Friday, March 28, 2014

Madrid in the 70s

My father left Cuba in the early 70's for Spain. I honestly don't know much about his life there until my mom arrived in Spain, from Cuba sometime in 71. The families had known each other for many years, and my parents weren't necessarily close, but my mom had been babysitter and godmother to some of my dad's nieces and nephews. So when my mom arrived in a new country, by herself, the only person she knew there came to meet her at the airport and, because my dad was so much cooler than I ever could imagine being, with long hair and a leather jacket (probably) he just went ahead and kissed her the moment he saw her at the airport, like something out of a movie, even though they only barely knew each other. Anyway, the rest is history, as I was born soon after. And 6 months after that, my parents brought me to the US.

I might have that jacket in my closet, but I'll never be as cool.
Growing up, I had pictures of this time in my parents' lives and stories about how awesome Madrid was with late night singing in the streets and clubs and drinking. Much of the music that I grew up with was from artists of this era and I've always had a fondness for it. Chief among them is Nino Bravo. His music was played just about every weekend in my house, and I actually still have my dad's vinyl albums. The song that sticks out the most and was also his biggest hit is "Un Beso y Una Flor," which doesn't just take me back to those weekends my dad would play the record, but it also makes me think of some of the stories they'd tell me and I picture them, young, cool, expatriates in Madrid in the 70s, just being cool and young. And above all, cool.


It's interesting that the song is about leaving a loved one behind to find a better life, something both my parents did when they left Cuba, leaving their families behind. It's even more interesting that when I finally went to Spain for my honeymoon, a song (which I can't remember*) came on the radio while riding a cab and the cab driver talked about how it reminded him of having to leave Spain in the 70's because things were so bad back when Franco was in power. Everyone runs from and to different things and for different reasons. Some leave nothing behind, some never return, but those that do seem to share something and I think this song really captures it. The chorus sometimes chokes me up because I have all these memories, mine and my parents, rolled up together into my history. I sometimes wish I knew more details about their lives before me, but then other times, I think the legend is probably so much better, that I'm glad it's a little sketchy. At least they gave me a good soundtrack to imagine the details by.

*I want to remember that moment in the cab revolving around this same song, because that would be perfect. I considered just saying that it was. But I know that the realities of Franco's Spain were not necessarily the good times that my parents described to me, and I didn't want to disrespect those that had to leave because of it or stayed and suffered out of my parent's sight.

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