Back in the dark misty times...

Back in the dark misty times...
Genealogy, joyfully discovered ~

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Walking into yesterday - Fuentesauco, Spain

No map of the village could be found.  It is small, a bit dirty and spread out in such a way that made exploration difficult;  we felt like strangers.   It was the only village we found that touched us like this; our own ancestral village.  We were a little stunned but persevered.  

We asked a woman in a narrow street who called to another woman to ask for us…"Hola!  Pilar!... Within moments, several women stood around the car each trying to talk over the other.  Spanish conversation bounced around us like marbles in a ceramic jar.  After loud and intricate deliberation, nobody knew where the street was, nor had they heard of the Silvan family…. Dogs were everywhere, children played in the narrow streets that were more than alleys but less than streets.  Everyone smiled, waved to one another and generally speared our hearts with their camaraderie.  I loved it and Steven and I agreed the answer was:  they liked one another.  Why couldn't the world like this way???

Driving through the streets looking for Calle San Salvador didn’t make sense so I suggested we ask a some old gentlemen who were sitting on a stone wall chatting under the shade of trees at the edge of town.  Instead, he chose the gas station attendant who gave Steven the same suggestion.  (I tried not to smile).  

And yes!  Within moments, we had directions (they guessed at it) and in a heartbeat, we were looking at the avenue sign.  There was #1 and #3 and #7.  No #6 but a metal garage-type door hovered in the place of #6.  We stared at it, mesmerized and sat quietly as we realized our family lived there, abuelita walked on the stones beneath us and we were satisfied.  We’d come home for her.

With full hearts we returned to Toro for our last night on the mountain 40 miles away where we planned to drink Spanish wine that tasted like sunshine... We found Toro's specialty wine and dinner on the patio of plaza mayor --- covered with brightly colored, ceramic tiles, music in the air and Spanish conversation.  Children played on the square in wild abandon, slipping in and around adults taking their evening paseo, arm in arm --- slowly away from the constant toil and hurry.  We drank our wine and sniffed the air appreciatively and watched the play of light on the cathedral and heard the clock tower toll the 10 o'clock bell.  All was well.  Sunday morning we would say goodbye to Toro...

Cemetery walks, rocks and more

Cathedrals.  Ayuntamientos.  Culture shock.  Differences in food, clothing and a way of life.  Juzgado, the place that houses certificates and documents within ancient books;  so old one wants to reach out and touch the pages, run one’s fingers across the beautiful writing to find the names and dates there. We now sit in Merida, mid-way between Fuentesauco and Seville. 
The cementarios / cemeteries were next – Saturday was Cemetery Day.  We were hesitant to lose our perfect parking spot near Santa Maria Cathedral near the plaza mayor and our hotel, but it was cemetery day… 

Beginning in Toro, we first stopped at the Ayuntamiento --- where I snapped more photos of the stained glass windows and a quick stop to the toilets before we began our little road trip.  As I am learning to translate Spanish into English very slowly, it wasn’t until I pressed the water spigot to wash my hands that my slow American brain told me I was NOT to use the water.  Oh!  It wouldn’t turn off… so water was still running when we left and nobody was anywhere in sight… it was Saturday after all.  We’d just discussed the water the night before wondering where the well was located in the plaza mayor…I felt terrible..

The map (plano) led us to the cemetery where we hoped to find a “Marzo” or a “Trascasas”.   
On our way into Calle Cementario, (aptly named) we saw wide sidewalks lining the avenue from the main road all the way to the cemetery.  Several women walked along the way, all wearing dresses -- no jeans.--- to and from the cemetery gates.  Benches were placed along the way for resting and several enjoyed the respite.  Once inside the entryway to the cemetery, we found many names, none of which belonged to our family.  Stones higher than my head, marble, smoother than silk; flat, curved, mounded and many covered with flowers, urns to hold bouquets, stone etched with names, dates and  D.E.P. = Descansa en paz. (in America it would read R.I.P.) 

After taking several photos, disappointed at the lack of familial names on any of the grave stones, Steven found the poor section… There were no names, rigid crosses stuck in the rocky soil among weeds and bits of broken glass surrounded the barren grounds.  We were both drawn toward it; we knew it probably housed our families… So, we picked up memorial rocks; iIt was the best we could do and we will bring them home.

