Sunday, September 30, 2018

A thousand years ago Córdoba (Spain) was the largest city in the world...

The land of scholars, scented patios of flowers and everything Spanish

The mosque's clock tower rose high above the surrounding buildings pointing to the blue sky above.  Coming back to the city where so much history is embedded into the stone, where flowers drift and dance around arched doorways and the sound of music permeates the air...makes my heart sing.  Since Steven had never been here, I was happy to lead him through the narrow streets, around the mosque and into the heart of the historic area where I spent so many lovely days last year.

Today, we walked across the Roman bridge that I can see from my hotel room.  Steven is two stories above me and I think his view is straight to the mosque.  The bridge was built in the early first century BC across the Guadalquivir river, although it has been reconstructed at various times since then.  The stones are massive and the bridge is wide.  I noticed a statue on the end that I hadn't remembered... and then Steven told me it was a man, stock still with makeup and costume to look like olden times.  Ah, no wonder I didn't remember.  

The thunder of footsteps from others sharing the bridge as we crossed the expanse made us dodge other explorers, but we twisted and turned until we walked through the stone archway that led to the mosque.  The walls are high, doors so old that some of the paint is barely discernible.  When we arrive at the large archway into the Patio of the Oranges, we were lured inside.  Massive, beautiful and breathtaking.  The clock tower bell began to ring loudly above us.  Cordoba.  Magical.

Steven wanted to see the Jewish Quarter and I knew the way, but I had to start from my hotel from last year since I go everywhere by landmarks, not street names.  And, we found it.  Wandering in and out of the narrow streets, past shops spilling with touristy gifts, we felt the ambiance that these old world cities will never stop sharing with the people who, like us, expect to find.  

Last year, my friend Sue Navas Frank and her husband David treated me to lunch at their favorite restaurant and she shared her favorite meal, berenjenas a la miel (eggplant with molasses/honey)  I remembered the steps and found  Bodega Taberna Rafae exactly where we'd left it!  The thrill of it.  We ordered a salad with goat cheese on top of greens, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked salmon and sprinkled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over it.  Then, the berenjenas, perfecto.

We wandered back toward the mosque so that we could wind our way back to the hotel across the bridge.  When I wasn't taking photos, I lost Steven once while he had his camera pointed in every direction.  Near the bridge was a huge statue that mesmerized him.  
I sat down to wait and ate ice cream...

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A DAY TRIP TO COLMENAR, the village of Maria Carmen REY Garcia

We started the day looking for a different place near the beach to find cafe con leche and when we saw the umbrellas with the edges dripping with trifles, we knew we'd found the right place.  The coffee was very good.  We haven't found coffee yet that wasn't, just some stronger than others.  

The ambiance of the beach on our left, a beautiful building with black filigree balconies across from us and the umbrella above to block the sun, started our day with a smile. We discussed driving up into the hills for my cousins from my great-grandfather's second marriage, the half-siblings to my grandfather Bernardo RUIZ Romero.  They may have been half-siblings by blood, but in their hearts, that never mattered because  we are all family.  The town of Maria Rey Garcia is Colmenar.  When I saw it on a road sign near where we are located, I knew it must be on our itinerary.  I am thankful that Steven is patient and amenable with my wayward thoughts and list of "must go" places.   Sometimes as I sit and contemplate the magnitude of this trip to Spain, I still have to pinch myself.  Being so many miles across the ocean from my loved ones seems almost surreal as I get up in the morning when they are sleeping and I go to bed when they are eating lunch.  My mind flies to them often during each day as I wonder what they are doing while I listen to Spaniards conversations and eat Spanish food.  And drink tinto verano con limon of course.  It sounds like that is all that I do, but of course, it is usually for a break in the day and a refreshing, cool drink is perfect.  I also like the bright, blue bottles of water and I keep filling mine to take with me daily.

Road trip time!  We are getting very good at finding the main highway, A-7 and Steven drove there easily.  Now that I have GPS on my phone (thank you, Albert Marques for suggesting the international SIM card!!!), I punched in Colmenar and off we went up into the hills above us as we followed the signs and marveled at how much the landscaped changed from the coastal area.

