“Homesickness starts with food,” said Che Guevara, pining perhaps for the vast roasts of his native Argentina while they, men alone in the night in Sierra Maestra, spoke of war. For me, too, homesickness for Galicia had started with food even before I had been there. The fact is that my grandmother, in the big house at Aracata, where I got to know my first ghosts, had the delightful role of baker and she carried on even when she was already old and nearly blind, until the river flooded, ruined the oven and no one in the house felt like rebuilding it. But my grandmother’s vocation was so strong that when she could no longer make bread, she made hams. Delicious hams, though we children did not like them — children never like the novelties of adults — even though the flavor of that first taste has remained recorded forever on the memory of my palate. I never found it again in any of the many and various hams I ate later in any of my good or bad years until, by chance, I tasted — 40 years later, in Barcelona — an innocent slice of shoulder of pork.— from the essay Watching the Rain in Galicia, included in Travelers’ Tales Guides: Spain, edited by Lucy McCauley
#amreading: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Watching the Rain in Galicia,” (translated from the Spanish by Margaret Costa)
Juan Diaz de Solis, chief pilot on the Spanish expedition to discover the Moluccas Islands, set out in October 1515.
His hopes were raised when he discovered the estuary of the River Plate in 1516, shortly before being tragically captured, along with the majority of his companions, and more than likely eaten by the Guarani Indians.— Conquistadores: A New History of Spanish Discovery and Conquest, p. 88
The Pacific was a side discovery: what all Spanish explorers were after were “rivers of gold.” In 1 September 1513, an Andalucian explorer named Vasco Nuñez de Balboa set off for Careta in Panama, with a crew of “fewer than 200 men.”
At Careta, “the expedition disembarked and scaled rugged mountain ranges and crossed large rivers, passing through thick, exhausting jungles of a density they had never imagined possible, subduing indigenous people as they went with gunshot and packs of hungry dogs. Finally, in late September 1513, they reached the summit of a bare hill. There, surrounded by his companions — who included a sturdy man from the Extremaduran town of Trujillo called Francisco Pizarro — Nuñez de Balboa was dumbfounded by a sight that was as awesome as it was unexpected. Kneeling down, he raised his hands, gave thanks to God, and ‘prouder than Hannibal showing Italy and the Alps to his soldiers . . . he promised great riches to his men, saying: ‘Behold, all you men who have endured so much, behold the lands of which . . . the natives have told us such wonders.’ In front of them lay the Pacific Ocean.
— Conquistadores: A New History of Spanish Discovery and Conquest, by Fernando Cervantes, pp. 87 – 88
A few days ago, self went to downtown Palo Alto, to Landmark Aquarius on Emerson, to watch Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers. Penelope Cruz is excellent as always. A gamine young actress named Milena Smit is a real scene-stealer.
In honor of the film’s subject, she’s quoting from Miguel Hernandez’s A Man-Eating Knife (in a translation by Don Share)
Where can I be
that I will not find loss?
Your destiny is the beach,
my calling is the sea.
Miguel Hernandez died in a Spanish prison at the age of thirty-one. Below, an excerpt from Octavio Paz’s Remember That Voice, written in memory of Hernandez from Mexico City, November 1942. The translation is by Eliot Weinberger.
Miguel Hernandez has died in prison in the village where he was born. He has died alone in a hostile Spain, the enemy of a Spain where he spent his youth, the antagonist of a Spain that rang out with his generosity. Let others curse his torturers, let others study and analyze his poetry. I want to remember him as he was.
I first saw him in 1937, singing Spanish folk songs. He had a deep voice, somewhat ragged, somewhat like an innocent animal: he sounded like the countryside, like a low echo in the valleys, like a stone falling into a ravine.
