An Evening with the Descendents of Exile

We went to a cocktail party tonight. It was my first cocktail party (maybe the first for others, too) and I was nervous. Who will be there? How long do we have to stay? Who am I going to talk to? Just like any other party, you walk in and search for the people you know and talk first with them. We all entered the swanky, four-star hotel and headed first for the people we knew, our new friends in Madrid: Ceferino, Ludi, María Luisa, and Carmen, members of the Association of Descendents of Exile.

We first met Ludi, Ceferino, and Carmen as they gave us a tour of Fuencarral Cemetery, where there are plaques to commemorate the sacrifices of the International Brigades. Ludi is a pure historian who could talk for hours about who shot who, where, and why. Ceferino is a man you want to talk to because you know he’ll make you laugh; he cleverly places his commentaries about the war and exile in this agreeable personality. Carmen is a very poised person who works tirelessly for the group. María Luisa, who we first met several nights ago and had tapas with, has been very gracious to share with us her stories of exile (both in person and through e-mail).

Tonight, we flocked to these four. From there, other descendents of exile (mostly exile in France and Mexico) introduced themselves and we met with new people and new perspectives. Each person couldn’t have been more excited to see us, partly because it was a sign that their hard work was paying off. On the day of our visit to Fuencarral Cemetery, Carmen told us that they work so hard for this organization; she said it’s especially hard because of their financial constraints, their age, and also their need to live their own lives.

While we heard many stories, including how Ceferino has two birth certificates (his original is in Catalán; Franco later ordered that all official documents be rewritten in Castillian), a reporter from Berlin went from person to person, taking notes to put in an article about Spain’s efforts to recuperate memory (implying that interest in this topic stretches across the globe).

A common sentiment from each of these people was that exile is a mentality that they still carry with them. They don’t commemorate the day the war ended; they commemorate the day their exile began. Their exile continues, even as they sang “Ay, Carmela” and emblematic songs of exile outside of the hotel before we parted. These people were excited to see our professor, a person who is knowledgeable concerning exile and who has many connections that these descendents of exile may be interested in, but they were even more excited to be with us, youth, because we’re the ones who have to keep the stories alive.

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