Back in the dark misty times...

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

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jacinta Modesta Trascasas Marzo

In the span of twelve days I have met and lost Jacinta from our family.  Meticulously deciphering the birth document, we learned she was born February 25, 1884 to Manuel Trascasas and Manuela Marzo in the village of Toro, Spain.  We learned that both sets of grandparents were also from Toro and she joined a big sister, Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo, who was three and a half years old at the time of Jacinta's birth.

Adding another family member was very exciting and learning from the documents --- the streets where the Trascasas family and their parents lived  --- and finding those streets on the Toro plano (street map) made it so real that I was hard pressed to wonder if I had walked by their home while in Toro last month without realizing it?!

As we progressed through the birth document, we were sad to learn this little sister to our great grandmother died on August 8, 1891.  She was six and a half years old.  I felt such sadness to learn of their loss as I, too, lost a child and my brain went into overdrive, wondering at similarities.

Jacinta was born February 25.
My Christina died February 25.
When Chrissy was born with the dreaded disease, Cystic Fibrosis, I was asked if this disease had touched anyone else in our family?  To our knowledge, the answer was 'no'.  Both parents must carry the recessive gene for a child to contract this disease so the doctors assured me it must be in my family somewhere or it started with me?  Could Jacinta have died from this disease?  I'm stretching here, I realize that, but I always keep looking for the CF 'beginning.'   Although this question won't get answered through Jacinta, I will still wonder...

AND I am not ready to lose Jacinta completely!  So I will weave her into my story, Manuela's Footsteps, to honor her existence.  Despite losing her as quickly as I found her,  I am so thankful to learn where they lived, so thankful I walked the same streets that little girl played with her sister and perhaps ran to hug her grandparents.  I felt her parents delight in her birth and grieved with their loss in her death.  I smiled as my finger followed the street map to see where the families lived and smiled again when I imagined I may have walked near their homes in Toro.  Jacinta Modesta.  And I believe with the loss of this child, her sister, eleven-year old Eustoquia Rita, grieved for her little sister and probably helped her mother cope as my children did for me...   So much information, so many feelings, so much excitement and such sadness --- all in the words on one Spanish document.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Toro, a village on the mountain

Toro, Zamora

Wikipedia defines our next ancestral village as: Toro is a town and municipality in the province of Zamora, part of the autonomous community of Castile and León, Spain. It is located on a fertile high plain. AND IT'S WINE COUNTRY!  Tempranillo, here called Tinto de Toro, has been the primary grape grown in the region since the times of the Christian reconquest

My first view of Toro is etched in my mind as toy blocks stacked into a mountainside.  From the road below, I was mesmerized by the rich, ocher-colored cleft in the hillside.  The high stone building stood in stark relief, standing majestically as it smiled down to those below.  After leaving Fuentesauco, it was a welcome sight to see smiling faces, activity in the streets and welcoming green trees inviting us into the town.  After weaving our way through cobblestone streets, the Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor pulled us to her door.  The church was enormous, a beautifully arranged rose garden and courtyard beckoned and a parking spot waited!  Steven and I sat still a moment in wonder, anxious to explore, find answers to questions and a hotel but the church was waiting.  We were delighted to find the doors open; no dove's roost here and no bird poop littered the steps surrounding this wonderful building.

This is the village of the MARZO and TRASCASAS families. Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo met my great-grandfather, Juan Francisco SILVAN Hernandez in Fuentesauco in 1900. Her parents were also born in Toro: Manuel Trascasas Alonso and Manuela Marzo Garcia.  Their parents were also born in Toro:  Santiago Trascasas, Maria Alonso Vega, Gregorio Marzo and Teresa Garcia.  It is such an important village to our family, we stayed three nights because it lured us into becoming part of its charming and enticing ambiance.

Beyond walking the narrow, twisting streets for hours at a time, watching Toro families and friends collide with one another at dusk in the plaza mayor as we sat in outdoor restaurants on the 'boardwalk' and listening to the lovely, deep tolling of the bell in the Torre del Reloj -- we had research to do.

The tourism office gave us a 'plano' which was a street map of Toro, directions to the cemetery and the juzgado (court house) and directed us to the Ayuntamiento for supporting information on our family questions.  Armed with basic information, we learned it was not possible to find grave placement information without exact death dates.  Off to the juzgado (see previous blog regarding that interesting find) and later the cemetery (see photos and story in previous blog also).