With our bag of rocks, we drove toward Fuentesauco, the village of the Silvan and Hernandez Martin families.  Three villages waited.
Villaescusa -- Five miles east of Fuentesauco:  Angel SILVAN Martin was born and was probably buried in this village.  He was Celestino SILVAN Alejo’s father.  (Celestino was father to Victorino, Juan and Cristencia Silvan).  ALSO born there was Margarita MARTIN Rodriguez and we can only assume she was also buried there.  She was mother to Agustina Hernandez Martin.  Agustina was mother to Victorino, Juan and Cristencia.  We found the cemetery easily once we drove into the village because it appeared as most cemeteries do in these villages: following a tree-lined lane from the church to the outskirts of the village.  The doors were locked but I found a way in (don’t ask).  It was small and again, no Silvan or Martin could be found.  We couldn’t even find the poor section within the stone wall that surrounded the shrines and it was in such disrepair… As we picked our way out, locked the gates and stepped along the chapel’s entrance, there was an ancient tree (long dead) with a board-covered paper encased in plastic with a poem.  Steven translated it for me and we both agreed the area and the tree had once been touched with love.

Villamor de los Escuderos --- Six miles west of Fuentesauco.  This village was just a mite larger than Villasescusa and felt friendly the minute we arrived.  We found the old stone church and our car found the cemetery… Another locked gate but within minutes we were within the stone walls.  Steven and I wanted to find the stone for Miguel HERNANDEZ Hernandez.  He was the father to Agustina Hernandez Martin, mother to Victorino, Juan and Cristencia.  This is the village where bisabuela Agustina was born.  More photos.  More graves. Beautiful sacred moments but no family stone could be found there either.

Time to settle into Fuentesauco; we saved the major village for last as we felt the tug of Silvan blood lead us along.  I was quaking a bit as I stepped out of the car, camera in hand and we walked through the small doorway leading us within the cemetery walls.  It was large and a center pathway slanted upward, as if it was built on a hill and surrounded by stone walls on three sides.  Suddenly quite daunted, I reminded Steven of the names we were looking for --- SILVAN, Alejo, Hernandez, Martin, Hidalgo and Gonzales.  He chose one side and I the other.  The sun was hot and so were we by then…  Our eyes strained to read every single gravestone, some tightly wedged so close that we couldn’t fit our foot between them.  Walking, stooping, reading the etchings against the glaring sun and snapping photos of names that sounded familiar (Zamorano, Alonso, Martin).  No Silvans but we trudged on.

An ah-ha moment!!! My heart thudded when I found a small sign at the head of a crypt: FAMILIA OF HERNANDEZ MARTIN.  This, I knew was bisabuela Agustina Silvan and her family.  We believe (Vicki, Lynda and Julie and I) this Martin family linked us through Agustina Hernandez Martin, who may have been directly related to Ramona Martin, the wife to Victorino Silvan.  (There are also Martins in the Ruiz family so don’t get these confused with the other Martin cousins).  The gravestone was simple and so touching, I felt tears.  I snapped photos until my finger hurt…. 

Toward the exit, a man saw my camera and reminded me not to take photos of gravestones as they were private…  We had no idea!  The deed was already done but he couldn’t know that, so we stooped to pick up Fuentesauco memorial rocks, held my camera tightly and sped for the car.  No Silvan gravestone!  Were they so poor the family couldn’t buy a stone?  Did the Silvan family leave for other parts of Spain?  Where were all the siblings?  Where was bisabuela Celestino Silvan buried?  Where?  Where?  My heart was pretty heavy but only for a few moments – we’d come so far and I had an address where they lived: 6 San Salvador, Fuentesauco. -- SEE NEXT BLOG POSTING

Friday, September 21, 2012

An emotional tug in Fuentesauco and the allure of Toro

Just knowing our ancestral town was over the next hill increased my heart rate, tightened my chest and made my eyes misty.  Seeing the sign welcoming us to Fuentesauco generated a rush of emotion that is difficult to put into words... The first view of the village opened my heart and it flew.

The Iglesia of Santa Maria made me quiver as I walked up her stone steps, knowing this was the place where my great grandparents and great uncles and Aunt Cristencia all married, baptized the children and sat in the pews for mass.  Sadly, those steps and courtyard now lie beneath a mired mass of bird poop.  The stoops and ridges of the ancient holy building is now the home for hundreds of doves.  Every available perch was filled with their grey and white feathered bodies, the old wooden doors locked tight and in deep disrepair.  Now I know why I had no response from the priest when I sent my letter months ago with the international postage inside, hoping for some Silvan information...Nobody was there!!  These first two photos show this wonderful ancient church.

At Los Parros, a small restaurant in Fuentesauco,m we enjoyed Tortilla Espanol, limon juice, fried scampi and potato salad made with what I've learned is leche  ...The milk and garlic makes the potatoes taste very different than in America.  The Tortilla Espanol was soft and tasty.  I must make it when I return home!

We chose Fuentesauco as our base instead of Salamanca as Madrid's big city ways made us dream of the allure of smaller towns.  So we will remain a few days; my family tree and questions are prepared...  We hope to find gravestones in the cemetery, visit the ayuntamiento and walk the streets of Fuentesauco.. If there are any Silvan descendants, can we find them??

We saw signs to Villamoor and Villaescusa as well as Toro as we drove into the village...for another day.  First, we needed to find our hotel.  But --- none looked charming or inviting....

