Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Scheme is Hatched!

I give up one thing that doesn´t fit any more (like training hospitaleros) and another, bigger, more interesting thing zooms right in to take its place.

I came to terms with the Depression. I agreed to sit still while the darkness lasted, because maybe there is something down here for me to learn. Sitting still is against all my upbringing. It is un-American. When anything is less-than excellent, you get up and do something – anything! -- to make it better. Even when doing something is really not the best idea.

So it is hard for me, just sitting here.
But sitting here, after a while, I start to see the big picture. The writing on the wall stops being part of the décor and starts demanding translation.

With fewer and fewer pilgrims stopping here, I don´t need to focus on accommodating them. I have lost a lot of interest in things Santiago. I have answered the same questions 100 times, and I´ve barked up the same trees at least as often to fix the things that don´t work so well. And I realize maybe the Camino does not need any fixing. It is exactly what it is. Pilgrims come and go, like they´ve done for a thousand years. We´ll continue giving them a bed and a meal if they need it. But what I achieve, or don´t achieve, camino-wise, means little or nothing.

So I decided to stop training people to be volunteer hospitaleros. I sent in a resignation to the Canadian Confraternity and the Spanish federation a week ago, and posted the news on, the forum where I am most present, camino-wise. Nary a ripple was seen on the stream.

And a day later, up from Moratinos jumped another fish to fry. It´s fiesta week, and the town is heaving with friends and relations, come home to see granny and the cousins in the old pueblo. Everyone is happy to see the new chestnut trees and flowers blooming in the plaza, the cleaned-up streets, the fincas now for sale. Both church bells rang for the Santo Tomas procession, a jolly racket that echoed for miles across the fields and made all the dogs howl out loud.

procession of Sto. Tomas Apostol

And so we struck. A little group of us year-round residents rounded-up the visitors and founded a new Cultural Association, aimed at preserving Moratinos´ memories, informing outsiders of our little hidden treasures, and maybe shoring up our crumbling cultural patrimony, which is made of adobe.  

Response was overwhelming. No fewer than 55 people put their names down, along with a 10-Euro note to get things started. Men and women, young and old, all of them with some tie to this town, people determined – even though only 20 of us actually live here all the time --  to not let Moratinos die.  

I was made president. No one asked me. I was told.
I think it is because everyone can talk to me. My uncle didn´t offend their cousin back in 1985, so I am OK. I am a goober, clueless to a lot of historical inter-familial bullshit – when that comes up, I pretend to not understand. I work hard to keep a civil relationship with everyone here.
Costume contest: the Asturian chickens
This, I think, offers an opportunity to heal old wounds.

Only one family told me No, this can´t work, that people need to go home and mind their own business. They´ve been hurt in the past. I think they are just taking a “wait and see” stance. Once they see how things progress, they may jump on board, too. Because I feel pretty positive about this. And when I set out to make something happen, it usually works.  

I don´t have to handle money. There´s a treasurer for that. No need to take notes, because we have a secretary, too. Total transparency will be written into the bylaws. I might have to mount a FaceBook page, and update it with photos and copy – I can find someone to help me translate. Maybe this will improve my Spanish. Maybe someone will step up and make a web page. There is a lot of talent here.
Talent is cheap. Follow-through is what will make it really happen, once the initial enthusiasm goes. I am as hard-headed as a Castilian. I can make this stick. I just hope I do not step on too many peoples´ toes on the way.  
this year´s winner: a Pirate Ship!
We are starting out small. Tomorrow we will deposit all those ten-Euro bills in a new bank account. We will file papers to make ourselves an official Asociacion Cultural in Palencia province.  (You can join, too, and donate as much money as you like!)
We will clarify our goals. We will settle on what to call ourselves. And then start doing.

I have ideas, simple things we can execute with or without help from ministries or government groups. A sad fact is, many people here wait around for the government to improve things.  They don´t step up til they have a grant in hand, and grants don´t happen so much any more. But we can build a signpost, an information station to tell visitors what those caves are in the hillside, (bodegas), what those round buildings are in the fields (dovecotes). We can organize ourselves enough to open the church, open our bodegas, to show our children and our visitors that this is a rare sight, a disappearing resource, a  rustic little gem to be treasured.        

