Exiting the subway station with my husband, I suddenly heard someone yell in Galician. There was construction going on in one of the busiest streets in Brooklyn’s most fashionable district, Williamsburg. In my ignorance about the world of construction, I could not say who was whom, but the one who screamed the loudest seemed to be in charge, and the ones who listened appeared to understand Galician perfectly. We stared for a bit, and I could not help asking the angriest of the lot, “Hey, there! What part of Galicia are you from?” And he, half-smiling, answered, “Where are you from?” Something happened at the construction site that made him turn back and continue screaming about the sound of the heavy machinery that was stopping traffic. We walked a few more steps through the orange cones when another man, possessing a more calm demeanor, approached and began to speak with us: about Galicia, about work, about life…pure philosophy surrounded by the deafening sound of civilization.
I don’t recall their names; I only remember the feeling of intense joy and the places of origin: Muros and Noia. We took a picture together; I discovered the reason he left the old country and carried a smile on my soul for the rest of the day.
These men were not older than I am. Nor were they descendants of that generation of Galician immigrants who arrived in New York and Newark to find their living in construction during the middle of the twentieth century.
“History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” is a phrase attributed to Mark Twain. The history of Galician immigration continues to rhyme with itself, and the life of Galicia and Galicians abroad continues to be fascinating.
After finishing up in Brooklyn, we went to Sevilla Restaurant for some caldo (a delicious Spanish broth) and, like always, I eyed Roberto’s watch. Roberto, the Galician immigrant who never changed the time on his watch since he left Celanova more than fifty years ago.