We breathed their air, walked their streets, listened to their lilting Castilian Spanish, ate Manchego cheese and IT'S WINE COUNTRY ~ Tempranillo, here called Tinto de Toro, has been the primary grape grown in the region since the times of the Christian reconquest.  We 'taste-tested' several and this Cosecha was our favorite.  And during our street walking adventures, we found those wine barrels had varied uses.

 And then there was the Toro chocolates with almonds.  Muy excellente!  It was not sweet but not bitter.  The chocolate touched our tongues and we just closed our eyes and mmmmmmmmmmmmmm'd.
And I learned biblioteca was a library.  These tiles were the major use of signs everywhere.  Bright, bold, shiny and always clean.  

 The posters shouting their advertisements were pasted to posts in the plaza mayor and we even found beauty there ~  In fact, I brought five posters from Spain that I plan to frame for my gallery room.... a touch of Spain to enjoy every day ---

In my heart, I especially brought a little bit of Toro home with me. It was more than wine, chocolates and a place to gather documents.  I was loathe to leave --- and now back home after receiving the birth document for great grandmother Rita Trascasas Marzo's sister, Jacinta, and their parent's marriage certificate, I continue to learn more about these people who were our family.  With the generous and diligent help of my genealogist friend, Steven A., they have become real, their streets can be found on the Toro map and I remain dazed.  You will learn more about Jacinta Trascasas Marzo soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The SILVAN quest in detail, one village at a time


Wikipedia defines our ancestral village as "Fuentesaúco is a municipality located in the province of Zamora, Castile and León, Spain."  

My first view of Fuentesaúco gave me the impression of open space, waving fields and panoramic vistas, all with same conclusion:  a quiet, slow-moving village, almost a blur in the road.  As we drove closer and I spied the first sign announcing the village, my heart sped up.  

I'd read about the village, heard about it from family members and friends who'd been there and all I could think about was my abuelita and her family actually breathing the air, touching the streets and communing with one another.  I took a big breath and we slowly drove through the village.  

Clearly, it was a sleepy village; the plaza mayor in the center was small and we wondered if we were wrong?  Upon closer exploration, we realized it matched many we'd seen in other cities on a much smaller scale.  There was an open cafe with umbrella-covered tables, scattered chairs along the few shops circling the plaza and shade trees above some well-situated benches.  

The streets were mingled with quiet for the most part.  Where were the people?  Where was the activity?  Was it a senior community?  We were rather stumped.  First on our list was finding Santa Maria, the church (iglesia) of our family.  Following a church spire, we rounded a street to find St. John the Baptista --- wrong church but well worth losing our way.  And with my Spanish-speaking brother's attention, a friendly woman (very interested in what we were up to, I think) told us Santa Maria was on the other side of town and pointed the way with very fast Spanish (I rolled my eyes as it sounded like chipmunk chatter.  I will always regret not learning to speak the language before I arrived!)  

Iglesia Santa Maria del Castillo stopped us in our tracks as we pulled up to the well-worn and obviously unused doors, screaming disrepair and watched the doves lining the rooftop and every available space in the walls.  We were there and it was exciting but we were saddened we could not go inside.  Later we found that many of these tiny villages share a priest and even when the church was active, there was probably a traveling priest.   This wonderful, antique church saw weddings for Victorino Luciano Silvan Hernandez and Romana Martin Lorenzo, Juan Francisco Silvan Hernandez and Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo and Cristencia Silvan Hernandez and Eusebio Feliz Gonzales Hidalgo that we know of.  Their parents and siblings may have spoken their vows here also.  Other happy occasions were the baptisms, of which I have documentation in my files for Manuela Silvan Trascasas, Matias Silvan Hernandez, Edmundo Silvan Hernandez, Angel Silvan Hernandez, Agapita Silvan Hernandez.  My assumption is the other siblings were also baptised there: Juan, Victorino, Cristencia, Agustin, Geronimo, Felipe.  

The village must have been one very large family and with detailed research, it appears that in the dusk of those long-ago evenings, everyone congregated in the plaza mayor to discuss the day's events, the world as they knew it and enjoyed each other while their children ran around and between their family doing what they enjoyed: a living community.

We found the bullfighting ring that my great aunt Christina Gonzales missed and where my great grandfather John Silvan pulled the dead bulls from the ring with a horse (or donkey?) for slaughter.  We found the cemetery (see previous post) and brought rocks from the graveyard to place in my garden and share with others.

