September 24, 2020

“My father took the money that a blind and black beggar in Martinique gave him” – La Provincia


Cristóbal Suárez Vega was the helmsman of the Telemaco . He saved his life because he tied himself to the wheel of the boat. If not, the sea would have swept him off the deck in the middle of the night. His son, Ángel Suárez Padilla, was seven years old when the father embarked for Venezuela. It never went long to tell of that experience at the limit in the middle of the ocean. But Ángel did enough research with other participants in the adventure to publish a book: Telémaco. The last trip. The mentioned storm took the suitcases, food and fuel that were on top of the boat, equipped with two poles and a 40 horsepower engine. Cristóbal was a native of San Sebastián de La Gomera and worked as a carpenter and fisherman. That was his experience at sea when, at the age of 36, he risked traveling clandestinely to Venezuela. On the island he never got into politics. He is credited with the decision to break part of the side of the pailebot, with the aim that the water that fell inside could come out more easily. Otherwise, steering the ship would have been very difficult. Ángel relates that a stoneworker used his command to carry out the task.

In La Gomera they began to hear from those embarked on the Telémaco since they arrived in Martinique to say that “they were relatively well”, in the words of Ángel Suárez Padilla, who highlights that the people of said island were “very generous and supportive” with the passengers and crew of the fishing boat from the Canary Islands. “My father was going down a street with a friend and, on a corner, there was a black and blind beggar, who called them and, after trying to talk to them, took out some of the money he had and gave it to my father.” There were 150 Martinican francs, which at that time was equivalent to one French franc. Cristóbal kept that money in an envelope all his life and hid it. And it was his son who found it and keeps it.

After the indigent When he handed it over to him, the Telémaco helmsman went to a bar and tried to buy a box of cigars with him. The owner of the place, a Spaniard, told him that with those resources he could not even pay for half a box of tobacco. The owner of the business advised him to keep his coins, to give him his cigars and to have brandy on a table to drink, “but not to get drunk.”

The generosity of the people

He helmsman’s son He states that all the generosity of the black population of Martinique affected some educated people with the idea that “blacks and Indians who had not been Christianized ate people.”

After the storm, the crew of the Campante oil tanker, from the Campsa company, threw them a jug with water, oil and rice. And they were about young people from Valle Gran Rey those who threw themselves in search of those provisions. When it rained, the Canarian migrants absorbed the water that ran down the poles and even tried to take advantage of the water collected in a dirty candle, but some vomited inside. And that without forgetting life in the winery, explains Ángel Suárez, with considerable overcrowding and unbearable heat.

It is planned that the second edition of Telémaco. The last trip, enlarged and corrected by its author, with new data collected on the island of Martinique, will be presented at the end of this month. A symbol with full force.

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