 The streets were brick and cobblestone and wound upward in some places that just the thought of driving the car on those narrow avenues made me shiver.  We parked in the center of town and headed toward the church steeple.  On the way through the very narrow streets, cars were parked haphazardly in the most strange areas.  Sidewalks and corners mean nothing to these drivers. As long as the vehicle is off the road, they are left alone.  We've learned blue zones are for two hours only (we already had to pay extra when we didn't follow those rules...1,40 euroes), yellow squiggly lines mean no parking and everything else was open to fight our way into the space of make our own.

We were huffing and puffing by the time we pulled our way up some stone steps, happy to see a hand rail to get to the top.  The old church might have been Maria Carmen Rey's church.  We saw another antique church farther up, but decided this one would have to do.  A beautiful garden shaded the side of the church courtyard and the scent of lavender followed us through the pathways.  Beautiful.  It was the iglesia (church) named IGLESIA Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion - Our Lady of Asuncion.  White stone walls were freshly painted, framed by the common yellow color of Spain.  The clock tower was in need of attention, but it reminded me of days gone past.  That's why we were there...  Pink bougainvillea crawled up the walls and the side of the church.

As Steven drove upward to find the highway again, I saw a sign for Antequera, 30 km.  What?  That was a beautiful memory for me when my brother, Steven, drove us there in 2012.
Me:  Have you ever been to Antequera?
Steven: No.
Me:  It's close!  Let's drive there so I can show you the collegiate church with the giant towers."
Steven gripped the steering wheel as we came to a Y in the road..."Okay, but which way??"
Me:  Straight...I think.  Oops, we need to make a U turn.
So he did.  From there the day became a little dicey.  We found Antequera.  We followed the GPS route.  When we saw the bullring, it was in the center of town (I think).  This restaurant was inside the bullring, so I do not know if it was instead of an active bullring or an addition to the bullring.

We were suddenly meshed into a traffic jam.  I didn't remember the town being this busy or so many streets and buildings...and where was the antique church?  I could have sworn my brother just hit town, took a couple turns and we were at the Roman ruins and inside the church in jig time.

I must say that one hour later, still listening to the GPS woman's voice telling us where to turn on each street was making me nervous.  I kept glancing at Steven and his knuckles were not white yet, but I was sure they would be very soon.  After a few more VERY narrow streets where I thought he might have to drive on the sidewalk to pass the parked cars, I very carefully said, "I don't know how you feel, but I think we need to find a way out of here."  I think I heard a "yes" but now that I think back it might have been a huge sigh.  We followed more streets and signs (rare to see a street listed on the corners of these villages).  When I saw the sign saying "Todos los direcciones" I got excited.
"Go that way!  That sign means we can find a way out in ALL DIRECTIONS."
He turned the car and we were on the highway again.  Sadly, we did not see the arcos de los gigantes, the Arch of the Giants or the huge church, but by then he was only thinking of needing a cold beer.  Me?  I was just following him back down the mountain toward Malaga.

Back in Torre del Mar, we found food and of course, chilled beverages.  Another day to add to our memories and then we needed to pack everything.  Tomorrow, we go to Cordoba to tour the mosque.  I just hope I can fit everything in my bag...

Friday, September 28, 2018

Saying hello once again

Fuengirola is a town on the southern coast of Spain between Malaga and Marbella, a town I walked the streets and explored when I lived in Spain for three months last year.  Going back and following the roundabouts and passing the bullring told me exactly where I was going.  Steven followed my directions until we found the train station, parked the car and got our parking ticket at the kiosk after several tries.  Cafe con leche was lovely as we sat a bit and prepared for the day.  I knew how to get to the beach and my stomach was fluttering with the fun of being back there again.

While we sat in the cafe drinking our coffee, I heard Steven say, “No way,” under his breath.  A very skinny red car was trying to back himself between several motorcycles and el Carro II.  Back and forth, reversing and pushing, barely fitting into a space that was made for another motorcycle...we held our breath, wondering if we could get el Carro II out if he managed to wedge himself in there.  He did it!  Within minutes, another man appeared; the motorcyclist.  The men exchanged a few friendly words, the motorcyclist shrugged and the next thing we saw was his miraculous maneuvering as he worked his bike out of its tight spot.  He rocked it back and forth toward the street, but the little red car’s mirror wouldn’t let his butt clear.  He inched it, pulled it and violá, he was on his way.  We didn’t realize we’d been holding our breath until we shook our heads and started breathing again.

 That’s when I watched the waiter deliver two GLASSES of hot coffee to an elderly couple at the next table. (I always ask for a cup so I won’t burn my fingers and drop the glass).  The older gentleman and his wife, who was dressed in what my mother and grandmother called a house dress, talked quietly.  She stirred her coffee absently.