HOWEVER, we found no welcoming hotel to stay during our visit; but we certainly found delicious Spanish food to eat on the edge of the village as we pondered what to do next.  My previous postings explain the excitement and steps to finding 6 San Salvador where our family lived in that small village so I will avoid duplication here.  

My thoughts of Fuentesaúco were sweet and emotional.  However, I must say --- of all the villages we became part of during our sojourn in Spain, this one was not as hospitable as others and we are still scratching our head to analyse why...

Next post:  TORO, 30 miles northeast of Fuentesaúco 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SILVAN posting on pause position...

For many of you who have been waiting for my elaborate posting for the Silvan family (which includes Gonzales, Souza, Medeiros, Martin, and many others beyond) I wanted to assure you I will do so soon.  Recent family issues have put me in the pause position and I've been on the road to and from the city for nearly a week.  Therefore, my time in the office is limited but I am counting the days until I can get back in here!

I will soon list the family names, the villages, the questions I had with answers and the questions I still have with the work in progress hoping for positive responses.  Until then, please know I am thinking of the genealogy quest off and on during my every day(s).

More valuable information has surfaced from the two Spanish documents I found upon my return from Spain regarding Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo (Silvan)'s sister, Jacinta.  Stay tuned please.  Just because the cups are empty, doesn't mean I'm slowing down...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Transcribing Spanish documents

After my posting a few days ago, my cry for help in transcribing the documents for Jacinta Modesta Trascasas Silvan's birth record and the marriage record for her parents, Manuel Trascasas Alonso and Manuela Marzo Garcia --- was answered!  Thanks to my Spanish-genealogist friend, Steven A., it appears we have more clues to the family history.  Still in draft modes but I found an answer to one of my questions!

Question:  What happened to Manuel Trascasas Alonso and when did he die?  We knew that Manuela Marzo Garcia remarried and that man was stepfather to our bisabuela, Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo.  We also knew he was a mean-spirited and dangerous man.

Answer:  We don't know when he died but we have a clue as to why.  The marriage document shows he was nearly 60 years old when he married the young 24-year-old Manuela Marzo Garcia~  They had two daughters that we know of.  At age 60, he undoubtedly had other children from previous marriage(s).  So he probably died of old age and left Manuela with young children.  She remarried because she couldn't raise them alone and economics prevailed.

This definitely helps me with the part of my story involving these family members.  MANUELA'S FOOTSTEPS is coming together with these bits and pieces and other information I obtained while in Spain.  I am most anxious to get past research and back to writing.  THANK YOU STEVEN A. ~

Corrections to QUESTIONS blog yesterday...

It is 5 o'clock in the morning and my eyes popped open when I realized I'd listed Francisco Ruiz from a village called Benagalbon.  This was incorrect.  The family members who were from that beautiful little village by the ocean between Malaga and Nerja were JUAN RUIZ VALLEJO and MARIA GARCIA GARCIA.  These are the parents of Francisco Ruiz Garcia.

I was rushing out the door when I Posted yesterday and the only justification.  I've etched these villages in my mind for so long I was arrogant enough to think I could list villages to family members without notes.  I've learned my lesson...

More later.  Now back to bed :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


A cousin (Jeri K.) asked me if I found the answers to all my questions?  Did I fill in the pieces of the puzzle I'd hoped for during my recent journey to Spain?  And I realized that was information many of you may have asked as well... So - here it is in a nutshell ~

1.  What were the villages like that our families came from?  Yes!  I visited Almogia, Alora, Campanillas, Los Nunez, Gibraltar, Benagalbon, Malaga and Huertecilla in the south for the RUIZ family.  And I visited Fuentesauco, Toro, Villamor de los Escuderos and Villaescusa in the north for the SILVAN family.  There were villages in between for fun and memories.

Almogia - This is the village the Ruiz family still lives in -- our cousin, Cristobal Torreblanca is the mayor.  He collaborated with my first father, Miguel Ruiz (Silvan) to connect Almogia and Winters, California in a "Sisters City" and a street sign is shown as Calle Winters in that beautiful Arabic village.  The Ayuntamiento (city hall) was closed the day we were there but we met Fernando, the bartender in the nearby bar, who knew my first father -- he was delighted to meet me and my brother, Steven.  It is my understanding that Josephine Ruiz (Martin) may have been born there and I am researching that information further.

