs at their feet. And there were homeless here and there, enough to break our stride feeling sad. The room was very nice and I was delighted with the floor to ceiling windows that opened out onto a small balcony above a guitar-playing singer just below.  

We had a date with Ana Silván Grimaldos, a cousin I’d met in 2017. We found her in front of the Museo Sofia Reina behind our hotel and we’re we’re quickly drinking cups of creamy coffee. She speaks a little Spanish, “poco poco,” she said with a grin. Her personality was adorable and she and Steven spoke more Spanish than I did…then just before we ended our chat, she lifted some papers from her bag and slid the, across the table.  “For you,” she said. I could hardly belief my eyes.  It was a family tree I had filled out listing the three Silván family members I knew.  The first name, the oldest son was Felipe. I only knew about him several years ago because he was listed as godfather to several other siblings from baptismal documents I had found.  She had completed Felipe’s column! Now we know exactly how she is related to us. My heart flipped and I can barely wait to update the Silván information when I return home. She was excited to share it with me after talking to her great aunt, who
is old, clear headed with a good memory.  

Saturday, October 22, 2022

A nostalgic day in Malaga

Benagalbón is a village near the Mediterranean where our ancestors lived before moving to small villages on the other side of Malaga. This man, Miguel Alba Trujillo has helped me find documents. He is a historian and author of several books about the village. Over the years, I have met his wife Isabel, known as Isa, and the friendships are sweet.  Saturday, he and Isa walked me and Steven around the village and then treated us to a wonderful lunch with flowers everywhere. The iglesia, Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria,  was nearby to remind us that our great grandfather was probably baptized there.  

Chocolate  and churros! Marcos García Narváez, in Malaga, and I have friends through the Hawaiian Facebook page for several years and when he suggested chocolate for our meetup, it was a definite yes. He led us through a few narrow streets from Calle Marqués de Larios, more simply known as Calle Larios, a magical street in central Malaga.  He led us to the Casa Aranda, promising the wait would be worth it because this place was the best. Of course it is, as it’s one of our Spanish ancestral names…It did not take Steven and I long to agree.  Creamy chocolate and freshly, made churros. Delicious 
And then, our Wine and Tapas walking tour with my friend, Javier Fernandez Elena at 6:00 after retracing our walk from Casa Aranda to Calle Larios, a popular meeting point. Javi was the translator for the film crew when I was in the documentary, Pasaje a Hawaí in 2017. Since then, he changed occupations and he’s the best tour guide! This is tour number three for me, but Steven’s first.  The oldest tavern in Malaga is Antigua Casa de Guardia, 192 years old. The back wall is lined in wine barrels and people stand at little tables or the bar. No chairs. It does move the people along. The tapas were grilled peppers and another with pickled onions, anchovies and green olives. I liked the olives… The wine was a Málaga wine (por supuesto-of course) and not a big favorite, but it is one of their signature vinos, Muscatel. Javi pointed to the doorway after leading all twelve of us through a wide alley; no tavern sign “because everyone knows where it is.”  However, Steven found another door and took a photo of the front, with a sign. 
The right bottom photo is intriguing. While I was taking photos as Javi described the history of the bar and the wine being served, this man needed to open the cabinet beside me. He reached into the dark space and removed two empty wine bottles and walked to one of the barrels.  Grabbing a funnel, he filled the bottle and then moved to another barrel to fill the second one. You point to the wine barrel with the wine you want and he fills it on the spot. I didn’t see money exchange hands and briefly wondered how much a personally filled bottle would cost. 

We stopped at one tapas bar and two restaurants where we were served wine and very interesting and good tapas.  The Chinitas Restaurante was my favorite because there were so many photo opportunities. It is one of the most popular restaurants in Malaga.  I lagged behind as Javi led the group upstairs to a private dining room.  I sat on the step to take the photo of the little girl.  When I saw the señorita painting, I squeezed into another corner for her.  Beautiful decor, very old wood and excellent tapas; croquettes, fried rosada (fish) and rioja wine.  The little girl in the 1989 fería advertisement reminded me of my youngest daughter…

Steven enjoyed his last swim.
I packed my bags. 
Steven made us bowls of fresh gazpacho filled with avocado, cucumbers and tomatoes. 
It is so nice to be waited on by my brother, who is a smiling cook. 
I inhaled the last day of sea breezes and the sounds of the city where the culture is slow and easy.