The gentleman picked up the tiny spoon in his saucer beside his glass of hot coffee.  He slid it carefully into the foam on top of his coffee and methodically lifted spoon after spoon of foam to his mouth until just the cafe con leche remained.  I was mesmerized.

A quick trip to the tourist office nearby gave us a street map and off we went in search of the Mediterráneo statue that I scrambled up on for my favorite photo last year.  I wanted to update the photo and Steven was patient and agreeable.  Last year, there was blue sky, I wore sunglasses and torredor pants.  My brother, also named Steven, laughed when I got up on the statue's base and snapped the photo that became the epitome of my life in Spain.

This year, it was cloudy, no sunglasses and I wore shorts and Steven #2 took the photo while a swarthy Spaniard watched us and grinned at the entire scenario.  I couldn't stop laughing from the feeling of melancholy and pleasure that swelled through my mind. Lovely memories.

I found a beautiful yellow Spanish dress with a large bosom ruffle that I couldn't ignore.  I'm sure I'll feel Spanish when I wear it when I'm back home again...

Then, a walk down the boardwalk and it was lunchtime.  We found a street side cafe and Steven found a sandwich on the menu called Serranoito, which had pork loin slices, Serrano ham, mayonnaise and fried green peppers that melted in our mouths between warm, toasty rolls. The pepper permeated through the entire bocadilla (sandwich) and I listened to Steven tell me his mother and grandmother always fried peppers and laid them onto paper towels to drain.  It brought an immediate memory to me of my abuelita (grandmother) and the the towel she used.  I think paper towels hadn't been invented yet...   My stemmed glass of chilled, fruity sangria and Steven's beer rounded it off nicely.  We had to ask for la cuenta (bill) about four times before we could pay and leave.  Only in Spain?

Once we returned to Torre Del Mar, I left Steven on his won and I took a leisure walk to the beach.  No wind.  No sun.  I was pulled by the siren song of the hamaca and sea-grass umbrella. On the way down the promenade, a lazy breeze brought the scent of jasmine through the air and I inhaled it deeply.  I love the ambiance of Spain and the feelings it brings to me.

Tomorrow?  Colmenar, the home of Maria Carmen Rey Garcia, the step-mother of my grandfather Ben Ruiz and his three siblings, Maria, Juan and Miguel.  She was well loved and she and my great grandfather, Francisco Ruiz Garcia, had several more children.  I want to explore Colmenar and take photos for my cousins. It will be nice to walk on the streets of her village...and photograph more memories.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Today was truly Steven Alonzo’s day

A DAY OF ANCESTRAL MEMORIES: Chilches and Macharaviaya, Spain

 First, cafe con leche in a slow and easy start to our day.  We'd already ordered when I saw chocolate croissants on top of the glass case beside us.  YUM.  We split it into four pieces and ate every crumb.

Today, el Carro II found its way to two villages near the Mediterranean Sea, neither village was far from where we are in Spain.  Our first stop was Chilches where the Escaño family lived, so we parked the car and began walking up and down steep, narrow streets to just feel the oldness in the air. When we saw the bench in front of the old church, Steven sat down where he’d sat the first time he’d made his way to his ancestral village twelve years ago.  He said a lot had changed, more updates, prettier entrance into the village and overall upgrade.  What hadn’t changed was the peace and memories he remembered from his grandmother’s stories.  He continued to sit and contemplate...

And then we decided to walk.  When I saw the furniture  and home appliances truck with the ESCAÑO name on the side, I yelled and pointed.  His face lit up like a candle.  Family?  Cousins?  

We guessed and imagined if there could be a familial connection as we walked upward toward the cemetery.  I’d never seen one such as this.  Instead of gravestones on the ground, it was shaped like a rectangle with three walls filled with niches to hold the etched stones, some black marble, others white and many with the inhabitant’s photos.  He found several of his family names and I found Ruiz, although in Spain...Ruiz is like Smith or Jones in America.

On the way back down the narrow road made of rocks and cement, we said “hola” to an old woman who responded likewise with a big smile.  Steven asked her if she knew any Escaños and she said, yes and pointed to a house behind us!  Without hesitation, Steven walked up to the door, knocked and asked the woman (in perfect Spanish) if her name was Escaño and explained that his grandmother was originally from Chilches.  She opened her door and invited us right inside her house as if we weren’t strange Americans at all.  As we stood inside the doorway, she led her husband toward us.  He was the Escaño.  After some discussion between them, it was decided that he didn’t know Adolpho Escaño, Steven’s ancestor.   They shook our hands and we were on our way again...

