When I was a child, I imagined what my parents’ life must have been in Caracas, the place where they met. I imagined their world through their stories. The narrative of their lives as emigrants suppressed most of the massive work they had to do in order to survive, and what stood out about their experience was the sense of community: the dances and meetings at the Hermandad Gallega. At times, they mentioned how difficult it had been to get there or how much of a change it was to go from Armariz or Berredo to Venezuela’s capital. But the hardships, the sadness, never reached us, the daughters of those returned immigrants.
I have always been fascinated by the impact of emigration on our homeland. The more than 300 “emigration schools,” schools in Galicia’s rural areas created and financed by emigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are some of the most powerful examples of philanthropy and social compromise with our country. But the way of understanding “What is ours” beyond Galicia deserves a separate chapter.
Miguel, Roberto and I arrived in Mar del Plata. We were participating in the tenth Gathering of Bagpipers and prepared a concert with the best emissaries of our culture there: the children and grandchildren of Galicians who play and dance daily. Already on stage and at the end of the concert, I approched to greet a woman with whom I had joked around all day, and then the hundred musicians began shouting, “Sing, Visita! Sing!” and Visita sang. And I could not contain my emotion. The voice of Visita Turnes, she who had arrived in Argentina in 1958 with little intention of staying in the country, had all the hues and afflictions of emigration.
The other Galicias provide us with doses of “being Galician.” Full of passion and stories that will be probably be lost in time, of life lessons that we are likely never to hear.