45 kilometers from Vigo, 141 from Santiago, 618 from Madrid, 5,908 from Michigan and 8,288 from São Paulo, as the signs put for the pilgrims who arrive to the town pray, climbs up the mountain from the breakwater, the most happy of the world. A middle-aged man plays the sun throwing a ball to his blond dog; another places a fresh sheet on the seat of the car so that his mother does not pass heat; gangs of teenagers go down to bathe on the beach and countless tourists take photos before the ruined monastery that in 2004 he bought a consignataria company of ships, with a millionaire urbanization project that is still unemployed. This is Oia (3,018 inhabitants), the municipality of the south of the province of Pontevedra that created after the elections the First Council of Happiness in Spain, with precedents in Ceregnano (Italy, 4,000 neighbors), which established the same department in 2012, and in the kingdom of Bhutan, where what was founded was a ministry.
Today is a big day for a handful of neighbors from Oia. After six years without news of San Benito and San Bernardo, who had gone to restore themselves to Pontevedra, the new priest of the town, Daniel Goberna, has recovered the images of the XVIII century and in the afternoon the welcome party is celebrated. The parish priest, prefect of music in the cathedral of Tui and famous in the region for his singing skills, he runs up the street and down the street. "Is San Benito here already?" Shouts Jesusa Crespo. "He is taking a nap," the young man replies with a hoot. As every day when it does not rain, Jesusa, 82, goes down with her two sticks after eating at the Sentinel Plaza, on the edge of the Atlantic. There, in addition to an old cruise ship "donated by a baker", there is a stone bench, about 10 meters long, where more than 20 neighbors and neighbors of the same villa meet. They have known each other since school time, and more than 70 years later they continue to meet each afternoon "without fights or fights" to chat and play the frog.
The first to join Jesusa in the aftermath are María Puertas, 80, Josefa Pérez, 81, and Jesus Cividanes, 82. Shortly, Matilde Álvarez will arrive, the oldest (92) and most convinced of her present happiness, especially if you remember episodes of the horror of war, as when the Benedictine convent it became a concentration camp. These days the ladies try a kind of mats for the butt, at the moment only a pair of ultra-resistant cushion prototypes, which the mayor has given them, Cristina Correa (PP), because the granite of the bank is cold and hard to spend the whole afternoon. Jesusa calls the mobile phone of the councilor ("Cristina") to remind her that we have to clean the oil stain left by a van on the pavement the other day. "Afea la plaza", reproaches.
The mayor is clear that happiness "is not a permanent state", but "moments" strung on a necklace where there are also less precious stones and many bad times. To find these emotional satisfactions, he is organizing a "council of wise men" with "people who stand out for their vocation to help". "Every day I can think of a name" but "almost all of them are women", he admits. So it will be wise advice.
The lawyer of 38 years came to his position in November 2015 after a motion of censure that descabalgó to the PSOE, and for more than a year matured the idea that has finally put into practice now repeating as a councilor, by absolute majority. "I wanted to call her simply the Council of Happiness, but I was afraid that the criticism would rain on me," she admits. That is why he added the surnames of "Neighborhood, Culture and Social Services". She chose the mayor Carmen Estévez, who sits in an office joined by an open door with the mayor's office. Due to the effort that Correa is putting into this adventure, it is evident that the weight of the portfolio will be half-hearted.
The consistory has commissioned a decorated mailbox where people of all ages can leave suggestions, ideas that would make them happy. A woman in bed has asked to be read a book by chapter, because she does not know and does not feel able to learn. A man has proposed that at the end of the afternoon the historic center, the neighborhood of O Arrabal, be closed to traffic, and that people dress beautifully for a walk. In the area of Pedornes, one of the six population centers scattered along 83 square kilometers, women demand that the cultural center go from opening only on Sundays to "every day" to throw the game of cards. In any case, the happiness of the elderly happens to have someone next to them. That's why Mercedes, who became a widow, went to live in her daughter's pink house, standing on the dock, watching from the top floor with her binoculars, eager to see her grandson and son-in-law arrive on the horizon. at sea.
S. R. P.
The same day that the San Benito returns to town, the logo of the new council comes to the Town Hall. As an emoticon, inside a circle the letters OIA make eyes and nose on a curved line that traces a smile. "We are happy because creating this council has served at least to open a reflection," say the mayor and his mayor. "In addition, Oia finally comes out in the press for something positive, after so many bad news." You do not have to trace the newspaper library to collect a bunch of headlines: in this municipality the sect of the Miguelianoswhose leader was sentenced in December to nine years for sexual abuse. The municipality was also the scenario this year of the torture and death of wild horses at the hands of heartless, probably from the area, still faceless for the Civil Guard.
But in the town, what is now open is a debate that embraces the metaphysical and the most carnal. "For me happiness is to have health," says Maria Puertas without hesitation, walking with a walker. "I still cried this morning," confesses Jesusa; and the others laugh when he says that he could not eat chicken and had to settle for "vegetable and two potatoes." The sadness was not in the frugal menu, but in the impotence that he felt when he was not able to find the table to chop it in his house.
"It is an agony not to be in conditions," laments the neighbor. "And it's a pity that people do not realize this when they're young to enjoy life," she says as she continues to look at the kids in the village down the beach path. "When we were young we went to the black beach to work ", recalls, referring to the stone-walled labradíos that die at the edge of the rocks where the waves break.widow since she was 30 years old, Jesusa was going to harvest the corn with the one-year-old baby" put in a basket "and the elders, four and seven, glued to her skirt.
The parish priest, meanwhile, takes advantage of the fashionable theme in the town hall to practice these days his pastoral work: "Alexander Ross, of the Institute of Psychological Sciences of Arlington (Virginia), made a study that reveals that 43% of the women they go to mass they declare themselves very happy in front of the 29% of those that do not go ", reads consulting a news in his smartphone. "In men, the difference is even greater." "And it's not worth seeing the mass on TV," he defends later to his parishioners, "just as it does not take away your thirst to see a beer advertisement."
"Even the most millionaire has one hour to mourn a day," María resigned. "The rich dream of money," says Mercedes, "but the most important thing, for me, is that there is peace in the family."
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