We both agreed it was a little difficult to understand the man.  He had no teeth and as Steven said, “he ate his words.”  I profess to be a photographer nut, but when I saw the goofy grin on Steven’s face as he let the wonder of meeting another Escaño get through his brain, I completely forgot about cameras.  I just shared the moment with him.  It was grand.

NEXT, I tapped in the name of his other family’s village called Macharaviaya.  As we drove downward along the mountain road again, Steven smiled when he reminisced about his grandmother telling him she could see the sea from her village.  He saw what she saw and his voice turned warm. When we found the road to the second village, he drove us upward and around mountains until the cliff dropped off and my heart sped up, frantically at times.  We found the village etched deep in the hills above the sea. We realized it was across the valley from my ancestor’s home, Benagalbón.  It is a small world.  I’ve said this so many times as we have found so many Spanish connections.

The village appeared as if out of the clouds.  And it was charming.  Ceramic tiles. Old buildings mixed with the new.  For some reason, I am drawn to the old, dilapidated houses.  I wish I knew the story embedded in their antique walls, stone and uneven windows.

By then, we were starting to slow down.  Oh!  A bar/restaurant and it was 12:30.  I believe a cold beer had his name on it.  He told the woman that his family was from the village.  I saw him beam when she responded with a grin.  Yes, it was truly Steven’s day and I was delighted to be part of it.


When we returned to Torre Del Mar, my plan was to lay under a sea-grass umbrella and read the rest of the afternoon away.  We walked to the beach, found a table to eat and shared another scrumptious Spanish meal...and the tablecloth nearly blew away with the wind.  We ate rosada (fish), tortilla espanola (potato and egg omelet), red pepper salad, and chilled gazpacho.  And wine...When I had my first taste of both the gazpacho and the tortilla espanola, I swooned.  Only in Spain...

I have decided that the 20 euro SIM card I put into my phone is probably the best $20 something I have ever spent since the GPS routing ability lifted the stress of the drive!  Tomorrow, we go to Fuengirola where the Mediterráneo Statue waits for me to stand in front of her for a new and updated photo.  And then, a hammock, sea-grass umbrella and a good book.
This is a translation of the newspaper article published the morning after the documentary premiere in Malaga by our friend, James Fernández.  This post does not replace my daily blog post, but to enable you to read the article if you are interested.

It is the end of the beginning, the dream come true of many Hawaiian-Spanish families.  They spent years searching for their roots, and now they have seen them made visible in a documentary film.  The Californians Steven Alonso, Patricia Steele and Albert Marques, descendants of Andalusians who emigrated to Hawaii in the late nineteenth century, were in Málaga yesterday to see the premiere of the film that retells the stories of their families, the stories of thousands of their fellow countrymen, who traveled aboard the SS Heliopolis, fleeing from misery and with the sole hope of a better world for their people.

They told me that my family arrived by ship from Málaga, but I didn’t know anything and I couldn’t find information anywhere.  When I started to ask myself who I am and where do I come from I found the book “SS Heliopois: la primera inmigración de andaluces a Hawai (1907)” by the historian from Malaga, Miguel Alba, on which this documentary is based, and that’s when I learned that my paternal grandfather was on that ship” recounts Alberto Marques in almost perfect Spanish, even though his family never spoke to him in that language.  Like Albert, Patricia Steele and Steven Alonso also spent years investigating that voyage that took their great-grandparents to the Pacific island, with the promise of fortune.  “I started research in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2012 when I came to Spain to meet my relatives.  The encounter was magical, as if they had always been in my heart. After all, they are my family” explains Steele, who has found parts of her story in Benagalbón, ALmogía y Fuentesaúco.

