I Finally Called Maria Jesus

Maria Jesus and her sister Maria Asunsion are my second or third cousins in Zaragoza, Spain. Five years ago, when I last visited, they took me to my grandmother’s hometown of Berdun, something I wish she were alive for, so I could tell her all about it, or even invite her with me. You can read all about these travels starting here.

If I have a regret in this life, it’s that I never took advantage of learning Spanish in my youth, when I had the chance, with school and with my Grandma Eva. I was too timid, both in school and with her. We both were, I think. This is a quality we share in common. If I seem bold and daring nwo, it is only through sheer will. It is not my nature.

I started to learn Spanish five years ago, starting with Pimsleur CDs, for a laugh. I wanted to see if I could really do it, but I also had a mental block. If I couldn’t learn it as a kid, how could I learn it now?

My then boyfriend at the time, Miguel, laughed and rolled his eyes when I first started repeating the lessons from the CDs. Three months later, I had enough to say some sentences, but I couldn’t understand beyond what was offered on the CD, which, if I recall, was how to get to the fictitious Hotel Bolivar.

When we came back from Spain, I searched on Craigslist and found my teacher Natalia, a Madrilena, in San Francisco.

Five years later, I’m in a locutorio in Girona, nervously calling Maria Jesus. This is going to be even tougher than buying tampons, as previously described here. For one, it’s one the phone. Phone conversations are always more difficult. For another, she is not expecting my call. She might have completely forgotten about me. This is scary.  

“Is this Maria Jesus?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Hello, this is Katie, your cousin from California.”


It’s an awkward start, but Chuck and I are heading back to Zaragoza this Wednesday. She says we can stay with her.

If I have a second regret, it’s that I let my fears get the best of me and I waited this long. We’ll only be in Zaragoza one night, and I wonder if this will be enough time.

“You speak with a Spanish accent,” Maria Jesus says. She is being kind, but my attempt at  the castellano accent is no accident. This is what I’ve wanted, from the beginning. I thank her.

“It’s because of your grandmother,” she says.

Todo es por ella.

I’ve passed the next test.


About katiekelly

I grew up in a parking lot.
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5 Responses to I Finally Called Maria Jesus

  1. Jesús Mary says:

    Hola, Katie, acabo de ver tu crónica de tu viaje en España, y ahora estás en Zaragoza, ¿qué tál? Ojalá y estuvieran algo más por allí o es que se van para Berdún? Esa es nuestra zona, la zona de nuestras familias, dos valles hacia el este está el pueblo de mis padres y del padre de María Jesús y Asunción. Seguiremos en contacto. Saludos a mis primas si todavía estás con ellas.

  2. John Kelly says:

    Darling Daughter,
    I think you mean “Castillation” accent.

  3. Indi Young says:

    It is so cool that you have cousins in Spain, Zaragosa, to boot! That’s a lucky thing!

  4. Rich Kfoury says:

    My wife lived with a Maria Jesus in Zaragoza during study abroad program in Spring of 2000. Unfortunately, we have lost touch with them and I cannot remember her last name. I googled “maria jesus Zaragoza” and found this site. I am trying to surprise my wife and get in touch with her, if this is the same Maria Jesus. She had a daughter Elena that would probably be around 20 years old. If this is the same person, please contact me! Muchas Gracias!!!

    • katiekelly says:

      I meant to respond to this much sooner, and I apologize for the delay. Maria Jesús does not have a daughter named Elena, but her sister, Maria Asunsión does. Does this sound right to you?

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