So we drove 40 miles farther to Toro, the heart of wine country!  It sits high above the valley and is quite beautiful sitting on the ocher cliff.  The view from the wall above the valley is breathtaking --- beside the huge cathedral Toro is known for... the Collegiate Iglesia of Santa Maria, one block from the plaza mayor. After weaving through very narrow streets, we parked near the huge church as it dominated the skyline near the plaza mayor, the town's central courtyard where restaurants, hotels and the government offices sit.

We found our hotel, the Zafarino --again no Wi-Fi  but they do have cable internet.... however, I can't use my iPad without Wi-Fi.  so thank goodness I brought a little laptop. BUT, I haven't been able to recharge it because the converter plugs I bought in America didn't include a 3-prong outlet.  Today we found one and here I am ~

Today, the first stop after our 'first breakfast' of toast, orange juice and cafe con leche was the Tourist Office whose friendly attendant pointed us to the Ayuntamiento (and gave me a beautiful poster) where we were guided to the "juzgado" (court house) and a very nice man looked for great grandma's (Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Silvan) birth certificate.  (see photo)Since my information shows her birth was 1875-1880, he wanted time to research for us and promised to look harder without us standing over him and if he finds it or any of her siblings, she will send to me at home at no charge!!  It was amazing to see the very old books with the original birth certificates written in cursive on each page --- now I can visualize where the documents come come from.  My stomach was fluttering....

We will go to the cemetery tomorrow afternoon when we leave town as I know the Trascasas and Marzo ancestors are buried there...

We walked miles already today, found a lavanderia to leave our dirty clothes (no laundromats here with washers and dryers anywhere.... What was I thinking???) We will get our clothing tomorrow...I found a new use for the bidets; washing clothes .... but they don't dry fast enough... so we knew we had to find a laundry.

 After eating a wonderful fish soup and salad with tuna about 2:30 near the plaza mayor (the tall clock tower and street surrounded us (see photo), we returned to our hotel and I 'crashed' for 2 hours.  Steven is still asleep as I write this.

I have taken nearly 400 photos since I arrived in Spain and am only half way through our trip!
Tomorrow, Villaescusa and Villamoor --- the 2 other villages of the Silvan ancestors.  It is impossible that I will find any documents but will visit the cemetery to say hello...Then our drive south following their footsteps begins.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ávila, the castle wall and a dinner adventure

There are 70 stone steps up to the castle's wall from the courtyard... But the climb and subsequent panoramic view was so worth it. Walking around the outer wall seemed like a good idea until we began the trek .... And I wondered how many people over the centuries had stepped where my feet landed... It was an amazing day breathing in the air of Ávila and a long walk around the perimeter as we looked through the many stone portals that fit snugly between the 88 towers surrounding the castle. At the end when the finished portion of the stone walkway ended, we were again in the village and the roadway was slanted upward, my legs were wobbling from the mighty trek and my brother pushed me the last few blocks...

After crawling up the steps to the room after our castle-wall exploration, I slept an hour.... Merienda was about 6:00 so we had cafe con leche and a snack, studied the map for our trip to Fuentesaúco and contemplated dinner.

Promptly at 9:00 pm, we backtracked through the Puerta de San Vicente and found an outdoor restaurant... 12 tables and one very cute Spanish girl to wait on everyone! An adventure! Balmy evening and a menu to smile for: 13 euros for a botella de Rioja o red wine with 6 pinchos (appetizers). We chose six and we wrote our choices in the paper with the pencil in the cup on the table, gave it to the cute Spanish waitress and poof! Food, wine, ambiance and the Spanish emotions surfaced....and we both agreed we missed our brother, Richard so we toasted to him, missing him. Tomorrow--- Fuentesauco!

Photos from previous blogs

These are photos that didn't post... I hope readers can figure out which photos fit the blogs
Gambas are the scampi with their heads on. They are not shrimp.

The tomato dish is the "bonito" with tuna and red pepper marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary.

I am standing beneath Calle Winters in Almogia. My brother is shown with the tavern owner who knew our father very well, knowing he was a friend and cousin of Almogia's mayor.

And the hamacas at Torremolinos on the Mediterranean in Malaga province..

Charming Ávila

This place explores modern mysticism from a Catholic perspective as Rick Steve's tells me in his book and Sister Teresa would love this place. History seeps around every corner from the granite apse of the cathedral which is actually part of the fortified wall to the El Greco painting inside as well as the Basilica of San Vicente and the impressive, well preserved wall itself. We can see the wall from this hotel, the Hotel Arco San Vicente just within one of the ancient walls four gates.

We have decided to remain here another day and will soon climb the steps and walk around the wall and later follow down the paseo at dusk when many Spaniards take their daily strolls.

I learned the great wall is called a muralla. Battery is charged and so am I.

