|Leticia, Manolo, and The Star of the Show|
They are Flor and Angeles, Hilario and Feliciano, Segundino and Angel and Manolo. The sisters are small and slender and fond of flashy fashions.
The brothers are short and portly, with spectacular smiles.
They share the same cheekbones and chins. They are fair enough to pass for Irish, but they´re Castilian to the bone.
Seven sisters and brothers, they grew up in Moratinos and still work together on their parents´ homestead. This weekend they gathered into the corner house on the plaza mayor with all their children, spouses, aunts, and uncles – 29 people altogether.
This is not unusual out here in the pueblo. Big families were the norm, right up to the 1980s.
It is not unusual that Igor, one of the sons of this family, a couple of years ago married Leticia, a daughter of the family who lives on sunny weekends in the house next door to ours. And this afternoon the vast assortment of friends and relations on both sides, and both ends of town, donned their Sunday clothes and descended on the church for the baptism of Asier, the much-anticipated firstborn great-grandchild.
The church was mopped and dusted and decked with flowers. The bell rang, and Angel and Pin set off sky rockets. The 90-something great-grandparents – a bisabuela and a bisabuelo who now live in care-homes far away – gloried in their front-row seats, their faces radiant to see their old village and neighbors again.
The parents stood at the font, a 700-year-old stone cup that´s tucked under the stairs, and offered up their offspring to a Christian life. The baby was duly sprinkled with holy water, and shed not a tear.
Igor and Leticia were baptised at this font. Their mothers were, too, and Leticia´s mother´s father, and who knows how much farther back. Baptisms didn´t used to be so special.
This is the first baptism here for a good six years, Leandra told me.
At the turn of the 20th century, 120 people lived in Moratinos. The young men and maidens grew up together and married one another at this altar, then baptized their children at this font. They knelt here to receive their first communions, and turned up for Sunday Mass and rosary prayers if they were one of the respectable families. And when they died, their families gathered into the church to mourn. The church is still the heart of Moratinos, but these special events are landmarks, remarkably rare.
And so it was, back 20 generations or more, a thousand years. And so it continues, just not nearly so often. Not when the population stands at 21 souls, all of them over age 40.
We spilled out of the church into an Indian summer afternoon. Manolo and Flor and Angel threw out handfuls of candy, and old and young scrambled like gulls to snatch up the goodies. The families stood on the church steps and smiled for the cameras.
The sun was brilliant, the smiles luminous.
From there on the steps of the church you could almost hear Moratinos´ heartbeat.