Thanks to Alba’s research, these three Californians have returned to the starting point of their origins to see the documentary “Passage to Hawaii, 1907-1913” which had its debut yesterday in the Cine Albeniz.  Directed by the filmmaker Eterio Ortega, the movie portrays the exodus of Andalusians, primarily malagueños, to Hawaii to work on the sugar cane plantations.  After hard years of great sacrifice, most of these Andalusians left Hawaii for California, where today their descendants live.  When they embarked on the SS Heliopolis, which left the port of Malaga in 1907, these families left so much behind that they hardly had the strength to tell their stories.  That is why, Marques recalls that he never knew that his grandmother was Spanish until he saw her scolding a nurse in Spanish.  “I never wanted to speak my language so that they wouldn’t discriminate against me” she confessed to him.  In the same way, Alonso laments that his parents “stopped speaking Spanish because they were subject to discrimination by the other children at school.”  But despite all of these difficulties, there is something that these Andalusians never left behind:  “My grandmother’s way of cooking was authentically Spanish” affirms Alonso, who admits that he feels completely at home when he is in Spain.

Together with Marques, Steele and Alonso, more than 40 people have taken part in this documentary, which now gives lives to so many families.  “This is not rational, it’s emotional, or sentimental; the work has allowed many families to get to know each other, and from now on, they will be even more united.  That is why for me, it is only the end of the beginning” said proudly Miguel Alba, the historian from Málaga.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Quiet time in Torre Del Mar

Wednesday was calm and quiet; we walked to all of our adventures.  First, cafe con leche with churros.  They were too hot to pick up for a minute or so, but then I couldn’t stand it...I dipped the end in sugar and bit into the fried, crispy “fry bread.”  One wasn’t enough (like those potato chips).  They are usually dipped in a cup of steaming chocolate.  I glanced around. No Spaniards were watching, so I dunked the hot churro into my cafe con leche.  Yes!!!  Steven sprinkled white sugar and large grains of brown sugar onto the plate for more dipping and we ate all of them.

Afterward, we turned toward the sea where we walked down the beach a while.  Sand, sea and people already beat us there.  When we turned inland again, I suggested we go back another way to the apartment.  He hesitated only a heartbeat and then followed me.  I did it the other day and found my way back...what fun, new streets, new doors to take photos of, locals everywhere...but after about thirty minutes, I wasn’t quite as confident as when I’d left the beach.  We asked a shopkeeper who was sweeping the sidewalk at his entrance door...where is Guerrero Street?  He scratched his head and said, la Calle?  The street?  Do you mean the Guerrero Fish Market.  We both said no... I asked for directions to the beach instead and after he said a few words to Steven in Spanish (of course) we were on our way.  Three blocks later, I found my landmark, turned down the street with Steven mumbling after did you do that?  

We washed laundry and hung everything on the back patio clothesline, making the clothespins stretch to hold everything.  We found an internet place and I bought an international SIM card.  I can now call family and friends in Spain.  In America?  I still need WhatsApp with WiFi for phone calls. The service is spotty with the downstairs cafe’s WiFi, but it's free.  We are lucky ducks.

I found a little shop and left some euros there...I may need to toss something to fit in the new things, but since I plan to leave some of my Historia de una niña emigrante books here, I will have room for more stuff!  I window shopped for shoes (yes, I know I have a shoe addiction.)  I've already bought one pair of red wedge shoes and a Spanish dress with that beautiful lacy-edged ruffle that I like so much.  But, that won't take up much room...

Steven was captivated by a butcher slicing jamón (ham) into very thin slices in the meat market's window.  The man with the knife did not lift his eyes to acknowledge us as he focused on slicing the ham.  

By 3:00, we decided to have a leisure meal.  We walked slowly toward the paseo and then continued toward the beach where we remembered the chiringuito (beach bar in the sand) the night Miguel and Isabel led us to the sea.  It was a hot walk, but once we went into the bar and sat under the tent, we felt the breeze, heard the waves crash over the sand and all was good.  Steven got his beer and I had my tinto de verano. The luxury of relaxing there with the gentle sea breeze tugging at our hair, made the day perfecto.  We ordered a big mixed salad and boquerones (deep fried anchovies).  

Our conversations are often about our ancestors and the memories we have of our grandparents, their struggles and our love of the investigative urges within us.  It seems that filling up those family tree branches will be the never-ending story.  Siblings left behind and their descendants are probably here in the Costa del Sol of our ancestors, but it's difficult to find all of them.  Some people lived in one village, but married in a different village or moved to another.  So, the records are lodged hodgepodge around the area.  We are both lucky to have a good friend, Cristobal Navas Perez, who has found a wealth of information for us.

As our words eventually faded into the breeze, we contemplated the rest of our family story.  And we didn't want to leave that lovely spot, so we ordered just one more drink for the road before returning to the apartment.  It was hot and humid, so we didn’t dally by changing our route back again.  I had a special phone date at 6:00 pm that I didn’t want to miss.  And I didn’t....