Alora - This is the village that Rosa Romero Fernandez was from (and her parents).  She was Francisco Ruiz's first wife and mother to my grandfather Bernardo Romero Ruiz.   He later married a widow, Maria Carmen de Cordoba (still trying to document this name) Rey who was also from Alora.  I think they were related through marriage since her daughter (Isobel Fernandez) had the same name as my great grandmother, Rosa.  (more research to do there too).

Campanillas - This is the village where my grandfather, Bernardo Ruiz Romero was baptised.  It is unknown whether the other siblings were as well and that is another puzzle piece that is missing but I took photos of the church and walk those streets, ate Paella with chorizo, drank red wine and smile as I remember it was accidental that I knew about it at all.  Steven mentioned, "Oh, by the way, grandpa Ben was baptised there....." as we drove through the village looking for a post office (correro)...

Los Nunez -- This village is unique because it's where the round house sits atop a hill that my first father built.  Also, there are cousins in the village (Juani and Mari and their family) who live here.  I learned about the community efforts my first father made his mark with his actions and smiled once again.  I walked the floors of the house he built with the help of my brother, Steven and smiled again.  It was a most special day.

Huertacilla - This village is where cousins live:  Maria Angela, Manolo, Antonio and children live.  There is a bakery, a store and a cafe.  I met the cousins and felt immeasurably welcomed and warm.  And they gave us free cafe con leche...

Benagalbon -- This village is where Francisco Ruiz was from.  He was my great grandfather and the village is very quaint and has so much character that Steven and I wished we had more time.....

My next posting will summarize the Silvan villages.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deciphering my new Spanish documents

Between and the nuggets of the Spanish language I know, I was sure I would be able to translate the documents I received from the Juzgado Municipal of Toro in Spain.  Not so much...  First, there is the birth certificate for JACINTA MODESTA TRASCASAS MARZO.  She was born February 25, 1884 in Toro; she was the sister to Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo, my abuelita's maternal grandmother.  No records were found for grandma Rita, but this birth certificate for her sister was like gold.  The certificate confirms her parents were Manuel Trascasas Alonso and Manuela Marzo Garcia.  However, the cursive script is most difficult to read.  However, the great news (how much better could it get...really?) happened this morning when I used my magnifying glass to decipher the names throughout the document:  I learned that Manuel Trascasas Alonso's mother's name was Maria Alonso Vega.  Vega is a new name!  I will need help translating this for sure ~

The second document is the marriage certificate between MANUEL TRASCASAS ALONSO with MANUELA MARZO GARCIA.  They were married December 27, 1879 when Manuela Marzo was 21 years old.  They were both from Toro, so the long list of ancestors to my grandmother Rita Trascasas Marzo are all from Toro.  The cursive script is even worse on this document but I will study it in depth...

While in the cemetery at Toro, I photographed several gravestones with the name, Alonso.  Now, I will go back to study the photos to see if one of them or more --- was related to our family.  More studying and I'm off for the day.  Stay tuned!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bits and Pieces of a Spanish dream

It seems strange to be back in the Estados Unidos again after flitting through Spain, trying to comprehend the language, the culture and the people.  But the photos I snapped keep popping into my mind and memories continue to slip into my head and heart off and on all day.  As I walk my fingers through the papers of notes I jotted down during my journey and edit the photos, I actually live the dream all over again.  What a lovely way to spend the day...

This was my view above the apartment Steven and I were given to spend the first and last days of our trip.  The apartment is directly below this wonderful, tiled patio and the view from three sides spread before us as far as our eyes could see.   On the night we had a full moon, I slipped up there with my camera but the bright orb was wondrous to my eye, not so much through the camera's lens.  So, memory will have to suffice.  The tiles are everywhere; in the kitchens (floor and walls); in the bathrooms (floor walls and some ceilings); on stairsteps, house fronts, driveways and alleyways!
And shopping was such fun.  I found shelves of dry garbanzo beans, jars of cooked garbanzo beans and hanging hams and sausages.  In many stores, I found older people sitting in chairs chatting with the store people or on the streets in front.  People actually stop their schedules to hug, kiss and talk to one another.  How unique is that??!