Inserting my photos....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My travel blog / Flying away from America

Many of you are following my travel blog already and for that I'm delighted.  It is my utmost hope to post daily while I'm in Spain so I will put SPANISH PEARLS on pause and put all my words into TOUCHING SPANISH SOIL for the time I am away, returning October 3.

Please come to Spain with me and visit vicariously while I tell you what I see, what I smell, the wonderful food that awaits and my findings across the sea.  

Thanks for being part of my life.
Patricia ~ TOUCHING SPANISH SOIL travel journal

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Garbanzo Bean Soup --- the old way


1 package         Dry garbanzo (chick peas) beans
Ice cube size     Tocino (salt pork) brick.
1                      Onion, medium/chopped
3                       Mint leaves, fresh/chopped
1 clove               Garlic/minced
1 T                    Parsley
4-5                     White potatoes/peeled/chopped
3                        Carrots/peeled/chopped
1 Cup                Celery/sliced

Place garbanzo beans in HOT water and boil with garlic and parsley the day before.
The next day, drain beans & wash them well. 
Re-fill pot to cover beans and add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the potatoes. 
Bring the beans, tocino, mint, onions and garlic to boil.
Cook slowly on medium/low heat until nearly done, about 2 or 3 hours. 

The beans will not be completely soft, so testing is required.
Add potatoes and cook about 20-30 minutes longer, until done. 

Do not add salt (since this makes beans hard) until serving.

NOTE:  Aunt Millie uses canned garbanzo beans on short notice

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

True emotion felt strongest when sharing with others

As I pack up my bags and prepare notes, questions and family trees to take with me to Spain for the final leg of my research before publishing my book, MANUELA'S FOOTSTEPS, it occurred to me how emotional it is when connecting with others who share the same Spanish connection.  I know each one of us center ourselves on our name, our birth date, our families and who we are - Spaniards, Portuguese, German, English, Italian......  Sometimes we don't have the family connections we hope for but it's there, regardless of little issues that pop up to separate us from time to time.

Meeting the descendants of my Spanish family has been one of the high points in my life as I scatter my thoughts among them and gather their stories and feelings together into one lovely Spanish pot.  Despite my being only half Spanish and many of my cousins have more Spanish blood running through their veins, we all touch one another.

Embracing my Spanish heritage has become quite emotional as I share the depth with others.  Whether the sharing is through family members I have never met, family members I have personally seen or with other Spaniards who are entrenched within their own genealogy, I have learned so much more than I knew when I began this quest in 2008.

I've learned the gardening habits of Spaniards whose descendants try to emulate by planting their own "Huerta" --- kitchen gardens filled with peppers, onions and tomatoes (including cherry tomatoes).  I've learned the trees many Spaniards grow to feel closer to their Spanish heritage; figs, peaches, oranges, plums, almonds, olives, lemons and pomegranates.    And I've learned how to preserve lemons!  Now that I have my own lemon tree, I plan to harvest, preserve and use them in my recipes.  Thank you, Steven A.

My dear Aunt Millie shared abuelita's (my grandmother) Garbanzo Soup Recipe again and I wrote it down this time!  The conversation started after my cousin, Bobbie F., told me her grandmother (Cristencia Gonzales and her Aunt Edna) used to make Tocino and I had no idea what it was other than bacon....?  I could feel Aunt Millie's smile through the phone line as she ticked off the ingredients, how they are cooked and the little secrets she shared about using boiling water with dry garbanzo beans instead of cold.  Hmmmm.... that's why my garbanzos never got soft.

Cooking Spanish is for another post.  For now, I need to go shopping so I can make this wonderful soup that abuelita made for me as a child.  I plan to savor the aroma, taste the soft beans and potatoes.... and remember abuelita in her kitchen with a smile of my own.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Renting a car from America to drive in Spain

This post will be duplicated in my travel log but wanted to share with others for sure.
I have been so focused on EUROS and SPAIN for the past months, that I clearly missed something quite important when I reserved a rental car for our Spain jaunt.  Fully expecting that the prices are listed as Euros, I dutifully converted those "Euros" to American dollars for my files when I charged it.  Imagine my surprise when the charges were much higher than they should be.  I was frustrated and very annoyed.

Until I was told by the English-owned car rental company that it was "Pounds" not Euros -- Oh!  That was what that little icon was to the left of the numbers.  As if I didn't know that!?  I visited England in 2006 with my good friend, Caroline, and we saw the symbol for pound all the time.  It was right in front of me and I still "saw" Euro because I assumed it was Euro.  So, I'm just saying..... I had a surprise.  Instead of $345 it was $450 --

1 British pound sterling = 1.5881 US dollars

Code: POUND   

Symbol for the Pound is£

1 Euro = 1.2580 US dollars

Code:  EUR
Symbol for the Euro is €