I was looking for one of the stories I had heard from my mother last year. I had recorded it during one of the many interviews I had conducted with her, so while I fixed lunch I put on the recording and began to listen to it again.
But my mother’s interviews jump in time, and her narrative went directly from the ship Montserrat where she emigrated to the moment she began to work on her own. As always, she passed over those two years existing between the time she arrived and the time she became independent, which was the time period that interested me.
The matter is that she began to talk about the job she had in Caracas, and the fact that someone had told her supervisor that she sewed very well. And that without mincing many words, the supervisor, who was not Galician, commissioned her to make the regional costumes that the community ordered for the carnaval. At that moment of the recording, my mother says, «And I, who never dressed in Galician garb, started to look for prints to be able to copy the costumes»; and then I asked her, «And what did you dress like when you lived in Bola?», and she responded, «like ourselves.»
The truth is that I never stopped to think about where my mother had learnt to make her daughters’ «Galician» costumes. I remember her organizing beads and sewing pockets underneath the apron so that my sister Raquel and I could go play at daybreak with our money and documents safely stowed away. But I never imagined that her first exposure to these had been in Caracas and through those prints of regional costumes so common in the sixties…
In the end, I did not find the story I was looking for, but like so many other times, my mother’s story helped me continue constructing that idea, as complex as it is contradictory, of what we call, «cultural identity.»