King of the Jivaro Tribe

La Voz de Galicia – February 23, 2018 →

Cristina Pato She made some huevos rancheros, and during lunch, we began to talk about the strange sensation of living in the limbo of various realities, about the idea of belonging to all and, at the same time, to none of the cultures where one is raised. Mónica was born in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico, and when she was ten years old she moved to New York with her family. Her parents are from Avión, in the Galician province of Ourense. The history of her mother’s family is linked to one of the most fascinating characters of Galician immigration: Alfonso Graña, “the King of the Jivaro Tribe.” This Galician from Amiudal went to Iquitos, Peru, in search of fortune, and due to the rubber crisis in the Twenties, decided to travel up the Amazon River…Graña ended up living all his life with the Jivaros, and he even collaborated on the foiled research project of the Galician aviator Iglesias Brage during the Second Republic.

Mónica Álvarez intertwines her life as an English teacher in one of the most prestigious private schools in the United States with her passion for the novels of Jane Austen, collaborating as Program Chair with the North American literary society devoted to the English writer. Her doctoral dissertation focused on female friendship in Austen’s six published novels, and our conversations tend to revolve around gender studies. Mónica has never lived in Galicia, but she is essentially Galician in humor, character, manners, and speech…

Around the dining room table, Graña’s incredible story illuminated the visible and invisible aspects of Galician immigration as well as feelings of nostalgia, longing, and uprootedness. The question simply hung in the air: what values sustained Galician immigration and transformed workers into explorers, adventures, and philanthropists, in the ambassadors of Galician culture?

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