Life in a Spanish Village Before Spanish Democracy

My father-in-law is a very interesting man, with lots of stories to tell. I am always fascinated by the things he’s done and the adventures he’s had, even if those adventures were confined to a small Spanish village with a population of less than 500. His village, San Cebrián de Castro, is located in the province of Zamora, 28 kilometers from Zamora itself. It’s located in the Tierra del Pan, known for growing wheat to make perhaps Spain’s most important food: bread.

I asked my father-in-law to answer some questions about what growing up in the village was like, around the years 1950 to 1970, before Franco’s death. I will translate the questions/answers, but you can see the original Spanish after the English translation.

San Cebrián de Castro

How many siblings do you have? Was it more or less than the average in your village?

I have two siblings. Although I don’t have any data, I think it was less than the village average.

Who were your parents? What were their jobs?

My father, B. He was a farmer (agricultural), although he also was a leather worker. My father loved reading, and to get books he took them out of the few books there were in the Town Hall library, books which he would read to my siblings; I hadn’t been born. He used to make balls from rags for them too.

In a village, being a farmer includes caring for a few animals for personal use and enjoyment: a pair of cows or mules, donkeys, pigs (a sow to bear suckling pigs which would then be sold), one or two pigs for la matanza [yearly pig slaughter to get pork]. We had a cat, a dog (sometimes), and some chickens.

My mother, A. She was a housewife. She did all the housework: washing the clothes, ironing, cooking, cleaning and organizing the house, sewing and mending, delicious sweets, and, of course, bread. In our own wood-fired oven. If that wasn’t enough, she also made espadrilles from old soles of other shoes and thread (later these shoes would be in fashion during the summers). During the appropriate seasons, she’d make sweet quince marmelade and grape syrup. And of course she was also our mother.

When did you start school? Tell me about your school experiences.

At the time, school started when you were six years old and ended when you were fourteen. It was called Enseñanza Elemental [Elementary Education]. I started at five. My first teacher’s name was Mr. A; I was with him for one year. Later came Mr. J, and I was with him four years. Later still, Mr. J, and after that I went to Toro to study at the seminary there.

Class was from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturdays we also had class, but we didn’t have class on Thursday afternoons. Later they would change that to having Saturday afternoons free.

We had one book, the “Encyclopedia.” We had Religion and Morality, Holy History, Spanish Language and Literature, Arithmetic, Geometry, Geography, Spanish History, Natural Sciences, Law, Political Education for Boys, Commemorative Lessons, and Health. The girls’ books also had Political Education for Girls and Social and Family Education. There was a boys’ school and a girls’ school. In each, there were approximately 60 students for each teacher. And nowadays they complain about the student/teacher ratio!

The teachers had three sections or grades: First grade, from six to eight years old; second grade, from nine to twelve; and third grade, from thirteen to the end. I’m not sure if it was exactly like that, but it’s close. The teacher would divide his time up by explaining a concept to one group, giving them work, and moving on to the next group, afterwards repeating the process. The older students who were faster at getting their work done would help the younger ones in the fundamentals, mainly reading and doing sums.

The school material, compared with today, was very scarce. Blackboards, maybe a map, a globe, a box with geometry materials, sets of volume and weighing measuring tools, ruler, framing square, compass, and some book. I remember El Quijote, Héroes, and Corazón.

At 11:30 a.m. we had thirty minutes for recess. They would give us a glass of milk. (We brought from home a plastic cup with a spoon and a bit of sugar, which we carried in a cloth bag made by our mothers.) In the afternoon, upon leaving, they gave us a piece of creamy orange cheese, which came in large cylindrical cans, of a golden color, with black letters in English. The milk was powdered, and it came in great big containers. Two students would take their turns preparing the milk in a large pot, which they would later take to their house to wash and bring back clean the following day.

The cheese and milk, which were given out between the years of 1955 and 1963, were compensations following the signing of military and defense agreements with the U.S., which later allowed the U.S. to establish military bases in Spain.

Outside of class, we played constantly. Because there wasn’t money, we invented loads of imaginative games. In all of these games, we were active, moving constantly. One of these games was called la pídola (in my village piola) [English: leapfrog], hopscotch, hide and seek, English hide and seek … and when we had a ball, soccer.