And it was lovely to SEE what the food looked like on their menu.  My next posting will be village by village and later a list of several thoughts on what to NOT do when you plan a trip to Spain or anywhere else in Europe...  Chau for now...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Arriving home to find Spanish treasure ~

I am still waking up disoriented but dreaming in English once again.  My trip to Spain was all and more that I expected it to be.  I smelled the Mediterranean, felt its water rise to my knees, picked up rocks from the seashore to stuff into a bag and tried to avoid all of those topless women....  Ah, the lure and fascination of the Costa del Sol still warms my mind.  The photos (about 1000) bring it all back to me in an instant.  The unbridled aroma of steaming paella, various tapas, green Spanish olives, chunks of bread dunked in olive oil, a glass of rioja wine.... flamenco music or a Spanish guitar reminding me there was no rush.  Memories will always be close to the surface.  There are too many to count but each day I will tick them off and smile some more.

And the genealogy quest?  My mind was always in high gear except when I lay on the hamaca or my new Spanish towel on the beaches of Nerja, Torremolinos and Marbella (photo above).  With sand at my feet and between my toes, the ocean sloshing before me, my mind was set on pause and I kept it there until we were on the road once again.

In northern Spain in the province of Zamora, I found gravestones for the Hernandez Martin family.  And the four villages of the Silvan, Trascasas, Marzo, Alonso and Alejo families (an amazing feeling to see the houses, the streets, the Spanish signs and know their feet touched that same soil).  Toro, the village atop the mountain holds my heart the strongest... along with Avila, Almogia, and Alora.  Sevilla, Madrid and Malaga were such big cities, I felt lost and wanted to get back to the tiny, narrow streets I'd left behind in the small villages.

While in Toro, you may remember there was a man at the Juzgado (aka courthouse) who promised to look further in the ancient document books for any mention of Eustoquia Rita Trascasas Marzo, my abuelita's mother.  He promised to send me any document he found. I left with faith and Spanish hope ~  When I returned home Monday night, my heart tripped a flamenco;  his envelope waited.  I was shaking when I tried to open it and delighted with the beautiful documents within:  A marriage document for bisabuela Rita's parents: Manuel Trascasas Alonso and Manuela Marzo Garcia.  AND there was more!  OMG, inside the envelope I found the birth record for bisabuela Rita's sister;  a sister I did not know existed:  Jacinta Modesta Trascasas Marzo.  How much excitement can I live through?!

I found a contact near Avila who may be able to contact two Toro residents; one Marzo and one Trascasas -- could they be related?  And she may also contact the Silvan "cousin" from Ponferrado. 

I was full of quietude after meeting our Ruiz cousins in the south of Spain and being embraced by friends who met me for the first time.  Lovely cousins that I hope to stay connected to.  And these welcoming friends, Pepe and Pepa, who gave us an apartment to live in while we were in the south of Spain, a country retreat...

I felt no rush in Spain.  I intend to retain the feelings now that I'm home once again.  My cup runneth over.  As my brother, Steven, taught me to say when life is good?  Vale, vale. (pronounced ball-ay, ball-ay)  All is perfect!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Saying goodbye to España

We saved Tuesday for visiting family; family I'd not met.  I was greeted with the wonderful kiss-on-each-cheek welcome by Juani, Mari, their daughter (Angela) and her two boys.  All family.  Juani and Mari are related to us on both sides of their family line, cousins married cousins.. Their home was filled with bright flowers, ceramic tiles that I have fallen in love with again and such warmth, it was staggering...  Our day was tightly threaded into hours and minutes so two hours later we said goodbye, more kisses and good hugs.  The baby Ivan grinned until I was sure his little face should crack, just 8 months old.

From there, Steven pointed out that in their village, Los Nuñez, our father, as mayor, some years ago managed to get electricity and phone poles as well as getting a cement brigade and cemented the streets. We have been told no other mayor did so much for their village so we are welcomed for more reasons than just family blood lines. Before our fathers death, he'd built a round house and it can be seen from the lovely patio above Juani's and Mari's home.. It is called Casa Ronda, round house since it is the only one of its kind.  The new owners graciously invited us in to view the round house, served wine and good conversation.

At 3:00 it was time to meet Steven's friend, American born Spaniard who invited us to lunch at his friends home. I was a bit hesitant, strangers after all. However, the owner is Pepe and his wife is Delores. We could smell the food as we left the car with Jay and entered the wide open patio above the swimming pool. The view across the way in Fresneda was beautiful, mountains and trees and more mountains.  The outside table was set for seven, two bottles of wine and Pepe was obviously our cook. He hustled around, anxious to please and I was delighted to see PAELLA on the outside stove, yellow with saffron, chicken and seafood... He held out the fried chorizo since Steven does not eat meat..We added it on our own and it was delicious!!!! Tempranillo wine flowed into tin cups...he promised to would stay cooler for us. Then conversation centered around world problems and Pepe's passionate statements wishing everyone was truly in one world, caring for others. Everyone got involved and you will be proud that I even understood a lot of it although Steven translated much as well...