Tomorrow, a train ride to Madrid.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Visiting my muse and then losing the car

 MEDITERRÁNEA statue in Fuengirola has been my muse since 2017 and every time I visit Spain, she calls me back again.  Yesterday was no different except this time her entire base (where I have stood for my photo shots) was filled with foreign salesmen; their blankets were spread out at her feet, filled with purses and shoes and watches, pretending to be the real articles.  So, after only a moment of indecision, I grinned at my brother and started climbing up the back of the statue.  This time, I got into the ship with her… It is different, but we were laughing and again, I walked away with a smile and another memory.

Steven and I walked the boardwalk and enjoyed the beautiful sea;  fog lay thick over the water, so the view was limited, but not so bad that we missed the chiringuito restaurant on the sand.  Hamacas littered the beach and at 72 degrees, we saw a few swimmers and dog walkers.  For us, lunch was in order.  I had a glass of vino tinto 🍷 and ordered gazpacho andaluz and Steven ordered boquerones fritas and a fish soup.  When the waiter brought my gazpacho, my eyebrows shot up.  In a glass?  No vegetables swimming in its depths?  Steven asked why it wasn’t in a bowl as it was an entre?  The waiter looked confused. A bowl?  This is the way it is served. We have a plate, like a bowl. Do you want one?  I nodded no…the glass was fine. But, weird.  I was glad Steven ordered the fried fish, and he was happy to share.

We peeked into little shops and meandered down the boardwalk. He bought his daughters gifts and I tried on flamenco shoes…polka dots!  Then, he bought us each a chocolate covered ice cream bar and we enjoyed it all the way to the end of the street on our way to the car.  We had a date with our friends, Lyn and Saidie, to go to a live music show in another town and we wanted to pretty ourselves up for it.

AND THEN THE CAR WAS NOT WHERE WE LEFT IT. It is easy to spot because there aren’t many yellow cars on the road.  Steven knew where he’d parked it. I’d told him it was at the dead end of the boardwalk.
Steven: Are you sure this is the street?
Me: Absolutely. See the roundabout there? I pointed toward the end of the street.
Steven: Well, maybe it’s been towed? It costs 100 cash and another 200 euros to get it out. He had already gone through the experience earlier in his visit.
Me: Maybe it’s been stolen? 

Steven looked glum,  but we are both of the same disposition, so we talked about what we should do and thought of solutions. He made a phone call and we found that neither the police in Benalmádena nor the police in Mijas had the car. So, we presumed the car had, indeed, been stolen. We found a seat on a cement and tiled water fountain and discussed our options.

Steven: Well, the only thing I had in the car was my international driving license.
Me: Good.  And then my heart sped up.  My books are in the trunk! The Spanish translation of The Girl Immigrant books were in a box, waiting for the conference next week in Cáceres.  I tried not to think about the books, since we were stranded in a coastal town about 15 miles from the condo. How will we get home? A taxi?  A bus?  What to do? Call police? Call rental car company? Call…? I took a deep breath and looked at my brother. He did not seem upset, maybe because he is a doctor in anger management or maybe because he is Steven, the boy who has always encouraged calmness.

Okay. The car was stolen and we needed to think. We walked up and down two other streets, although this was the one…that fed into the sea. Let’s sit down and a coffee to figure out what to do, I suggested. And that’s exactly what we did. The woman who took our order spoke a little English and she felt our pain. She showed me the taxi APP on her phone. 

Me: I wonder if the car rental company has a GPS on the car? They could find it for us! I’d read so many books where that happened and thrashed around in my head for bits of random information.
Steven looked at his car rental contract on his email and called the place. His phone was nearly dead. Mine was close to 25%. This was the only day I had left my little jacket home along with the battery booster. The fog was now turning to a cool breeze. It would soon be dark. We drank our coffee and then Steven’s eyes lit up as he spoke to the rental company person on the other end of his dying phone. 

Steven: YES, they have GPS on the car is parked close by! We high fives and he wrote down the street name and we finished our coffee. When he went inside to pay, he spied chocolate brownies oozing with frosting. He has trouble passing up anything chocolate, so he bought two of them.  I wanted us to hurry so we could find the car before the thieves drove it away again.  I was focused on our mission and my books.  We followed the little blue dots on my GPS to Calle Héroes de Balen, almost at a trot.

