It was a meeting via phone with my team from the university. After it concluded, one of my colleagues asked me what my schedule was like when I was here, in Galicia. I replied that I tried to follow the three work schedules I have—the one from New York with its six-hour difference, the one from California with nine, and the one from my village, with my mother and her way of understanding time.
I took her to the hair salon: «Look at these roots», she said. The following day celebrated San Cristovo, Saint Christopher, the patron saint of my father’s village and of drivers everywhere. We took the car to go to mass, and on the way there, we stopped to buy flowers because «God only knows in what shape your father’s tomb is.» It usually takes no more than 40 minutes to go from my house to Armariz, but I was listening to my mother and missed the exit, so the drive took me an hour and a half instead. We arrived, removed the weeds from the tomb, placed the sempiternal red carnations, heard the bells, and ran down to church.
Saint Christopher’s Day is one more religious festivity or romaría, like the hundreds of romarías that often in the summer celebrate the Galician way of understanding life. These are religious festivities like the one celebreating the Virgin of the Carmen, sometimes having little to do with religion itself and more to do with a specific way of remembering the way we were and the way we no longer are.
I was raised in these religious festivities. As a bagpiper, the romarías were a job and as a daughter they were an obligation. But now, between meetings, and with little time to sleep, going to clean my father’s tomb on the same day that he would drive his car to be blessed seems like a small utopia. The village, empty, it only fills up for these festivities. And we, we who are our traditions, must not forget that our cultural identity defines itself through the way we had of celebrating all aspects of life as a community: the saint or the harvest. What will be tomorrow’s utopia?