To the Sisters of God’s Love
and those who supported me
during my stay in Madrid.
It’s any moment of any year, it doesn’t matter. Yesterday is today. Total, what do you care? You fly at six hundred feet at noon on Monday, March 16, 2015. You don’t erase anything. You’re about to land and wonder how you got here. You yearn for the plane to return to squeeze into the guaguas, walk through the broken streets, shrink into the heat of blackouts; procession with your rule in Easter.
It’s been an exhausting journey you started many years ago. You want to take the time back and think, as a consolation perhaps, that for some reason God has sat you on this plane from which you contemplate the great white cross built, on the top of the Paracuellos de Jarama, just to warn you that you are very close to landing in a land far away from the one inside, even if you do not want to express it , and that this manoeuvre is the most dangerous of the journey.
You’re still in time to ask God for a successful landing, but you don’t because there are aspects of your arrival that worry you much more than the ship’s “simple” descent on the runway.
You carry rooted, inocuous memories that don’t bother you, like those of when you were a student, which survive in you, even if you never be again, and when you’re assaulted they let you be and act like nothing. But you drag others, you don’t care if good or bad, that you want to forget to follow your path with less ballast in the suitcases, which when you arrive take over your mind and do so with such violence that they even force you to stop any activity you are doing, however important, and rethink what you do not want because they make you miss a lapse that you go unrepeatable.
When you are roasted with such reminiscences, you go docile to the yesterday you refuse, and they transform you into the protagonist of an amazing film where you perceive even the temperature, sounds and smells of the scene.
Thus you are again descended from the plane – landed and hypnotized by the brilliance of the environment – taking the first steps in the district of Barajas, which you now also carry inside, even if you do not want to express it, and evoke its colors and noises as faithfully as if you were still there.
You perceive the efluvious of good dinner, like those of the one your grandmother prepared for you when you were a child and the stew had the ingredients demanded by Creole gastronomy. Its vapors envelop you, open your appetite… but you discover that not even such good smells eliminate from your being the deep nostalgia you feel for the pea you ate so much.
You also inhale the scent of pine trees, with vertical branches and covered with small leaves, fleshy and colored dark green; the fragrance of roses that no one cuts – despite the large size and beauty – and you hear the rumor of the fountains that refresh the whole city.
However, although at every moment something new is shown to you, as you look up you discover, not without a hint of joy, that its sky is as blue as the one you left, no more, no less; you also assess through your skin that the temperature of your winter is close to that of ice and that of summer is steeped up to forty-five degrees in the shade, accompanied by a humidity almost as low as that of the Sahara desert.
You are amazed to discover that the boatings are very industrious. You don’t see abandoned premises or garbage build-up in the corners. It is a district full of clothing and food shops, bars, Chinese quincallas, cafes… You cross paths with few passers-by on working hours and disappear completely during the nap, in which a deep silence camps throughout the villa only broken by the coming and going of planes; close the doors of all your shops and you will rest from two to four.
As you approach the airport, you feel surrounded by the intense hustle and bustle of travelers heading to a hundred and fifty-six destinations. Here all the nationalities have been agglomered and because there are, those that make you think, because you are a first-time walker, that humanity is condensed in full and that, contrary to the city of Babel, you speak the same language, but with countless leave.
Notes with perspicuity five neighborhoods. Four new ones that, because they are well plotted, make you suspect that they were built on totally depopulated areas… or on the foundations of ancient buildings destroyed by the Napoleonic army in the nineteenth century… or by the tangles of contenders, republicans and Phalangists – all fierce, according to Hemingway’s bells – during the intestine war of the following century.1
The fifth is the one you like the most, the historic center – the Barajas Vieja – almost like Havana, but without bay. It is an old people, which you find impossible to compare with the oldest of yours because its origin is fixed beyond Christ, from when the Roman believers that all dry was Terra Nostra invaded the region, so its date of foundation is lost in some recodo of time, and because of the senectud many of the houses are settled as sown to boleo , which forced the construction of a labyrinth of alleyways so convoluted that if you were guided by the logic of a well-drawn urbanization, you would get lost in the mess of its streets and in no way would you get where you want to go.
You are impressed that, despite the tangle of alleys, they are all in as good condition as the two main avenues that cross the old part in its entire length. All periposed, without potholes, well lit because its inhabitants take care of their locality with care and always shines like just fork.
Within a few days you discover that its people self-defense as clowns – subdivided into pijos and not pijos –, Gypsies (who do not know how they arrived), brunettes (Sub-Saharan Africans immigrated by Gibraltar), Chinese (who hide how they arrived), Latinos (most of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras…), Moroccans (born in the countries north of the Sahara), Romanians and Hungarians and who all live in harmony; who are not baseball fans; who only like bulls and football or football and bulls regardless of age, and who on Sunday afternoons crawl to watch the games and runs that transcend the TVs located in the restaurants and cafes that stick to their Plaza Mayor.
You also note with strangeness that none of your elderly Iberian acquaintances recognize that you have sympathized with Franco, and you might even assume, if you were guided by what you are told, that that despot was the only and most fervent follower of himself during the thirty-six years of his tyranny; However, what you warn makes you brag about what is hidden from you and conclude that so much authoritarianism of the past has given rise to the political freedom of the present.
You are excited to see the abundance of parties – with members as patriotic as the most – to witness an election of another kind, to discover polling stations composed of supporters of numerous tendencies and to contemplate with arrobo the transparent-walled ballot boxes that nullify the misgivings of the most skeptical of voters. Scenario and actors are in cahoots to leave you stunned because you’ve never seen anything or remotely similar.