Of course, the girls had their own games, with singing being present in almost of all them. Some of these were skipping rope, jacks, hopscotch (which we called limbo). Although we weren’t “doing sport,” like they say today, we were in shape because we ran a lot in many of the games we played.

Town Hall San Cebrián de Castro

Tell me about the food in your village. What did you eat?

There wasn’t a lot of money or much selection in the stores, so the food we ate was very simple and quite monotonous.

In the morning, el almuerzo (how we called breakfast) consisted on most days of sopas de ajo [garlic soup] and later torreznos, fried pig fat, and fried bread. Sometimes chickpea ratatouille, made from leftover chickpeas. When we were sick, we bought cow’s milk. Some families had cow’s milk for breakfast more often than we did.

At midday, we almost always ate cocido. It wasn’t like the cocido we have now, though. It was chickpeas with a bit of pig fat, a piece of chorizo (if there was any), and rellenos [made of chickpeas and eggs fried]. And as a first course, we had a soup with the broth and rice or fideua noodles (a few times with bread crumbs). During winter, when got it from the garden, we ate it with cabbage.

For a snack, we had a bit of bread with something.

Dinner was more varied: white/black/kidney beans, lentils, rice, potatoes (sometimes with cod or pork ribs) … or tortilla. During summer and the beginning of fall, we had salad with our lunch and dinner, which was normally made up of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Of course, we didn’t have much dessert. We only had the seasonal fruit: melons and watermelons from the middle of August and grapes from the middle of September. Those who had fruit in their gardens could enjoy pears, apples, cherries, or albérchigos (similar to apricots).

New things: In June and July, some merchants came from Pueblica de Valverde selling cherries and in October and November, they came from Sanabria to sell apples, chestnuts, and walnuts, which were used in the pig slaughter and Christmas. Later on, people would start to sell bananas, oranges, pears, along with other fruits and nuts.

Talk about religion and its importance.

I believe that, like in all of Spain, religion was present in our lives and it marked the daily and seasonal rhythms. The bells helped us to remember. At 12 p.m., they played Angelus, which called us to prayer. Every day there was Mass in the morning and a rosary at night. And when a celebration dedicated to a saint or virgin drew near, after the rosary there would be a Novena (a prayer for nine days). The village’s specific celebrations were Pentecost Monday, the celebration of Nuestra Señora de Realengo (though we just called it “The Virgin”), and on September 16 San Cipriano, the village’s patron saint. There were various Religious Associations or Brotherhoods, some of which are still around today, as you know.

At school, you prayed when you entered and left class, and we sang a song related to the government’s ideology. We enjoyed singing them. In May, we made a simple altar at school, and we prayed the Las Flores prayer, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In each school, there had to be, at least, a crucifix, a portratio of El Caudillo [Franco], and a portrait of the Virgin Mary.

Tell us about the importance of festivals.

Sunday was a festival day, not like nowadays, because you wore nicer clothing, no one worked or went to school, and you ate something different. Of course you went to Mass, and there were two dancing sessions, afternoon and night. In a village, the festival days were very important, because they marked time like the seasons. Moreover, you wore new clothing, you ate special foods, and even sometimes sweet desserts. And, of course, there was dancing. They had a religious and a non-religious component.

The religious component consisted of a mass being sung and a procession through the village streets. In the afternoon, there was a rosary. Of course, there was a Novena (nine days before we prayed the corresponding Novena after the rosary). In both, the non-religious component was the dancing. There were three sessions: el baile vermú (after mass until lunchtime), el baile de la tarde (after the rosary and until dinnertime [from 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.]), and el baile de la noche (from 10 p.m. until midnight).

In these festivals, the owner of the dancing hall hired some musicians, and there was a fee to enter. The young people danced without stopping, the young married people danced quite a lot, the middle-aged married folk danced one song or another while watching their daughters to see who they danced with and if someone came out to accompany her after finishing. The kids? Because there wasn’t a lot of money, we ran around the dance hall, among the couples, while we ate the few sweets that we were able to buy.

Tell us about the “technology” (bathrooms, televisions, etc.).