It was sad to leave as we enjoyed the afternoon so much but more family to meet. This family also lived in Fresneda and they own a family store. We were treated with welcome family kisses from Maria Angela and her husband Manolo. Her brothers and children sat around the table and we were served tapas with cafe con leche... Then hurrying back to our apartment for a ten minute nap before taking our friends to dinner who provided us with our free apartment. Lovely memories and tons of information for the rest of our story and the books to come.

We are now sitting in JFK Airport waiting for our plane toward the west at last. English words flit around us instead of Spanish and its a bittersweet welcome.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gibraltar at last --- And una tormenta (RAIN ~)

Excitement was slow to rein in as we began our road trip to Gibraltar.  The rain was heavy and clouds were black but we drove on.  We were told the rain was the heaviest in Spain since 1947 and we were able to enjoy the weather history.  Lucky, weren't we?  HOWEVER, we wanted to see Gibraltar --- the 'rock' our ancestors focused on as they dragged their bags, trunks and children toward the pier.  The signs led the way.

Rain continued and thunder struck loudly -- frightening and close ~
Steven fought the wheel and speeding drivers on the E-15 (toll road that cost nearly 20 euros to get there...)

We saw the mountain, drove up to the British gate and stood still in traffic over an hour.  The rain pounded.
After quiet deliberation, it was decided we'd seen the rock.  Let's go home...

But, not before we saw Marbella, the very elegant resort beach town along the Costa del Sol -- the sun peeked out of the clouds just a bit and we were exhausted from the rainy trip.  Marbella has the feel of richness and class.  The buildings close to the beach shone against the meager sunshine and the puddles of water lingered...  We walked some miles on the boardwalk until it disappeared and ocher sand took us a bit farther.  Marbella even sounds musical and my heart felt it sing.

Little birds flitted across the chair backs and along the floor.  Steven tried to get their attention and they seemed to stare, wondering about us..  We ate Gazpacho Andaluz and salad with Sangria.  We were feeling the warm sunshine among the black clouds that kept pushing it aside but another adventure was pushed into our time in Spain so far from home.

Gibraltar and Marbella will remain such sweet memories.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains ~

September 26-27, 2012
The rain in Spain falls mainly in the Plains.  We are there.  The rain has deluged us for two days and I fear Torremolinos may fall off our itinerary before we leave but we have been very lucky so far, so I will not toss it off the list yet…

Today, we had two ah-ha moments for the Ruiz family research! 

We are in the south once again in a tiny apartment as guests.  It’s raining and since everyone hangs their clothes on the line, we were stumped.  We have a small washer beneath the stairwell just outside the door where I can stoop to reach the washer (but happy to have one).  Steven’s optimism, however, took us to the town of Puerta de la Torre to buy clothes pins.  He was sure it would clear up…. The rains continued after our purchase so he headed the car to Campanillas where we planned to look for a lavanderia, a place to dry our clothes.  
Just across the edge of town, he said, “I remember this is the town where Grandpa Ben was baptized.” 
“What?  You know where the church is?”  I felt my heartbeat speed up.
“Yes, I can see the top from here.” He pointed to a white stucco church amid the raindrops. 

