I was born by chance in Miguelturra, a small town in the driest aridity of La Mancha, a part of Castilla la Nueva where a rich Spanish is spoken with confident ease. That was my first language. The second would be Galician, “the Ecce Homo of languages” I referred to in my early twenties, when I intended to be a poet.
Spanish was introduced in Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country for political reasons, affecting to different degrees the natural development of the original tongues in all three historical communities. When I was still a child I realized how unequal the struggle was between Galician and the so-called “language of the Empire”, and decided I would take sides with the losers, mostly, I admit, out of natural rebelliousness.
I grew up in Ferrol, a town of shipyards and navigators near Corunna, an immigrant in a land of emigration. My father, a quiet family doctor who was on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War, had been assigned there. I have no memories of the place in Castile where I spent my earliest years, only an infant’s vague recollections and a few yellowing pictures of a dusty town. To establish a full identity I have grabbed to the first ropes of vivid childhood that would lead me to adolescence and youth. And I cannot but declare my unlimited love for Ferrol and the land of tranquil fiords and exuberant woods that surround it. From this small and sheltered world of mine on the Atlantic North, I would later be drawn in fascination to other worlds in the immensities of South America.
I began to write out of pro-Galician activism. In Galician -Northern version of Galician-Portuguese, the language in which high poetry was written in Iberia during the Middle Ages-, I would first write lyrics for Andrés do Barro, a pop singer who became a social phenomenon in Spain in the early seventies. The lyrics were followed by poetry, until publisher Ramón Piñeiro showed me the way: “You’re good at imitating poets”, he said. And so I did not hesitate to give it up.
For almost forty years now I have been writing chronicles of what others and I have lived and seen. I was fortunate to end up belonging to an epic tribe, an adventurous people bred in the adversity of feeling inferior in their own land, where foreigners wrote their History. But the people of Galicia went out into the world, as so many other emigrants of Europe in a time of poverty and turmoil, and filled it with amazing stories of their survival overseas.
In the Galician people I found substance for my writings, and I wrote in the language they should all use and be proud of, but that is not the case; such is the effect of denial after a history of cultural erosion. In Galician I have written articles, short stories, novels and travel books of places near and far, one as far as the Uttermost Part of the Earth, as Lucas Bridges called the southernest tip of America.
Emigration, saudade (the heart-wrenching feeling of one’s absence from home) and the wish to conquer the world are constant topics in my work. Many stories could be classified “American”, some more specifically “Argentine”, and within this last group, “Patagonian”.
Other stories are portraits of Galicia and Spain for which I delved into the past through personal accounts and historical research. As for anyone of my generation, the Spanish Civil War (The Armed Rehearsal of World War II, according to Peter Elstob), was like a family ghost, and the inevitable background for much of my writings. In fact, the trilogy I have recently finished is first set in wartime and later in the decades of sinister abuse that followed until the death of Generalissimo Franco.