You say such funny things! Let’s begin with the bathrooms. When you needed to “go to the bathroom,” we went out to the corral. If you were sleeping or sick, you went in a chamber pot, which we kept under the bed. Running water came to my village in 1980 (the year in which my first son was born). Then we made the first bathroom, which is the one you know.

The telephone, like I told you in the entry about la mili … I’m not sure what year it came to the village. At first there was just one, which was public and attended to by one person. First it was my godmother and later the owner of the bar. This was more reasonable because it was open more hours, and, also, people would call you when they thought that the person they were calling, or a friend, would be around. When you wanted to make a call, you would go to the telephone, the person who was in charge would come out (perhaps he/she would dial the number for you), a timer would start, and at the end of the call you paid the amount the timer said. But if someone called you, two things could happen: The person would tell the attendant what time they would call again, and the attendant would tell you, or they would simply tell the attendant the message and he/she would tell you. As you see, very sophisticated.

At home, we had a radio, Askar brand, which today would be a desired piece for collectors, which we kept in the room where we did everything. The most in-demand programs were soap operas, news programs at 10 p.m., music, and radio contests.

And now, television. The first television arrived in San Cebrián at the end of the 1950s and to my parents’ house in 1972. I helped to pay for it with my first paychecks, when I was student teaching. The first two television were in the bar and the other at the priest’s house. Why do I say this? Because it was really important. Because children couldn’t go to the bar, there was only one other option. Thus, on Sunday afternoons, we watched an American series, of course, and for children Rin Tin Tin, which was the dog’s name (a German Shepherd), who was always tagging along with little Rusty (I think) and who saved a group of American soldiers. On Wednesdays, we could watch La Copa Europa soccer matches, now known as the Champion’s League, in which a Spanish team might participate, and it was almost always Real Madrid. Later, to watch the games, because the priest’s living room was a bit small, he set up the television in the sacristy, and there is where we fans would go.

Although you didn’t ask, I’m going to talk about the movies. Yes, yes, the movies. At first, it was mobile. A man from Zamora would come with a van or a truck, and in the dance hall (the same place where the bar was), he hung a white sheet from the wall (the screen), over which he projected the movie. Of course, it was Spanish cinema. Later on, the breadmaker made a room for the movies, with an inclined floor, seats, screen, and box office. They would also hang up a poster of the next movie and hand out some small posters as well. That was something else entirely!

Did you ever visit other parts of Spain?

Before leaving the village to study (at eleven years), they would take us from the village to Zamora on a few different occasions: when you were sick, when they were going to buy you your suit for your first communion, to take a photo of you in your suit, sometimes to see the horses, and little else. Later on I went to Salamanca where my aunt and uncle lived (my dad’s siblings), my Uncle S, and my Aunt A, when I was still a little boy. From school we went, at 17, to Burgos.


¿Dónde y cuándo naciste?

Nací el 26 de abril de 1952 en un pueblecito de la provincia de Zamora, llamado San Cebrián de Castro.

¿Por qué este nombre? San Cebrián, porque su patrono es San Cipriano; de Castro, porque su término, al igual que el de otros muchos municipios, pertenecía a una antigua ciudad llamada Castrotorafe, próxima al pueblo.

¿Cuántos hermanos tenías? ¿Tenías más o menos de la media?

Tengo 2 hermanos. Aunque no tengo datos, creo que menos de la media del pueblo.

¿Quiénes eran tus padres? ¿Cuáles eran sus profesiones?

Mi padre, B. Era agricultor, aunque también sabía el oficio de guarnicionero. O sea, sabía fabricar y reparar el conjunto de correajes y demás efectos (normalmente hechos de cuero) que se ponen a las caballerías para que tiren de los carruajes o para montarlas o cargarlas. A mi padre le gustaba mucho leer y para ello sacaba de la escasa biblioteca del Ayuntamiento algún libro que, antes de la cena, leía a mis hermanos (según me han referido); creo que yo no había nacido. Además hacía pelotas de trapos para mis hermanos.

