For my grandfather.
“Respect your ancestors, for you are the result of a thousand loves”- Old Irish Proverb. My head aches and I feel like I can barely stand, yet I still find myself moving towards the bakery. Desperate, I sneak through the backroom and meet my neighborhood friend Pablo, where he smuggles some freshly baked bread. Then gives pieces to me so I can regain my energy and continue with the day. Just another aspect of my life in Colloto, Spain. Through recounts of my peculiar life, I am happy to share the harrowing and motivating story of success. From loss, sacrifice and accomplishment, I am obliged to enlighten you with my beginnings that start and go beyond Colloto.
Cold in Colloto
My name is Xose Estrada Olivares Ramirez. I live in the outskirts of Oviedo in Asturias, Spain the capital of my green region. Even though many expect beauty and glamour as portrayed in the media, things in Colloto are quite the opposite. In the winter of 1962, my journey begins as I am scavenging for survival at the tender age of eight. To illustrate, my family consisted of five other siblings, a decent mother, and an extremely authoritarian father. Most of the time, the food that was in the house became accessible only to dad. Meaning it was off-limits for my siblings and myself to search through the kitchen for snacks. One night, I remember the breeze being so cold (despite the Obrayu (Light Rain) sprinkling over my home) that I started to shake uncontrollably and bolt around to find my father’s jacket in the coat hanger.
As nice as the warmth felt on my skin, I suddenly found myself stripped and getting whipped. My father was furious at the fact of me touching his belongings since I never asked permission. In so much physical pain, I apologize, begging for it to stop relentlessly, but it continued. I never understood what I did to enrage my father, but eventually, the pain temporarily stopped as I fell back asleep. The next day I woke up to my mother leaving breakfast and lunch bags on the table to take to school. Worried, I check myself in the mirror for any signs of my punishment, but everything looks good. So I dashed out of the door with my sister Leticia as we headed to class.
Success at School
As Leticia and I continued down our path, a sight suddenly caught my attention. Probably one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. With her handsome checkered uniform, flowing brown hair, and calm demeanor, I was instantly intrigued about getting to know her. Despite myself being mesmerized by the girl walking down her mansion stairs, my sister teased me and tugged me away. School was fun that day. I got to learn about exotic animals and play dodgeball with my friend Pablo. Pablo Noda was one of the most influential characters in my life because of his positive demeanor and the unconditional support he showed me.
I appreciated him because he was always kind to me, despite being popular in and outside of school. As his family owned the local bakery in the village. Most of the time in recess, our group consisted of him, my sister Leticia, and me. We were like the star athletes of our grade since we always won local youth football tournaments in the area.
Test of character in Colloto
By the summer of 1963 things took a turn for my time in school. As my father became drafted away since he was in the navy. My mother demanded that I begin working along with her at the fabric factory to make up for lost income. Shocked and sad, I obeyed despite having to drop out of school. I wanted to continue living a decent childhood like everyone else. The first few months were emotionally draining, but I got to experience growth in the process. Like successfully creating my first scarf and pair of mittens. In addition, we also had extra income to make up for my dad’s absence. The only surprise that followed was that my siblings received new accessories while I did not get one new thing.
Times became rough and I had to abandon my former shoes since they were painfully squeezing my growing feet. I soon found myself barefooted with torn clothes by the time the breezy autumn arrived. As harsh as everything sounded, I found myself in a state of determination. Meaning that I became motivated to learn as much in the fabric factory so I could achieve expertise and stability. Due to displaying success in the art for my age, I envisioned myself doing this for the future.
Destiny of my lifepath
To my astonishment, I soon discover the factory I worked for was owned by my crush’s family. I remember my crush Maria walking inside one afternoon and passing through my section where I was folding the muslin. Self-conscious and blushing, I quickly left my station away from her view. I was embarrassed but still intrigued by her presence since she always elegantly carried herself. I had become ecstatic because I knew then that her family had to serve some purpose for my future. It was no coincidence that we kept running into each other. From what I learned about Maria, was that her family were wealthy entrepreneurs from Pontevedra and Ourense. These towns are situated in a neighboring region named Galicia which historically shares the same Celtic culture as Asturias. I may have only been nine years old, but I knew there was something special in this situation.
A new opportunity beyond Colloto
As years went by and the decade nears a climax, I find myself excelling in my professional skills. For once, my father acknowledged my actions by letting me know that he was proud of my progress. As I became of age, I decided to move out of my Colloto childhood home and settle in downtown Oviedo where all the businesses, resources, and connections thrive. I was sad to leave my younger sister Leticia but promised to keep in touch through postcards and phone calls. Followed by returning during the holidays to visit. I achieved a temporary residence in downtown Oviedo as a Gaitero (Bagpiper) player and Tailor for children’s clothing.
