Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Sixto, Sitges and Camp Nou" - (An excerpt from my next book)

A friend of mine named Raúl Blanco has a father who originally came from Cordoba.

He told me that when his father (called Sixto, probably after one of the Popes) was seventeen he decided to try his luck finding work in Barcelona. 

Like a lot of the Spaniards at that time he was regularly living on little food - the 1940s and ‘50s were often called ‘the years of hunger’ - and he was prepared to risk what was then an illegal train trip due to the tight restrictions on travelling away from your home town.

Sixto was told by his friends to stand in the open space between the two carriages of the train and  when it started to slow down before Barcelona, around Sitges on the Garraf coast he should then jump off onto the ground. He was warned to only do this when he heard the announcement for the stop at Sitges

But Sixto did not hear the pronunciation of the town with a hard ‘g’ sound that he was accustomed to. Instead the soft “ch” of ‘Seetchas’ in the Catalan accent was used and when he soon arrived in Barcelona and got off the train that was supposed to take him to a bright new future he was arrested on the platform, thrown into jail for nine days then sent back to Cordoba.

Sixto was not deterred for long though. The next time he made sure that through his family he had arranged a work contract with former neighbours who had agreed to  officially sponsor him and his employment.

One of his first jobs was being a labourer on the Camp Nou, a new stadium for the city's beloved Barça football team. Like many of his so-called ‘immigrants’ he lived in the working class area of Hospitalet de Llobregat where with his wife (from the northern Burgos region) he went on to run a bar-restaurant.

Sixto’s story is emblematic and typical of his generation of rural families, especially those from Andalusia, a region where the Socialist party has governed without losing office since 1982. His hometown of Cordoba was actually the first provincial capital to elect a Communist mayor.

In King Solomon’s time Andalucia was called ‘Tarshish’ in Hebrew and was considered to be the legendary place of riches at the end of the world. If Sixto had known about this before he stepped onto the train he might have thought of it as a cruel joke.

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