Cuando se dice agricultor, en un pueblo, incluye el cuidado de algunos animales para uso y disfrute particular: la pareja de vacas o de mulas, el burro, los cerdos: una cerda para criar lechones y venderlos; uno o dos cerdos para hacer la matanza. Teníamos algún gato, un perro (a veces) y varias gallinas.

Mi madre, A. Era ama de casa o como se cataloga actualmente, sus labores. Y realizaba todas las tareas mecánicas del hogar: lavar la ropa, planchar, cocinar, limpiar y encalar la casa, coser y remendar la ropa, deliciosos dulces y, por supuesto, el pan. En nuestro propio horno de leña. Por si fuera poco, también confeccionaba alpargatas, para ello reutilizaba suelas de otras zapatillas, telas e hiladillo (posteriormente están de moda para verano). En temporada hacía dulce de membrillo y arrope. Y además era madre.

¿Cuándo empezaste el colegio? Cuéntame de tus experiencias en el colegio.

En mi época la escolarización comenzaba a los 6 años y terminaba a los 14 cumplidos y se llamaba Enseñanza Elemental. Yo comencé a los 5 años. Mi primer maestro se llamaba D. A, con él estuve 1 curso. Posteriormente vino D. J, con quien estuve 4 cursos y después D. J, con quien sólo estuve un curso, ya que al siguiente salí del pueblo para estudiar en Toro en el Seminario.

La clase, por la mañana, era de 10 a 13 horas, y por la tarde, de 15 a 17 horas. Los sábados había clase y los jueves por la tarde no había clase. Posteriormente se pasó la tarde libre a los sábados.

En la Enciclopedia, nuestro único libro, teníamos Religión y Moral, Historia Sagrada, Lengua Española, Aritmética, Geometría, Geografía, Historia de España, Ciencias de la Naturaleza, Derecho, Formación Política niños, Lecciones conmemorativas, Higiene. Y la de las niñas tenían Formación Política niñas y Formación Familiar y social

Había una escuela de niñas y otra de niños. En cada una, cuando yo asistía, éramos aproximadamente 60 alumnos. ¡Y se quejan ahora de la ratio profesor/alumno!

El maestro tenía 3 secciones o grados: Primer grado de 6 a 8 años; segundo grado de 9 a 12 y tercer grado de 12 al final. No sé si era exactamente así. En todo caso sería muy aproximado. El maestro se repartía el tiempo, más o menos, de esta manera: explicaba a un grupo o grado y les ponía trabajo individual; después repetía el proceso, pasando por los tres grados.

Los alumnos del tercer grado que eran más aventajados (acababan antes su tarea) ayudaban a los pequeñines en las instrumentales, principalmente leer y hacer cuentas.

El material escolar, comparado con lo que conocemos ahora, era muy escaso: encerados (pizarras diríamos ahora), algún mapa, una esfera, una caja con cuerpos geométricos, un juego de medidas de capacidad, otro con las de peso (masa, para ser exactos), regla, escuadra, cartabón y compás de pizarra y diversos libros de lectura (varios ejemplares de cada uno). Recuerdo los siguientes: el Quijote, Héroes, Corazón.

A las 11.30 teníamos 30 minutos de recreo y al comenzarlo nos daban un vaso de leche (llevábamos de casa, en una bolsita de tela, hecha por nuestra madre, un vaso de plástico con una cucharita y un poco de azúcar). Por la tarde, al salir, nos daban un trozo de queso de color naranja, cremoso, que venía en grandes latas cilíndricas de color dorado con letras negras en inglés.

La leche era en polvo y venían en unos grandes bidones de cartón especial con bolsa de plástico interior. Dos alumnos, turnándose diariamente, preparaban la leche en una gran cazuela que después llevaban a su casa para fregarla y entregarla limpia al día siguiente.

La leche y el queso, que se repartieron, aproximadamente, entre 1955 y 1963, eran contraprestaciones tras la firma de acuerdos de alianza militar y de defensa, del año 1953 (creo), por los cuales comenzaron a instalar los EEUU en España bases militares.

Fuera de clase, jugábamos todo el tiempo. Como no había medios/recursos la imaginación popular inventó muchos jugos. En ellos primaba la actividad, el movimiento, combinados, en unos casos con la fuerza y, en otros, con la habilidad. Algunos de ellos eran la pídola (en mi pueblo piola), al castro, al escondite, al esconderite inglés… y cuando había balón, al fútbol.