Tomorrow we drive el Carro II a few miles west to one of Steven's ancestor's villages.  Chilches is where we will walk the narrow streets and feel his family. I know his need to do this because each time I am in Almogia, Campanillas or northern Spain in Fuentesauco, Toro and the two smaller villages of my own family, my mind flies away to long ago.

Afterward, I'll put on my swimsuit.  I will rent a hamaca (a chaise lounge) beneath sea-grass umbrellas.
The Mediterranean Sea.
A slight breeze.
The sound of waves sliding over the sand.
And my camera, of course.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The extended glow from the documentary in Malaga

Since we are 35 minutes from Malaga, we decided to head to the city early, even though we did not have to be in front of the Albeniz Cinema until 7:00 when Miguel Alba told us there would be a newspaper journalist to interview us at the front door.  What?!  This sounded like some serious stuff, so we left at 1:00.  On the ride beside the Mediterranean, I saw a woman in a pretty yellow dress and heels riding a scooter along beside us.  Only in Europe?  

We found a deeply inclined parking garage (glad I wasn't driving) and I led the way toward the El Pimpi Restaurant for lunch at 2:00, which is across the tiled walkway from the cinema.  I have eaten here several times as I was first introduced to this place by Vicky last year.  It is surrounded by huge red and white polka-dot cups filled with flowers, mostly red geraniums.  I told Steven my favorite menu item was called Ensalada Malaguena made with potato (of course) salad, bacalao (cod) oranges and just a little bit of salmorejo (cold Spanish soup) drizzled across the bowl's edges.  He said yes and we looked at all the bullfight posters that covered the wall while we waited for our meal.  Oh, and he had his beer and I had tinto verano con limon.  Delicious just as I remembered.   
The historic cinema building was beautiful and the documentary poster was bold and inviting.  Since this was a premiere for private invitation only, it made the evening more magical.  There was supposed to be a full house, 300 seats.  Again, we thought..."What are we going to do since we are still four hours early?"   

Shopping?  No, I'd have to carry a bag.  Exploring?  No, it was pretty hot for that.  Look for Picasso's statue at Park Merced near Picasso's birthplace?  Yes, it would be shady and cooler.  But it wasn't... so we found Bar Negro near the cinema, found chairs and had cold drinks.  A wonderful breeze flowed through the narrow stone passageway, but we couldn't stay there all day.  We walked past the Roman Theater, looked at the old buildings and poked into key holes in the ancient doors.

When I found the Spanish woman painted on the construction wall where I'd stood last year with Rina Rien, I had to take another one.  It is my Facebook profile photo!
Would the Cathedral of Malaga be cooler?  If so, it would be worth the 5,50 euros to gain entrance.  No, it wasn't, but it was enormous and beautiful with the high, high vaulted ceilings and golden inlaid shrines.  We discussed all the poor who went hungry while the church was covered in gold.  The gift shop was the coolest area around us...on the way out.  (smile).

This mural is painted on the side of the building where Picasso was said to have been born.

 By that time, the heat was making us limp.  We headed back to the breezy cafe in the shade.  More cold drinks and then we heard someone call Steven's name.  A man from Granada recognized him as the person who helps so many Spaniards find their family through the Hawaiian Spaniards FB site!  We had a good visit and then two women found him, kisses, hugs, introductions...and the clock was ticking toward seven o'clock.  These women were Spaniards with relatives in California and the smiles just wouldn't stop all around us.  Then, cousins approached us, Angela and her mother, Mari were there to see the documentary...and then the crowd expanded, Miguel Alba began to bring others toward us and Eterio Ortega the producer was there...more Spanish kisses and hugs. Maria Angela and her daughter Esther arrived with her brother Antonio and his wife and mother in law.  Jose Luis Sanchez from Algodonales and then the journalist from the newspaper arrived with her photographer.  She interviewed me, then Albert Marques, the other descendant from Gilroy, CA and then Steven.  All the questions related to the documentary, our research and our love for Spain.  Pretty amazing and the documentary hadn't even started yet.
This is the photo taken by the El Sur photographer for the newspaper article. 