Yes! When we saw that little yellow car, I wanted to kiss the hood as we walked quickly toward it. I glanced around for suspicious looking characters and then I saw the other roundabout. Two and a half hours of inner speculation and we were drinking coffee only a 5-minute walk away. My “absolutely this is the street” answer to his “are you sure this is the street” question now dissolved into relief.  And my brother just grinned.  He is the best travel companion!  Although both emotionally drained, we decided riding inside that car felt wonderful. However by then we knew we would miss the music date, so we celebrated our car-finding-blessing with hot tea and the chocolate brownie when we walked in our door.

THAT ESCAPADE WAS YESTERDAY. Today, we relaxed because we have a birthday party to attend in Malaga at 10:30 tonight.  The dinner and party hours here in Spain continue to amaze me.  But before then, I’m off for a walk to meet Lyn and Saidie for lunch at the beach. The day is lovely, we have a car, I have my books and life is sweet. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Trading a bull for a pair of shoes

Steven introduced me to a little bakery nearby, called Dolce Vita because he promised creamy coffee and chocolate croissants.  The beautiful baked items beneath the glass case all looked delicious,  and true to form, like my brother, chocolate usually wins out for me.  I was delighted that two coffees and two filled croissants only cost 6,20 euros, so I paid… Yes, I tend to be generous when the bill is less than 10 euros (smile) and we are taking turns.  He was correct. The coffee was creamy and the best I have had so far, in Spain.  The croissant tasted like the hot cross buns my friend Lyn shared with me for Easter a few years ago. Deliciosa. 

Then, I was on my own; I left my brother at home, grabbed my map and headed toward the seafront. My eyes can barely keep up with the sights. The first bit was very steep upward and I was puffing by the time I reached Calle de San Francisco before the street smiled and I was walking downward again. I love all the gated doors and the sidewalk decorations that looked like someone slid a steel bar across wet cement. I found a small alcove along the street as I walked farther and stopped to ponder it.  Graffiti. Debris. Sadness. A forgotten place…

When I saw the Swinger’s Bar, I chuckled and of course, out came my camera.  After I snapped the photo, I turned around and a younger man was eyeing me, looking at the restaurant sign and then eyeing me again with a chuckle of his own,  I hurried on…

After trying to find the bull in this photo for two days, I decided to find it on my own. You know, ask questions, follow the Benalmadena map and look for the old guy myself.  There was just something about him that I wanted to investigate (I told you already that I have nose trouble).  After walking in and out of shops showing different people the bull’s photo without any results, I spied a shoe store.  Like my mother, daughter and granddaughter, it is hard to pass them by. Keeping in mind the non-space in my luggage, I tried to ignore it. But, Lyn gave me a pretty, flowing sundress that I hope to wear soon and my black sandals just won’t do, so I glanced in the door.  A tiny, older woman (probably my age as I give up trying to guess age here) was drinking a glass of coffee at a little table in front of the cafe next door and when I glanced in, that was her cue to jump up and welcome me.  Her Spanish eyes spoke volumes of kindness, so I pulled out my phone to show her my bull photo.  Maybe she knows…

First, she laid a hand on my shoulder and peered at the photo.  Then, she scrunched up her lips in serious thought and shook her head.  “El toro está en Benalmádena Pueblo, no está aquí.” The bull is in the Pueblo, not here in Benalmádena coastal.  

When she saw my shoulders slump, she asked me in English, “You need shoes?”  

I grinned and peeked into the shop, stunned to see the entire shop filled with shoes.  As I went in with the woman, I heard her repeat several times, “shoes Italian, not Chinese.”  I found a pair and she pointed toward a blue-cushioned chair.  I was immediately a child again, a time when shoe salespeople actually lifted your foot to slip on the shoe because that’s exactly what this little Spanish woman did.  And they fit like Cinderella’s slipper. 

After I gave her my euros, she returned my change and I realized she had shorted me 10 euros. I pointed to the bills and her hands flew up to her red face. “Oh! I am sorry!”  She pushed the missing 10 euros into my hand and held them briefly as if to ask my forgiveness.  I heard her apologizing three or four times as I walked away from her with my new shoes clutched to my chest.  Hmmm, guess if I don’t find that bull, I still have the shoes. A good trade?