My grandfather’s grandfather, Benito Rueda, founded a small town in the mountains of Santander, Colombia. A small town that has, by the way, a website. A wonderful little website with old pictures and a virtual tour of the church that forces you to read prayers!
Everytime I sit down to work on the book, I get floored by what it means to be a part of a family, what it means to be the product of the actions of generations and generations of people.
These are my people. But they certainly don’t look like me.
I went to La Fuente this summer, as a part of the Research Project of Doom™, walked around. As we drove into town a hoard of people came out onto the road and for a second they thought my Uncle Alberto was my Uncle Tito (my Uncle Alberto is a nice normal guy, my Uncle Tito used to be vice-president of the country–this somehow gives him more cache with the locals). An old woman told me I didn’t look like my grandfather’s granddaughter. It’s true. He was a fair-skinned man with black hair, over six feet tall and robust to say the least, with sparkling blue eyes. He turned red when he laughed. The old woman told me about the house she donated to build a convent. She rocked back and forth in a rickety rocking chair, built in 1927 by her boyfriend.
She’s a billionaire. She hasn’t bought new clothes in twenty-five years. Her dress looks a little like a bathrobe. No, she said to me, you don’t look like your grandfather at all, he wasn’t as tan as you. But, and she closed her eyes when she said this, you do have beautiful eyes.
My grandmother left all this behind for the coast. A portrait of her father-in-law holding a cigar and looking like he was the mayor hung behind me in the house. The old lady informed me that he was, in fact, the mayor. My great-grandpa was cool. And the mayor.
1927 is a year that haunts this book. Lots of things keep pointing back there. How I wish for a time machine! And a cigar. I want to be the mayor!