Wed. Apr 24th, 2019

The story of the emigrant who made her psychiatrist cry

La historia de la emigrante que hizo llorar a su psiquiatra

In the Cantabrian cornice it is still easy to see from time to time a mansion, house or villa with a huge and somewhat absurd palm tree planted in the garden. They are the mansions that, especially between the end of the 19th century and the mid-20th century, indianos Spaniards built on their triumphant return from Americas. His exploits and adventures, some more credible than others, are more than counted. In public and in private.

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What for decades has remained hidden under a cloak of shame are the vicissitudes and misadventures of those others emigrants that, far from succeeding, they had a hard time to survive and get ahead. The greatest misfortune was that of those who, when they were finally settled in their destination at sixty or more years, had to return to their town in Spain because of a damn crisis in the host country. The Writer and journalist Argentinian Jorge Fernández Díaz tells us what happened to them in their non-fiction novel
, which in a first version published 15 years ago and now has just been reprinted by the hand of Alfaguara.

It was the author's own mother, Carmina, which unwittingly activated the mechanism that, naturally and inevitably, led his son to write the book. The woman was in deep depression when she helped some countrymen and friends to sell what little they had to return to their homeland. Between late 80's and the early 90s, "the devaluations, the hyperinflation and the President's heavy jokes Carlos Menem"They had taken away the savings of these compatriots while liquefying their pensions until they were insufficient for the subsistence.

Jorge Fernández Díaz, at the presentation of his book in Madrid

Jorge Fernández Díaz, at the presentation of his book in Madrid
(Emilia Gutiérrez)

On the advice of his daughter-in-law on behalf of Jorge himself, a doctor by profession, Carmina agreed to go to the consultation of a psychiatrist so that it would take her out of the deep well of her vital sadness. The treatment worked, but something extraordinary happened along the way. The story of the woman from the couch made the doctor cry and again. Upon learning, the son asked himself: But what have I been missing about my mother's life? How much do I know and how much do I not know about her, my father and my grandparents?

When you apply the journalistic method to someone as close as your mother, you end up listening to very disturbing things "

To find out, the author sat with the mother and started asking her. Or rather to roast it to questions. Were 50 hours of interview along sauteed days, with moments for the surprise of the interviewer, for the laughter of one and another and for some tears to duo. "When you apply the journalistic method to someone as close as your mother, you end up listening to unexpected things; even some very disturbing ones that you did not want to hear, "says Díaz. For example? "There I found out that my great uncle, whom I loved very much, persecuted my mother persistently, for years, in order to rape her. She was about to commit suicide. And this was a family secret that came out during the long and deep conversation, "he reveals. Carmina's story about her existence was at all times "hyperrealistic, almost wild", Add.

The Buenos Aires political historian also did not reconstruct the family history with the purpose of publishing it. That came later, he explains. When he had it written, he showed it to his editor, who said yes. Then the author consulted the mother, and she also nodded. The book came out with a first print run of 3,000 copies that sold out in 24 hours. They had to be reissued again and again, until they reached the 240,000 copies.

The epic of the Spanish emigration in Argentina was swept away, because it was poor "

Where was the secret, in addition to the literary quality of the narrative and the pleasantness of its reading? The author attributes success to the novelty of the content. "Suddenly we discovered that the epic of Spanish emigration in Argentina -with the exception of some cases of triumph- it had not been told, but completely swept away, because it was poor", it states.

The Spanish displaced in South America "created some very strong values; a gigantic and positive republican culture of work and progress ". They "never considered that democracy and prosperity were given things but that they had to fight for them". Something that "never pleased the Argentine nationalists".

The version of Mom that has now gone on sale is the result of a upgrade of the book that "resignifies" the story by collecting facts and important aspects in the lives of the characters, including some findings of the author in the years since the first edition.

The bulk of the news is told in an epilogue of 39 pages. These are the latest surprises of Carmina and her family, exponents of a epic grandiose and modest in which some surviving parents and grandparents may still be reflected. They are those who emigrated who did not succeed, those who did not return and those who did not plant no palm tree in your garden.

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