It´s not that I didn´t like Madrid. Miguel and I were both amazed by the cleanliness, the warm and winding alley ways, the charming cafes, the efficiency of the public transit which we only used once, before we realized everything worth seeing is in walking distance. More than that, if you happen to make a wrong turn, which you most likely will, if you just keep walking you will eventually end up at your final destination, accidentally. Where ever you look, there is something striking to see: fountains, monuments, statues, trees, gardens, I could go on and on. No, what I don´t like about Madrid is that the people are so damn snobby. And if I could just understand the reasons behind the snobbiness, perhaps I could be more empathetic, but I don´t see what they´ve got to feel all smug about. I just got so sick of it all. I don´t even want to think about it.
Zaragoza is much nicer. We´ve only been here a couple of hours, but I can just tell. I knew it would be as soon as we stepped onto the AVE train.
Berdun, my grandmother´s birthplace, does not seem to be in the cards. We can´t even find it on the map. Plus, as I think I said before, I received an e-mail from Marie Bisauta, who I believe would be a first cousin of my grandmother´s, by marriage, most likely, if I remember the connection correctly. I believe that she married the son of the brother of my great-grandfather Antonio. She lives in Toulousse now. That´s in France. That´s all I know about that city. I don´t even know how to spell it. Anyway, I believe that this would make her daughter, Martine, with whom I´ve corresponded on the Internet my third cousin 3.3 times removed, but I´m not really sure.
In case you´re wondering why on earth my great grandparents ever left Berdun, Spain, which isn´t even on the map, it´s because my great-grandfather killed a dude in a bar fight. There was a vendetta. My grandma Eva kept this family secret until the day that she died. Well, even after that. She never told us. But one day, we had a family barbeque, and one of her brothers let the cat out of the bag. Wow, we were amazed. That´s a heavy load to carry. It also explained so many things, like why she freaked out so much when I started asking her questions for a 7th grade family history project. The questions seemed so innocent at the time, like, “What events prompted your family to come to the U.S.?” but honestly, I doubt that my teacher thought that evading murder charges or a vendetta would be one of the reasons. Well, my Gramma´s response baffled me. She hung up the phone immediately, and then had my aunt call my mom to tell me to never ask those questions again. I carried the guilt of hurting her ever since. And I only got a C on the report, because all I could say was that they came on a ship, the end. I never learned the truth until she passed away. She kept the secret because she was afraid that the vendetta might still be active, and that perhaps the story might leak to someone with connections, and then our family´s lives might be endangered. That could have made such an excellent family history report, but I´m not bitter. Look at how it´s inspired to continue the research!
So here we are, in Aragon, not to far from her birthplace. It seems like a waste to not at least try to find it. But there´s also much to see in Zaragoza, a mid-evil town with Moorish archicitecture, and the fifth largest city in Spain. I´m more comfortable here. When we ask for help at Information booths, they answer our questions. In Madrid, they´d just tell us to read the brochure and to go away.
So if I can meet Marie and Martine Bisauta, cousins of my grandmother, cousins of mine, it would mean more to me than practically anything. Maybe they´ll know more about the family, more about that infamous bar fight, or even where the hell Berdun is. I wonder what they look like, and if they laugh easily. So many things I wonder about. Will they look like Gramma Eva? Will they have the same neurosises like my Gramma Eva? And me? I just with I could tell Gramma Eva about this.
I´m typing in the bar in our hotel in Zaragoza. Miguel´s gone off to bed, bored out of his mind waiting for me. But he´s been my hero on this trip. We made a deal that we´d only speak Spanish, and he´s following through, as much as it tortures him. It takes a long time to make plans, let me put it that way. Slowly, I feel the sounds making some sense. It all usually works fine until someone throws in that th sound, which throws me for a loop. It´s completely unnecessary and I´m wondering who started that all.