And all – parties, ballot boxes and patriots – make you lead a prayer to Heaven in every procession of the most sacred of the weeks so that these circumstances may reproduce in other lands.
However, despite what you see, nothing surprises you as much as its Easter processions. Some assure you that the ones in Seville are better; others, than those of Granada… In truth, you don’t care about such parades to justily carve out the deep faith of the residents of Barajas.
In this district, Easter extends beyond a week. It begins with a mass at six-thirty in the afternoon of Friday before Palm Sunday in the small hermitage of Our Lady of Solitude, located at the entrance of Barajas Vieja, where the Virgin of the Glorieta is worshipped, which is the same as the Virgin of the Rotunda, which is the same as the Virgin Dolorosa , which is the same as our Lady of the Dove, because these advocations coincide in a single transited image of Mary, which are the result of the long history of Spanish Christianity that begins, as the priest assures you, with the arrival of James the Apostle to the ferotic Galician terraga.
It is a season full of processions, which run through most of the streets and alleyways with more than one float – all exceed the ton – and are carried on walks by coasters and stevedores. The effort is enormous, but the latter suffer more because there are twenty-four people of both sexes who walk under the chariot and are surrounded by a thick curtain that hides them from public view. As st. John the Baptist walks, the stevedores march barefoot and this tradition increases the difficulty of the journey.
Each section stops the caravan and the loaders rest for a few minutes, drink the liquid provided to them by the watering children, and the priest makes a prayer for peace, for health and for the countries of those present. It’s exciting to see you alluded to.
Each float travels accompanied by an entourage of honor composed of females of any age who wear black, wearing black or white combs and blankets depending on the procession. Also part of the entourage are men dressed in white cassocks and black or Prussian blue capirotes as required.
As if all this were not true, the floats are put before or happens a musical band distributed in such a balanced way that the melody of one does not interfere with that of another and whose members are carefully defied in uniform.
No one comes close to the images to touch them, there is no human barrier or ropes to avoid the squeezing of the participants against the chargers, who are already exhausted by the effort after covering a few meters. Nor is it necessary for a large number of police to ensure the tranquility of the commemoration, you only distinguish a few who ensure the diversion of traffic.
Even in the narrowest alleyways there is a overwhelming circumspection that even the least of them do not break. There are no runs or football, neither do the shops open or the TVs are turned on; the city in full mourns the death of Christ with absolute sincerity.
Mass in the hermitage is followed by the transfer of Our Father Jesus Nazarene and Our Lady of Solitude, almost at night, to the parish of St. Peter the Apostle (located more than a kilometer away) with an organization unknown to you. You discover that in the march clowns, Chinese, brunettes, gypsies, Latinos and Moroccans come together in the same faith. In the parades they all become pijos and keep a nap silence.
It begins on Palm Sunday with the procession of a small image of the Child Jesus charged by the younger ones; He is followed by the blessing of the palms and then the procession of St. John the Baptist. On Holy Tuesday there is a penitential procession and on Thursday, after the Eucharist of the Last Supper, the Most Holy Christ of Gethsemane and also our Father Jesus Nazarene is walked.
The most poignant are the holy Friday and Sabbath processions. In the first is organized the processional crucis way and later the procession of Our Lady of Solitude and that of the Most Holy Christ of The Expiration; while in the second, the procession of the Holy Burial comes out. The next day, Resurrection Sunday, the procession takes place in which the meeting of the Most Holy Risen Christ with Our Lady of Solitude in the Plaza Mayor is reproduced.
The Saturday following the Resurrection begins with a Mass and the Besamanos of Our Lady of Solitude, also with procession, and the next day, at the fall of the afternoon, the transfer of Our Father Jesus Nazarene and Our Lady of Solitude takes place from the parish of St. Peter the Apostle to the hermitage of the roundabout. That’s how Easter ends.
You notice how the city recovers from the sadness of a luctuous season. Barajas returns to normal and soon after the circumstances force you to return to yours, to that of your land, to that normality planted with broken streets, of people who wander during working hours, of rubbish in the corners, of packed guaguas, of marketing on the left, of blackouts, of water by pipes… but you still haven’t managed to get it off your back, even if you don’t want to express it.
You’re leaving. “Goodbye, Barajas, may Our Lady of Solitude allow me to see you again…—whisper as you walk towards Adolfo Suarez dragging your suitcases full of memories.
It’s any moment of any year, it doesn’t matter. Yesterday is today. Total, what do you care? You’re taxing at 12 noon on This Sunday, August 30, 2015. You don’t erase anything. You’re about to take off and wonder how you got here. You long to get off the plane to get lost in the ins and out of its streets, get drunk with the murmur of fountains and the fragrance of roses; procession with your barajeños in Easter and ask for what you asked for again.
It’s been an exhausting journey you started many years ago. You want to take the time back and think, as a comfort perhaps, that for some reason God has sat you on this plane from which you contemplate the bell tower of St. Peter the Apostle built, in the center of the Old Decks, just to warn you that you are very close to taking off, to leave this land that you now also carry inside, even if you do not want to express it , and that this manoeuvre is the most dangerous of the journey.
You’re still in time to ask God for a successful takeoff, but you don’t because there are aspects of your return that worry you much more than the ship’s “simple” ascent on the runway. Ω
1 By whom the bells ring, novel testimony of the Spanish Civil War written by Ernest Hemingway. The contest took place between July 17, 1936 and the 1st. April 1939.