No luck finding the street by car so we parked and walked and walked until we stood before it.  The church gates were locked (no luck breaking and entering as we did in the cemeteries) so we took photos from every angle and grinned at one another like children.  If grandpa was baptized there, we were sure his brothers, Manuel and Miguel as well as his sister, Maria, were also. 
Then we were hungry.  Across the street from the church, we had paella that melted in our mouths and a glass of wine as we gazed at the church and marveled that the church sits on Calle Ruiz-Maiquez.  Very sweet memory.
As we left the restaurant, I noticed a sign on the front of a house across from where we ate.  I’d taken photos of its windows, liking it immensely.  It was very Spanish with those fabulous ceramic tiles and a stone courtyard wall in front of the house.   As we neared it walking back to the car, I thought the sign read “Cuidad con el pero” and asked Steven what it meant.  He is feeling much more confident back in the south with his Spanish but still, he tilted his head wondering what?  We backed up.  As I read the sign properly, a growling dog jumping toward me near the door and sign showed the painted ceramic tile of a police dog and jumped back.  The sign actually read “Cuidado con el perro.”    Steven laughed all the way to the car.  I’d translated “City of the but” when in reality it was “Beware of the dog”.  (smiling here – obviously out of my element)
Back home again, no place to dry our clothes, still raining but a new umbrella in my pocket…. Our benefactor, Pepe, met us at the door with an invitation for fried fish “pescado Jure” Malagueno and Rioja wine.  Of course we accepted and he brought it to us, sat down and chatted (with Steven).  I tried to follow his Spanish but as I was finally understanding many words in the north, we are again in Andalucia where the words are chopped off and the s is dropped… He and Steven do very well though.
I was amazed to learn he was 77 and his wife was 62.  I’d guessed them about 85 and 75.  She is younger than I am.  Still shaking my head… but I regress once again.  The second ah-ha moment:  Pepe told us he knows grandpa Bernardo Ruiz was born in a house in a tiny hamlet called Arroyo de Oliva near Campanillas.  He also knows an older cousin who can guide us to the house.   We will talk to that cousin soon and fill in more Ruiz blanks ~
Now, we need to find the internet to post and contact our family.  We are definitely in the country; there’s a burro a short way from our abode who brays often, a rooster who crows often and millions of flies.  I am wearing myself out swatting them.  But!  We have coffee, food, friends, cousins, a washer and oh!  More good news:  Pepe’s wife (Pepa) has a clothes dryer and Steven is changing the load now. 
Another great day in Spain and tomorrow we go to Gibraltar where the immigrant ships sailed from its banks to Hawaii. 

Malaga and its gems

Steven introduced me to Malaga and the wonders of the Malaga Cathedral where he pointed out an antiquie Spanish soldier inside the alcove that resembles him... The Spanish blood flows in the genes! Without my brother, I would never have seen these awesome places and it appears he posed for this soldier!

Then to the fortress high above the city, one of two castles.    Gibralfaro and the Alcazar

The bullring below the Alcazar's walls was an added bonus..

Antequerra - An past Arabic stronghold 5,000 years old

Antequerra is another Arabic village with winding lanes, cobblestones and it is a stronghold older than most around the world.  So high on the mountain, roman ruins below, and El Torcal a few miles away --- formations from long ago with obvious volcanic stones.  Too many thoughts slip through my head for such an amazing old village.

On the road again toward Almogia and our little apartment --- Seeing EL TORCAL high in the ochre mountains along the way ---

On the way to Seville

September 24-26, 2012 – first time I’ve had internet since last posting on September 21…

We have now followed the old railroad tracks of our ancestors; watching the landscape change from mountains, to farms, to the plains and mountains again helped me see what they saw, feel what they felt as the daunting aspect of ‘a few more miles’ must have been whispered again and again.  We felt their tiredness, sometimes despair, sometimes anxiety to reach Seville. 

Driving south from Fuentesauco on the roads that, in 1911, would have held the old train tracks, my theory is they rode on wagons with trunks and children squeezed closely together on their way to the train station in Salamanca (about 22 miles).  There were acres of sunflowers, farming villages and acres of orchards.   The larger cities must have seen them pass by on the train as the plateau changed to rolling hills.  There were gigantic bird nests atop church steeples; stork nests!  They would have seen miles of low stone walls separating properties and along roadsides, stones pulled from the land to make the soil farmable.  They would have seen farming on terraced hillsides as their train descended from the mountains they would have probably reached Canavera into the valley.  Railroad tracks are still visible there and the thick forests would have given them sanctuary.  It flattened even more around Santiago del Campo where trees stood in groups surrounding us in every direction and then the rio Almonte flowed below a bridge and the valley would have risen to meet them.
The railroad ran between terraced farmland.  Vineyards appeared for miles on every inch of farmable land where vines could root into the soil.  It reminded me of the old Johnny Appleseed movie, row after row of plants, green and lush. 

Merida was our halfway point from Fuentesauco and Seville.  We got lost immediately; there were roman ruins everywhere, huge towers and archways of stones and suddenly we found ourselves on a dead end street with a HOSTAL sign in front of us and a parking spot!  Yes, we had a great room with a view!