My life seemed to be much more stable when I was on my own, but I was still unfulfilled. It is hard to explain, since I appeared to have everything, yet I yearned for a family of my own, in addition to having someone at my side to love and share success with. To my luck, as I was entertaining onlookers downtown, I caught sight again of my childhood crush from Colloto. Excited, I approached her, and she smiled instantly while perfectly recalling my name. The fact of Maria Reyes De Luz knowing who I was, instantly brightened my day. It turned out she was living in the city to study fashion. As nice as our reunion became, I gathered the courage to ask her out on a date. From there we talked for what started as thirty minutes until it became nearly the entire evening.
Spring of love in Oviedo
After that night, we decided to keep in touch through letters, telephones, and dates. One instance that haunts me was when we were walking through Campo de San Francisco Park one evening. This drunk driver suddenly appeared, swerving swiftly towards our direction. Instinctively, I jumped in front of my girlfriend and took the hit as the car dragged me across the plaza. Miraculously, everything else was fine except me having a broken leg. Despite everything, I was more grateful that Maria made it without a scratch. Other than that, our time spent together in Oviedo was one of the best periods of my life. After that near-death incident, I think I knew that our relationship was more than just any other. I fell deeply in love with Maria as I realized that there was great potential for a future between us.
Success within reach
After two years of dating, I finally proposed, to her astonishment. We got married back in Colloto at the town’s church, where we happily celebrated together. Our families were cordial with one another, and my sister was never more supportive as she helped arrange the venue. Life was nice for some time until I met again with my old best friend Pablo in downtown Oviedo. It turns out he had been studying at the university to become a professor of history. As things started to realign together, Pablo instilled a seed into my greatest ambitions. Since he was studying to become a professor, he was offered the opportunity to work abroad in Bakersfield, California USA. Exhilarated by him inviting me to go with him, I accepted his offer and took the chance to better myself. After all, my biggest ambition was to grow as a successful tailor.
Reality in motion
In March 1973, my life took off beyond Colleto. As Pablo pursued his dreams in Bakersfield, I followed along. I have never been on a plane before, so this was a memorable and thrilling experience. For the first time, I felt invincible as I saw the green landscape of my hometown above the clouds. After seventeen hours of being confined to a seat, Pablo and I made it to Bakersfield. To be honest, I was a little thrown aback by how humid the air was. Typically, I am used to cooling breezes, rain, and mountainous regions, but regardless, it was beautiful.
While Pablo started to expand his professional skills at Bakersfield University, I began my career at a surf company named O’Neill. My work at the O’Neill company was surprisingly accommodating to me. Despite speaking crooked English, they still understood me, and we worked well with one another. I felt great about myself because I finally crossed the path I always yearned for; to grow my expertise as a professional tailor and provide well for my wife and soon-to-be child that were living across the Atlantic Ocean.
Freedom at last
After fifteen years of struggling to provide for myself, my life began to paste itself together. My wife and newborn son were able to fly over from Colloto to Bakersfield. Where they also achieved citizenship and steadily adapted to their new environments. It was a grand success in that personal feat. Do not get me wrong, I missed my family back at home, but now was my time to shine. I could see something great arising from the events that had played out. Relating to my career and family life that was emerging from time spent in the city. Ultimately, this convinced me to stay in Bakersfield.
Those same seeds that Pablo instilled in me were finally harvested. Even though he eventually returned to Colloto, Spain, we remained close and met each other from time to time. In addition, my dear sister Leticia visited me on the holidays or whenever travel calls. All in all, I was a happy man pursuing my new life.
Significance of going beyond Colloto
In conclusion, I may have lost my way through the past, but I continued to strive towards success. I pursued happiness and love to have it all and created a positive legacy for my growing family unit as time proceeded. Things might have been new and different in this foreign land, but I found a way through it. Just as I always had in the past by going beyond Colloto.
Flaco, Pimp (Cupido) El Tiempo Es Oro. 2019
Llan De Cubel Adios La Mio Vaca Pinta.1996
Milladoiro Lila. 1985
Millionyoung I’ll Be Around. 2015
Still Dreams Let Me Die (In Your Arms). 2021
▷ Gaita Asturiana – Historia, Origen, Partes, Canciones – CD (celtadigital.com)
Related: Short Stories
The Retelling of the Tale of Pip and the Kelpie in the Forest