Por supuesto, las niñas tenían sus propios juegos, siendo común en casi todos cantar mientras se realizaban. Entre ellos estaban la comba, las tabas, la rayuela (en mi pueblo el limbo)… Aunque no hacíamos deporte, como hoy se entiende, estábamos “en forma” para correr, que era lo más necesario en casi todos los juegos.

Habla de la comida del pueblo.

Como había pocos medios (dinero) y muy escasa oferta en el comercio, las comidas eran muy sencillas y reinaba la monotonía.

Por la mañana el almuerzo (así llamábamos al desayuno), que consistía, gran parte de los días, en sopas de ajo (ahora sopa castellana) y después torreznos (tocino frito) y tostas (pan frito). Alguna vez, pisto de garbanzos con los que sobraban de comer el día anterior. Cuando estabas enfermo compraban leche de vaca. Algunas familias desayunaban leche con más frecuencia.

A mediodía, la comida, casi siempre, cocido. No, no podía ser como el que tú conoces ahora. Eran los garbanzos con un trozo de tocino, un trozo de chorizo (si aún quedaba) y los rellenos. Y de entrada, la sopa de fideos o de arroz (menos veces de pan migado). En invierno (cuando había en la huerta) se acompañaba con berza.

La merienda consistía en una rebanada de pan con… o untado de…

La cena era más variada: alubias blancas, alubias de color, lentejas, arroz, patatas solas o, a veces, con bacalao o con costillas de cerdo adobadas… o tortilla. En verano y comienzos del otoño, la comida y/o la cena se acompañaba de ensalada que, normalmente, tenía tomates, pimientos y cebolla (o alguno de ellos). Por supuesto, muy pocas veces había postre. Tan solo teníamos la fruta de cosecha: melones y sandías desde mediados de agosto y uvas desde mediados de septiembre. Quienes tenían huerta con frutales podían disfrutar de peras, manzanas, cerezas o albérchigos (parecidos a los albaricoques).

Novedades: en junio y julio venían de Pueblica de Valverde a vender cerezas y en octubre y noviembre, venían de Sanabria a vender manzanas, castañas y nueces, que se aprovechaban para los días de matanza y para las navidades. Posteriormente, en el comercio se vendían plátanos, naranjas, peras y otras frutas o frutos secos.

Habla de la religión y su importancia.

Creo que, como en toda España, la religión estaba presente en nuestras vidas y marcaba el ritmo diario y estacional. Las campanas eran las encargadas de recordarlo. A las doce tocaban al Angelus, que se rezaba y por la tarde a oración. Todos los días había una misa por la mañana y rosario por la tarde. Y cuando se acercaba una celebración dedicada a un santo o la Virgen ( en alguna de sus advocaciones), después del Rosario había una Novena.

Las dos principales fiestas eran el Lunes de Pentecostés, fiesta de Ntra. Sra. de Realengo, aunque allí todos decimos “La Virgen” y el 16 de septiembre, San Cipriano, patrono del pueblo.Existían diversas Asociaciones Religiosas o Cofradías; aún persisten algunas, como bien sabes.

En la escuela se rezaba siempre al entrar y al salir de clase y cantábamos alguna canción relacionada con la ideología del gobierno. Disfrutábamos cantándolas. En el mes de mayo, hacíamos un sencillo altar en la escuela y se rezaban Las Flores, dedicadas a La Virgen María. En cada Escuela había, al menos, un crucifijo, un retrato del Caudillo, Franco, y uno de la Virgen.

Habla de las fiestas y su importancia.

El domingo ya era un día de fiesta, no como ahora se considera, ya que se vestía mejor ropa, no se trabajaba ni había clase y se comía algo diferente. Por supuesto se iba a misa y había dos sesiones de baile, la de tarde y la de noche. En un pueblo las fiestas tenían muchísima importancia, ya que al igual que las estaciones del año marcaban el ritmo del tiempo. Además se estrenaba ropa, se hacía comida especial y hasta postres dulces. Y, por supuesto, había más horas de baile. Tenían un componente religioso y otro, digamos, profano.

