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Mi Abuela Española

Friday, March 30, 2012

I will be the first to admit that I do not have the best relationship with my grandparents. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't like them. They just live really far away (some in New Hampshire, some in Washington D.C., some in New Mexico...I have a lot of grandparents), so it's really hard to talk to them on a regular basis. But now that I'm living here in Spain in a host family with a grandmother, I have gotten to see what it's like to have a relationship with someone who had such a different experience growing up. 

My abuela's name is Vicenta, and she has lived in Alicante her entire life, which includes the Spanish Civil War, Franco's dictatorship, and the modern day Republic, and boy does she have some amazing stories. The one I'm going to share with you all today is one that she told me over lunch the other day, and that I'm sure will stick with me for a very long time. But first, I must share a picture of her because she is adorable and awesome.

My abuela was 6 when the Civil War started. She lived in the center of Alicante, which was the last city to fall to Franco's dictatorship. So when the fighting got bad, my abuela, her siblings, and her cousins were all moved to a house in the middle of the countryside in San Vicente, where the Universidad de Alicante is now. It was rare that Franco's army would bomb the countryside, but when they did, my abuela would hide under the bed and cover herself in pillows to protect herself from falling objects. One day, Franco's army decided to bomb the Mercado Central (which is in the center of Alicante, and still stands today.) Her father owned a bake shop two streets behind the Mercado Central, and on a daily basis, my abuela's uncle would pass by to pick up bread for them and bring it back to San Vicente. When the bombing began, my abuela's father hid underneath a cabinet, and her uncle was running to hide on the other side of the building, when a bomb fell and hit right inbetween both of them. Her uncle was killed and her father's leg was blown off and he was rushed to the hospital once the bombing stopped. 

This part of the story is obviously sad enough, but unfortunately it got worse. Right near where the modern Tram stop is today, about a block away from the Mercado Central and right underneath the Castle of Santa Barbara, the civil guard would line up the dead bodies to be claimed at the end of every day. This sounded strange to me at first, but after thinking about it, it made sense. In the age of cell phones and internet, we can find out instantly if someone has died. But back then, you couldn't just call someone and see where they were. If they didn't come back, you would first go to the dead body line up, and if they weren't there, you would go to the hospital. My abuela's mom and aunt went to first to the line up and then to the hospital, finding their respective partners in their respective places. 

After my abuela finished her story, I was in shock. Having never had to experience something like that, or even hear a story like that, I couldn't believe that she could tell it without crying (yes, I got a little teary eyed.) Two out of my four grandfathers fought in World War II. One was stationed in the Pacific and didn't see action, and the other, who died when I was five, liberated concentration camps. He took a lot of photos, which I've seen, but it's just not the same as hearing the stories. Listening to my abuela talk about live during the Civil War was fascinating. At the end of it all, she says that she had it way better than anyone else she knew. Her parents didn't die, her family never went without food (as a lot of Spanish citizens did), and she's alive and well today. I think if something like this happened to me, I would have a really hard time getting over it, even if I was only 6 at the time. 

Well, that's all for now. The Semana Santa (Holy Week) starts next Thursday, which is going to be really fun and interesting to see. Then I'm off to Italy for Spring Break! I have a feeling this month is going to go by really quickly, which is scary because that means that I will only have one month left in Alicante! I guess I'll just have to make the most of it!

Italian • Boston, MA