The respite in Merida was welcomed and I wondered by then how very exhausted the families must have been.  We were tired from riding in a car; they would have loved the luxury.  The children must have whined, with dragging feet and tired little bodies and again the whisper, ‘just a few more miles’ from the adults who were also weak from the trip.  I regress.

Zafra was next town (from my research of the railroad lines in 1911) but when we neared the city, I knew they didn’t go into the town.  Railroad tracks were clearly visible through an ancient hamlet called Las Santas de Maimona just east of Zafra.  Our families would have stopped, slept and possibly bartered for food or worked for a place to sleep under cover in one of the many sheds nearby.  And they may have been told they should follow the road to Seville after talk with the villagers.  They could leave the railroad tracks behind.  I got goose bumps when we slipped through the village.  I knew they’d been there.  I could feel it.

The orchard-littered valleys spread for hundreds of miles; almonds, olives, oranges and grapes.  Unfarmed land was ocher colored, (Spanish yellow) miles of dirt and straw-colored brush.  And hundreds of shade (sombra) trees. They could begin the feel the air begin to warm around them even though it was mid February.  By then, the road was clearer and a tunnel bored through the mountain led them southward easily.  The panoramic views must have astounded them.  It certainly took my breath away. 
Once they saw the white village of Santiponce, they knew Seville lay ahead. 

Seville ~ The streets were narrow, cobblestoned.  At one point, I had to roll down the window to fold the side mirror into the car so Steven could turn a corner! His amazing prowess behind the wheel continues to amaze me.

A little planning and open minds made an unforgettable holiday as we planned to explore 3-4 tourist sites; One of which definitely felt our ancestors feet touch ground: The Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold) sits alongside the Guadalquivir River.  We walked over an hour to reach the stone tower, built in 1220 by the Moors, once a defense position but not houses a maritime museum.  We just wanted to stand below its tower, walk over the cobblestones and look at the river where our history took place…where our family walked beneath its shadow to board a boat at its feet.

My head spun with excitement as I walked over the cobblestones and stared at the stone steps they climbed to board the boat.  How do I know this?

I’d connected with a genealogist/historian named Fernando Hidalgo weeks ago and he met with us, confirming the embarkation point in 1911 was at the base of the Torre de Oro.  His brother works at the Port of Seville and those connections gave him the insight to help us.  He also gave us the author’s name whose historical books would answer more of my questions about that time period. 

The most exciting part of our visit was incredible:  Fernando knows a man whose surname is SILVAN.  He is the mayor of a town in northern Spain called Ponferrada, in the province of Leon.  He said the Silvan name is rare and he believes this man is a descendant of our Silvan family line.  I will contact him soon. 
If only we’d met with Fernando before our trip north.  We could have found this cousin and met him…  But, though I’m tempted to taste the sour lemons, I will make the lemonade instead.  
We have a link to our Silvan family after all.

From there, we walked toward La Giralda, which rises 322 feet next to the cathedral in Seville. The tower was part of a mosque that stood on the site and was kept when the mosque was torn down to build the cathedral.  Walking, always walking… we found the best way to see the city and feel the energy and doing exactly what we felt like.  Steven, luckily, is fluent in Spanish.  I had learned a little and understood more than I expected.   Everywhere are U.S. chain monsters, McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts.  I was a little embarrassed this most visible American influence.

We discovered the afternoons, when most shops close for a couple hours, is a good time for espresso.  Walk up, drink coffee with milk, if you don’t mind the omnipresent cigarette smoke..  People dress well, look dignified.  It was nice to see so many senior citizens out walking, eating, shopping, they hardly fit into the American image of the elderly.  Though with all that smoke, it’s amazing they get old at all.
By 2:00, it is time for their day meal and people crowd into outdoor cafes.  One menu is handed to the man in the group.  I imagined they felt women couldn’t read?  Couldn’t choose food for themself?  What?  Modern Spain has changed quite a lot but this reminded me very much of old Spain and trying to read upside down, in Spanish was a work of art.  (smile)

Later, the Moorish influence slapped us in the face once again as we gazed around us and especially at the Plaza de Espana and its thousands of ceramic tiles.  There are painted ceramic tiles everywhere; street corner signs embedded into the corner of buildings, above doorways, religious icons, house numbers; too many beautiful tiles to explain.  My heart fell in love with them.  The colors, the shine, the intimate touch of art.

Next, is the road trip east and south… Antequerra is on the itinery.  It is an antique village --- 5,000 years old!