A farewell to the first stage of these Sunday installments that take time to return with new looks to discover human stories.
When I started writing this column, the calendar marked April 14, 2019. At that time the river’s water was overflowing and the first chronicle was called Water. From then on, a spring of stories was sprouting up until this installment, where after 137 Sundays in La Nación I take a break to return with new stories and verses when March appears.
As a farewell I return to the beginning, from a conversation with my friend and colleague, Toni Roberto, who from Cuadernos de Barrio delights us every Sunday. Conversing with him on his radio show, the issue of the genesis of our own history came up. Where we come from? and How much do the vestiges of the past influence our destiny?
In my maternal family one of the legends tells that a couple one day boarded the ship from a very Moorish Spain and ventured to Carmen de Patagones to open a spa. Nobody knows where that crazy idea would have come from, or how they ended up specifically in that part of the planisphere. The truth is that the plans were shipwrecked in the inhospitable America by the cold and in a desperate attempt a “showgirl” was hired to brighten up the seemingly desolate place. The tragicomic conclusion is that the Spanish gentleman was the one of joy succumbing to the channels (and the jaws) of the beautiful singer and took her back to Spain, leaving his wife and descendants on this side of the Atlantic. One of those children would come to Paraguay on a passing trip and when he met the Paraguayan woman who sat next to him on a boat, he would forget everything. Of his sad childhood and his heartless father. And here it would take root … (If the story they told me is true or a lie, it certainly has very magical aspects and to a greater or lesser extent it is part of the indisputable imaginary of my literary family).
The Paraguayan woman sitting on the boat was full of stories from her side. Theirs did not speak much of Europe but rather of times of the Colony and the Supreme dictator of yesteryear. The Great War and its fierce women, survivors of extermination and terror.
In that anecdote one of my favorite stories is that of the Stewardship of the Virgin, which by mandate of the past continues in the faith of an adored aunt of mine – beloved Ana María -, steward of the Virgin of the Assumption. The women of her family have cared for the Virgin for generations and among their roles they are in charge of preparing and accompanying her annually to the procession.
I grew up with these stories in the Sunday gatherings where my grandmother and my uncle Hugo were the chroniclers of that intimate diary and the love for my country took root through those stories.
At my other grandmother’s house, I learned from immigrants. Settled in the countryside, by dint of jopara and Italian dialect, over the years they migrated to the capital. On Saturdays she had homemade noodles with ancient recipes and I still remember Aunt Lily teaching me the tricks her mother taught her. A mouthful of laughter brightening up naps and the occasional tango. (Because my grandfather –Don Segundo Bosio– was from Buenos Aires. He was also passing through Paraguay, until he met the Italian-Caazapeña and married her, settling in Asunción).
My childhood as grandparents passed between Avenida España where the tram still ran and the bell tower of the Church of the Incarnation. Until I also had to spread my wings and because of my husband’s work issues we left the country. They were 20 years jogging worlds and between various countries and languages, Paraguay became foggy for me and a large part of my affective past was lost in other cultures, in other winds and races, and I even came to think that I could travel a whole life without returning .
But the terroir has this way of challenging memory and we end up returning to settle down as a family. I was able to visit my grandmother in the afternoons of her blindness and read to her the books that she loved so much until the end. My kids adopted soccer clubs and started using jopara words. And we were in that idyll until a couple of years later a diagnosis of my husband again forced us to migrate.
It is different to leave the country with the anguish of the uncertain to enter the cold corridors of a hospital. I remember the eternal waits and my brave husband facing that final duel and the existential questions that invaded me at night: What would become of me when I had to restart after that loss, with the absence of that great love? Where would I settle, if in the last 20 years I bet on a life far from my land and I no longer felt the roots of my childhood? Was the land of memories home or the country I later adopted? And I was taciturn in those thoughts when suddenly on August 15, in the midst of all the anguish, I found a message on my cell phone: It was my aunt, Ana María, the Virgin’s butler, on the day of the procession.
– ”Maria Be dear (that’s how they called me as a child), I want you to know that today I put a photo of your family under the mantle of our Virgin of the Assumption that today goes out to your city. So that you don’t forget that She takes care of them and that your people, your family and your home are here ”.
With that intangible hug came the message that I so badly needed to hear. Love. The love. The roots and spiritual containment. And in tears at that sublime gesture, I resolved that it would be here where I would once again tie myself into a ball to elaborate my duel. And from here – from the depths of my roots – when the pain subsided, I could finally be reborn.
I am infinitely grateful to the newspaper La Nación, its people, and the readers, who in these 137 stories helped me write my way back.