El religioso consistía en una misa cantada y una procesión por las calles del pueblo y por la tarde un rosario. Por supuesto había un novenario (nueve días antes se rezaba la correspondiente Novena tras el Rosario). En ambas el componente profano era el baile. Había tres sesiones: el baile vermú (después de la misa hasta la hora de comer), el baile de la tarde (después del rosario y hasta la cena, más o menos de 6/7 a 8/9) y el baile de noche (desde las diez hasta las doce).

En estas fiestas el dueño del salón contrataba unos músicos (4 ó 5) y cobraba la entrada. Los mozos y mozas (ahora diríamos jóvenes) bailaban sin parar, los casados jóvenes bailaban bastante, los casados de más edad bailaban alguna que otra “pieza” (así llamábamos a cada canción o melodía) y vigilaban a sus hijas para ver con quién bailaba y si salía alguien para acompañarla al acabar.

¿Y los niños? Como había pocas “pelas” (nombre familiar de pesetas, nuestra moneda de entonces) nos dedicábamos a corretear por el baile, entre las parejas, mientras comías las pocas “chuches” (como se dice ahora) que podíamos comprar.

Habla de la tecnología (baños, teléfono, televisión, etc.)

¡Qué cosas dices! Comenzaremos por los baños. Cuando se necesitaba “ir al baño” salíamos al corral. Si estabas acostado o enfermo, el pis se hacía en un orinal (que estaba debajo de la cama). El agua corriente, en mi pueblo, se instaló en el 1980 (año en que nació mi primer hijo). Entonces hicimos el baño, que, por cierto, es el mismo que tú conoces.

El teléfono, como ya te dije en el informe anterior, no sé qué año llegó al pueblo. Al principio sólo había uno, era público y estaba atendido por una persona. Primeramente, mi madrina y posteriormente por el dueño del bar. Esto era más razonable porque estaba abierto muchas horas al día y, además, te llamaban cuando pensaban que podía estar allí alguna persona de la familia a quien llamases. Cuando querías llamar te acercabas a donde estaba instalado, salía la persona encargada y o bien te marcaba el número o lo hacías tú mismo, ponía en marcha un cuentapasos y al finalizar la llamada pagabas el importe que registraba el marcapasos. Pero si te llamaban, podían darse dos casos:

  • Decir al encargado del teléfono que a tal hora volvían a llamar y él te lo comunicaba para que acudieses a recibir la segunda llamada.

  • Comunicar la noticia al encargado y él te la contaba a ti

Como verás, muy sofisticado.

En casa había un aparato de radio, marca Askar, que ahora sería objeto de deseo de coleccionistas, que presidía la habitación en la que se hacía casi toda la vida. Los programas más demandados eran las radionovelas, el parte de las 10 de la noche (noticias), la música dedicada por encargo y previo pago y los concursos radiofónicos.

Y ahora la televisión. A San Cebrián llegó el primer televisor al final de los cincuenta y a casa de mis padres, creo que en 1972, que ayudé a comprarlo con las primeras pagas cuando yo era alumno de prácticas. Los dos primeros televisores estaban uno en el bar y otro en casa del Sr. Cura. ¿Por qué digo esto? Porque tiene mucha importancia. Como los niños no podíamos ir al bar, sólo quedaba una opción. Esa, en efecto, en casa del Sr. Cura, los domingos por la tarde veíamos una serie americana, claro, y para niños “Rin tin tin”, que era el nombre del perro (pastor alemán) que siempre acompañaba al pequeño cabo Rusty (creo) y que salvaba a un grupo de soldados americanos de los peligros que se cernían sobre ellos. Además, los miércoles, podíamos ver los partidos de fútbol de la Copa de Europa (ahora Champions League) en los que participaba algún equipo español, que casi siempre era el Real Madrid. Posteriormente, para ver los partidos, como su salón quedaba pequeño, instalaba el televisor en la sacristía y allí acudíamos los aficionados.