Preserving Legazpi’s life was a top priority. Yet, as the instructions went on to observe, “all of us are at the mercy of death.” An ironclad procedure was therefore in place for such an eventuality. No second-in-command had been named. Bitter experience had shown that designating a successor could incite rivalries, mutinies, and murder. Instead, Legazpi’s replacement was to remain unknown until the time of his death, when the survivors would be permitted to look in the commander’s cabin for a steel coffer “of about one palm in length and one hand and two fingers in width.” This hidden box, “nailed shut and wrapped in cloth with three royal seals, contained a piece of paper with the name of the substitute commander. Should this person die, too, a second steel coffer, slightly smaller than the first but similarly closed, wrapped, and with three royal seals, bore the name of the third person in the line of command. The identities of the two replacements were wholly unknown to the expeditionaries — including Legazpi and the two chosen successors themselves. Now we know that the first (and surprising) replacement was the once treasonous military commander Mateo del Sauz . . . “Conquering the Pacific, pp. 77 – 78
These names were probably (self assumes) decided by Philip II himself?
It’s a good thing Mateo del Sauz didn’t know he would take over command if something happened to Legazpi!
Sentence of the Day: from a Letter by Don Pedro de Acuña, Governor General of the Philippines, Manila, 1608
Apologies, dear blog readers, self’s veering between the Philippines in 1600 and Grimdark must be causing whiplash!
Anyhoo, here is the Sentence of the Day, from Blair & Robertson’s A History of the Philippine Islands, vol. 14:
Letter from Governor General Don Pedro de Acuña to the Viceroy of Nueva España:
- Since the Spaniards are a sensible and prudent people, we must therefore be grieved for having slain so many people, and repent thereof.
After reading which, self can only say, Hell’s Bells. The “so many people” slain — indios, right?
Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.
Domingo Salazar, who built the Manila Cathedral, received his assignment (from the Pope Himself) in 1579. He was from Salamanca.
Self has been to Spain only once. She went to Mojacar. Then, Dearest Mum got herself invited to give a concert in Madrid (at the Philippine Embassy), while self was in the middle of an artists residency, and like a dutiful daughter, she left her residency early, took a nine-hour bus trip to Madrid, stayed with Dearest Mum a week, and left Spain, never to return. She remembers the artists in residence with her: there were some amazing painters. She never forgot. They accompanied her to the bus stop. She must have said something about returning to complete the rest of her residency, but she never did. Like an endless foghorn, this pattern repeats. She was supposed to go to Belfast, several years ago, was about 60 miles away, when she got urgently called to Manila, for . . . umm. It’s hard to explain, it seemed like a terribly urgent thing.
Madrid was 1996. You think you have all this time, and then you have no time (Amazingly, it was then that she started being very interested in writing about 16th century Spain!)
What does she remember of that week? The Museo del Prado. El Greco. The broad, leafy avenues. Uh. Dearest Mum’s concert. Of course.
She cannot believe how much time has elapsed, but she feels like exactly the same person. Only, if she were to go back to Spain (like next year, or whenever COVID disappears, maybe never), she would definitely, given what she’s just read, make it a point to go to Salamanca.
Domingo Salazar, First Bishop of Manila.
P.S. One of the painters she met at Mojacar was Eizo Sakata. He gave her two of his sketches (one of the flat-topped mountain across the plains from their artists residence). Had them both framed and they are hanging now in her little house.
In which self’s MC, a feckless guy from Murcia named Matias, confesses to the local Abbott that he has suddenly been struck by “the call.” Year: 1764.
Abbott: You have never evinced interest.
Matias: Can one not be struck by the desire? It came to me suddenly.
Matias: After the recent flood.
Abbott: I see.
Matias: I was afraid. I promised Saint Anne I would enter the priesthood if she but stopped the wind from howling.
That is one of the passages self happens to really like, whether or not it is historically accurate.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.
Self lived the first 20 years of her life without knowing there was another Murcia. In Spain.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.
Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:
Books To Shift Your Perspective
- An Act of Terror, by André Brink
- Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
- The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
- Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
- Stoner, by John Williams
- The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
- Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
- Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy
Books on Globality and Migration
- Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
- Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera
Books for Travelers to:
- In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum
- Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos
- Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
- The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green
- The Italians, by John Hooper
- A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia
Cape Town, South Africa
- Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven
- The New Spaniards, by John Hooper