Small things, simple things. If we can make that work, we can tackle larger projects. Make the collapsed bodegas safe. Fix the uneven pavement in the plaza. Rationalize the reams of mouldering historical documents into a small archive. Label old photos. Collect old recipes and craftwork and stories from the elderly, while they are still here.Things people say are impossible, or too much, or beyond the reach of a small town and little people.

We are not many, but we have a big reach. We are scattered all over Spain, and most of us have some skill or another to offer. We love Moratinos. And we are only as small as our expectations. 

And here in the dark is something I believe in, something new worth working on.  


Sil said...

What a fabulous new undertaking, Reb! You can also tell pilgrims and tourists that if a few fields are lying fallow it doesn't mean that the land has been abandoned (as Kathy sadly thought!) and that they plantings are being rotated. We've all got a lot to learn about Moratinos and the surrounding countryside!

Beth Caporali said...

Now who's the museum chick! What a great idea, and you are the perfect choice for prez. Can't wait to see all the upgrades/repairs/information next time I come to see you.

Ivar said...

Olé! Olé! Olé!

Mucha suerte!

Christine Adams said...

You are blooming where you are planted! Enhorabuena!

Ingrid said...

Reb, I am more convinced each day, you are doing all this ,so I will give the Meseta one more try... how fabulous and I liked the new page... congrats and lots of fun. Ingrid

Rachael said...

How WONDERFUL!!!! We fell in love with Moratinos and made up stories about various buildings! If only I spoke more Spanish I would be there in a heartbeat to do the interviewing and transcribing of the oldies' stories and recipes and crafts. I'd buy the place next door to you and offer it as a living museum - which is exactly what the whole place could be. And if you arrive on wheels you have to pay 20euros to get in;-) I do hope your candid comments on Ivar's forum don't end, but this really is a wonderful opportunity. I thought I didn't want to "do" another Frances, but maybe, just maybe (or at least if I do the E2 or Iron Curtain Trail, I'll detour to Moratinos at the end!)

Rachael said...

PS This post should bring about the ripples!!!

Ellen said...

My treat at the end of my day for the past while has to read a bit more of your blog. I started at the beginning and read a few posts each night along with the new post if there is one. So happy to read this Rebekah. I admire you tremendously and I wish you so much success with this incredibly worthwhile project. I walked through Moratinos in Sept. 2012 before I knew anything about the town. The image of the bodegas and the town stuck with me and I look forward to visiting again. Will you post info on how to donate to this project?

Anonymous said...

Reb you are the ideal person to head this up. As a well known 'incomer' you do not have the baggage of past village life. Good luck with the project to Moratinos as a whole.
Maybe one day Moratinos will have a museum like the one at Grandas de Salime based on Moratinos village life and history. How about the finca you mentioned???
Terry B and Tia Valeria

Anonymous said...

I find it more than coincidental that I found and bought my St. James cross in Moratinos. It even happened that I thanked Bruno for it on his birthday!


Arn said...

This is right up my alley. I've done research on structures that need saving around the world. Closer to home, my home Eastern View circa: 1783, the last single room log cabin school house located on the property was disassembled and reassembled at the county historical society. . I am heavy into repair and reconstruction of historical/significant structures. Count me in where needed.

Deirdre said...

Fenomenal! If I can help, let me know!

Faith said...

Awesome, Rebekah!! I can feel the energy and joy through your post.

t2andreo said...

This post proves the saying that "...when God closes one door...another opens..." It will all work out. Do NOT let your "black dogs" get you down.

Please let me / us know if you need anything. Like several of the others, I would rather be "there" than "here." But such is our lot in life.

I believe preserving the history of Moratinos is vitally important while there is still time. This is truly a good thing.

Also, please let us know when, where and how we can contribute.

Anonymous said...

pueblo chico: infierno grande... at times!