Aunque no lo citas, voy a hablar del cine. Sí, sí, del cine. Primeramente era ambulante, iba un señor de Zamora con una camioneta o furgoneta y en el salón de baile (mismo lugar donde estaba el bar) se instalaba una sábana blanca colgada de una pared (la pantalla) sobre la que se proyectaba la película de turno. Por supuesto cine español. Posteriormente el panadero preparó una sala para el cine, con su inclinación en el suelo, sus butacas, su pantalla y su taquilla. También pegaban el cartel anunciando la película y repartían pequeños carteles. ¡Aquello ya era otra cosa!

¿Viajabas a otras partes de España?

Antes de salir del pueblo a estudiar (eso fue a los once años) me llevaron (cuento desde mi pueblo) a Zamora en varias ocasiones que te explico seguidamente: cuando estabas enfermo y el médico te lo recomendaba, cuando te compraban el traje para la Primera Comunión, para hacerte la foto de la misma, alguna vez a los caballitos (la feria de cuaresma con el carrusel, de ahí lo de caballitos) y poco más.

Después viajé a Salamanca donde vivían dos tíos (hermanos de mi padre), mi tío S, y mi tía A (cuando regresó de Paraguay), entonces ya era un mocito. Desde el Colegio fuimos, con 17 años, a Burgos.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with my father-in-law and have found it to be as fascinating as I do!

14 thoughts on “Life in a Spanish Village Before Spanish Democracy

  1. I love these kinds of posts where you interview your suegro; they’re so fascinating, informative, and deliberate yet informal. The (rural) Spain of 60 years ago seems very, very different from the urbanized one we live in today…wow.

    Your father-in-law mentions that San Cebrián de Castro is related to the “old city of Castrotorafe,” which reminded me of a hilltop village in rural Jaén I visited a couple times last year called Iznatoraf, known as “Torafe” by locals. Apparently in Moorish times it was called Hisn al-Turab, the “hisn” meaning “castillo” and the “al-turab” (where the Torafe part comes from) meant either “del camino,” “de los límites,” or “del polvo.” Not sure if Castrotorafe and Iznatoraf/Torafe have a similar origin, but it’s possible!

  2. Interesting interview! The thing about the mobile movies reminded me of “El espíritu de la colmena,” a film about a girl during the early Franco years. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out.

  3. I love this–really facinating! I can’t believe that the village had a TV before it even had running water! This also made me a bit sad (not your fault of course), made me wish that I had asked my grandparents these sort of questions before they passed. Anywho, great post!

  4. I love these interviews with your FIL and wish I could speak with him myself. Please tell him that he has a big fan base among your readers!

    1. Thank you, Sally! My FIL is a very interesting person, and I wish he understood enough about blogs to know that many people also consider him such a fun person to know. :)

  5. Wow, this was super interesting! Thanks so much for sharing it. I don’t think I realized how traditional life was so recently in small town Spain. This really brought it to life.

  6. I love whenever you post your suegro’s interviews, I learn so much about what it was like during “Franco Spain” and what it was like growing up in the campo. A lot of the things your suegro describes reminds me of things I’ve learned from my dad like the TV thing. I feel like my American mom always had a TV in her house growing up but my dad’s family didn’t get a TV until he was 12 (so late 60s). They used to “watch” TV by listening to their neighbor’s TV downstairs by putting their ears on the floor to listen!

    Also was your suegro’s school (Ensenanza Elemental) just a one room schoolhouse? Because I was getting serious Little House on the Prairie flashbacks when he describes how one teacher was responsible for all the different age levels.

  7. Really interesting! My boyfriend’s grandparents have told me about how they used go to a bar at night to secretly listen to the communist radio.. it’s so crazy to imagine how things must have been then.

  8. It is a very fascinating interview and incredibly clever that you thought of it. Life has changed so much in the past fifty years that it’s important that we learn about all of these small details before it’s too late. I really enjoyed this one and the glimpse into your father-in-law’s and Spain’s past, thank you :)

  9. This is so fascinating. Spain has clearly changed a lot in recent history, and sometimes I forget that people my parents’ age lived in such a different world than the one I think of as ‘Spain’.

    I love the mobile cinema your father-in-law talked about. I actually think that’s a pretty genius idea that they should set up today in the plazas during the spring/summer!

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