Castelao Medals Acceptance Speech, June 2017

Without a doubt, receiving this medal is an honor–because of its significance, because it comes from my homeland, and especially because it bears the name of Castelao.

As a musician and as an immigrant, I am always conscious of what it means to live in a sort of limbo between two realities and two cultures and of the significance of trying to be present in—and contributing to—both. That feeling of never being where one wants to be, of never being where one needs to be, is a limbo of pure emotions that make one be in perpetual motion to find one’s path.

Castelao’s words define many of these emotions in his Sempre en Galiza (Forever in Galicia). He wrote:
“In the will of certain immigrants, there are engines stronger than poverty, just as in the will of sedentary men, there are emotions that extinguish hunger. Galician immigrants are pushed by unfathomable causes from which no one could be disentangled but which we all vaguely intuited.”

Each one of us establishes a path as best we can. The kerchief I currently have on, trimmed by my mother for God-knows-what saint’s procession, makes me think of the effort it meant for her and for my father to provide for their four daughters the best possible education, of the joys and sorrows of their immigration to Venezuela, of their reasons for their return to Galicia…

As Castelao said so well:
“There is a force that pushes us towards the world and another one that yokes us to our native land, because if lanes tempt us to walk, it is because we leave on a light in the house where we were born, and there it waits for us until the end of our lives. To walk, walk, walk, and at the end of our labors, to return to the Earth the body she lent us.”

To return to that feeling of which I spoke at the beginning, today I don’t wish to wait for the conclusion, for the end of life. Instead, I want to be able to assume the responsibility given to me by a life full of journeys and experiences with a bagpipe beneath my arm. I want to be able to awaken in a Galicia where the immigrants of the past, our elderly, lead dignified lives, lives filled by health and respect because they were able to keep alive our language and our culture in and out of our Galicia, lives where in their old age they feel the outpour of incredible gratitude—daily and passionately—from all of us who are sitting before them today. That generation, the one who anxiously awaits for Friday’s arrival to watch the Galician show Luar, who is not conscious of the effort they made so that we could freely speak our Galician language and celebrate our Galician traditions. That generation who interwove our reality without asking for anything in exchange.

I want to awaken in a Galicia where our Galician culture, music, and way of thinking, where our Galician art and philosophy is every day present in our schools…because teaching how to think through our culture is what transforms these thoughts into actions, and these actions into a movement of love for our culture, into collective valorization and institutional support celebrating a reality as unique and singular as it is powerful.

I want to awaken in a Galicia where our cultural identity is the engine driving us to continue making inroads, the engine of our own social, political and economic development. I want to awaken in a Galicia in which my reality outside of it can be the same for many living in it. I want to awaken in a Galicia where a cultural identity is as powerful as are the Galician women, the widows of the living and the dead, they who brought us to what we are today, reflects a nation proud of its values.

And I conclude with the words uttered by Castelao in his speech Alba de Groria (The Dawn of Glory), delivered in Buenos Aires during the Day of Galicia in 1948 at the time of his exile in Argentina. I conclude with his speech because once it is read and re-read, one realizes that things have not changed that much, or that they have changed, but not so much. Castelao, after offering a beautiful allegory about the ghostly Holy Company made up by great immortal Galicians, said: “Fortunately, Galicia relies, for all eternity, on something more than a made History, on a tradition of unfathomable value, and that is what matters to win the future.”

Cristina Pato
June 28, 2017