WHEN IT WAS CLOSE TO 7:45, we were led to reserved seats in the front row with our names on the chairs.  It felt like I'd walked in on a red carpet.  Well, I did have red heels on...did that count?  Before the show, the producer (Eterio), the director of the University of Malaga and two other men introduced us and told us how the documentary started with Miguel Alba's research and his request from the university (where he works) to back the project.  (We have our fingers crossed that National Geographic will buy the film so Americans can see it on television...or another venue).

AND THEN THE DOCUMENTARY began.  To say that I felt gobsmacked when I saw myself and my Aunt Millie at the beginning would be an understatement.  To hear her talk about her parents coming from Spain and walking with me through the Winters Cemetery near my grandparent's gravestones made me breathless.  And then the tears came.  Off and on through the documentary, I saw myself, heard my words as I read from The Girl Immigrant narrating a lot of the scenes and the screen was blurry through my tears again.  When Steven Alonzo's interview started and I saw his family photos on the huge screen, I saw his face drenched with emotion too.  And then Albert Marquez began his speech on the huge screen, mostly in Spanish (he's a Spanish teacher). It was too amazing for words.  And then I saw Gloria Lopez from Winters and her husband walking hand in hand through their orchards, saw her cutting up peppers and making a chicken and vegetable meal...and then there was Michael Munoz from Placerville, the creator of the Hawaiian Spaniard's site.  His interview was natural and funny as he walked through his vineyard and talked about his grandparents being so poor they ate snails from their garden.  All the other descendants spoke and I felt as if there was a time warp and all the gentle stories, emotions and our love for Spain washed over me. It was 75 minutes long and I was afraid to blink for fear of missing something.  Steven and Albert agreed they felt the same way.  The camaraderie between us was palpable and I know we will all meet one day again.  

THIS MORNING, our interview was already in the El Sur newspaper.  Despite the journalist spelling my name as Patricia Steeve instead of Steele, I was still feeling the glow.  And we were very surprised it was already in print --- overnight!  We each bought a newspaper to take home of course.

TODAY (TUESDAY) Miguel wanted us to meet him at the University of Malaga this morning at 11:00, so we headed off again in El Carro II and made it in plenty of time.  We had no idea what was in store for us.  When were were led into a fancy conference room with the co-directors and Miguel Alba on one side of the table and Steven, Albert and I on the other side, we all looked at one another with doe in the headlights eyes.  And then the photographer began taking photos and the Spanish flew across the table.  Albert is fluent in Spanish and helped me, as did Steven.  What a day!  And it wasn't over yet.

Miguel drove us to a beach-side restaurant where we met German, the photographer from the documentary and we all had tapas and wine with the sea beside us.  Russian Salad, fritos (fried potatoes that looked like fat, chunky potato chips) and the guys were refreshed with cold beer.
 Albert Marquez and German Nieto

 Vicky's novio (boyfriend) Antonio invited us to his restaurant Las Flores and prepared a huge paella meal for us.  And that was after wine, olives, cheese, shrimp in garlic oil and lots of bread.  I was surrounded by six Spanish men and it was pretty sweet.  When Miguel's wife arrived to join us, it added to the atmosphere; she is vibrant and so very proud of her husband for making this documentary happen and made us feel part of their lives.

Antonio brought out the paella...and wouldn't let us pay for this huge, gorgeous meal

He asked if I wanted to taste a very special RESERVA muscatel wine after the meal?  Of course.
 And we still were not finished!  Vicky asked all of us to meet her in a roof-top bar nearby and Miguel and his adorable wife, Isabel, led us there.  I took this photo because I love how they are with one another.  Holding hands all the way.  He explained that when you are stressed that you have "ants in your stomach" but when you are in love, you have "butterflies in your stomach."  He told us this difference because he said after 35 years of marriage, he still gets the butterflies when he is with her.
A beautiful romance - Miguel Alba and his wife "Izzy" Isabel

Steven Alonzo and I at the roof-top bar with the beautiful cathedral in the background

German Nieto and Albert Marques

Albert Marques, Steven Alonzo and Vicky Martin

I tried to think of the best part of the day and I believe it was when German, our photographer and good friend told us as we sat beside the sea, that he'd worked on many documentaries but the one for us did not seem like a job.  It was like working with family because he felt so connected to all of us.   He said Eterio and Miguel also felt connected like a big Spanish family.  And Vicky?  Well, she IS family...  German, Eterio and Javi (the translator who was also the audio man during the interviews in California) asked me to give Aunt Millie a good hug and kiss when I returned to America.