Issue 02/15
The Return of the Esperanza

ιδMag Editorial

In the beginning, the earth, rich in minerals and nutrients, was transformed into crops and pastures that fed the surrounding poleis. But there came a day when the soil awoke exhausted and lost its former fertility. Peasants found themselves unable to pay the taxes determined by the members of the government and asked for loans they could not afford. Impoverished and divested of their means of making a living, some of them fled to cities, where they ended up depending on charity; others, however, emigrated to distant paradises with only one dream—that of a chimerical return.

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At the dawn of the Empire of Man, the earth, rich in minerals and nutrients, was transformed into crops and pastures that fed the surrounding hamlets and poleis. But there came a day when the soil awoke exhausted and lost its former fertility. Peasants found themselves unable to pay the taxes determined by the members of the government and asked for loans they could not afford. Some of them fled to cities, where they ended up depending on charity; others, however, before giving up their most valued legacy, set out to distant paradises that, beyond the confines of the sea, kept the secret of a chimerical return.

Weeks, months and years passed until one morning the port awoke adorned with the light of boys and girls, now men and women, who were eagerly awaiting the return of the ship Esperanza. The letters without words that wrapped up earnest bonuses and the proud poses in snow-white attire in countless photographs were things of the past. The last ones who arrived at the meeting of glow-worms that lit up the darkness of absence were the Son and the Daughter. That morning they had spent a long time checking the black-and-white effigies of the Father and the Mother in the fear of not recognising them, and now they were looking anxiously for them among those who had come ashore.

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Alfonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao: Cousas de nenos #165, 1918. Abanca Collection, A Coruña, Spain

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Alfonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao: «O pai de Migueliño», in El Pueblo Gallego, 17 october 1926

They saw a couple, and the brother and sister smiled faintly, a reserved smile that soon changed into sadness as they saw others hugging and sobbing. Then the Daughter let go her brother’s hand and ran towards a man and a woman dressed in white embroidered clothes, and the Son, paralysed, briefly felt his heart leap though they responded to others with kisses and tears. After almost an hour, which was full of frustrated decisions and thus seemed eternal, the old couple-children laid their eyes in unison on two faces contemplating the. The passage of time and hunger had left their mark on their skin; their clothes—perhaps the same clothes they had worn years before when they bid farewell, were dark and had been darned. Yes, they were the Father and the Mother, beholding their children—now Man and Woman, with tired yet tender eyes, betraying the pride and the heavy shame of a lie inevitably revealed.

The Parents approached their Children, and after a long silence, they welcomed them as they furtively examined one another. The voice of the Mother broke the suspended moment and said, ‘Let’s get back home.’ The Son helped the Father—who followed the heavy steps of disappointment, with the luggage. In silence, they waited for the coach that would take them back to a home of which they only had a remote memory. There, where windows and doors remained as closed as the day they left, they said goodnight with a vague gesture and fled to a place from where they called for understanding.

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Alberto Martí: Waiting for the mother sitting on suitcases, 1963

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Manuel Ferrol: Emigrants, 1957. Patricia Ferrol Collection, Madrid

Still in the early hours, the Son, who hadn’t managed to get to sleep, heard the door of his bedroom as a child opening stealthily. The Father showed his face and exchanged glances with his first born who, without saying a word, realised that he should get up, get dressed and follow him. When they left the rundown house they started walking, the Son beside the Father, at a slow serene pace. The earth was still yawning when they reached the top of a hill, where they sat down and made out the pastures that still belonged to them beginning to wake up after years lying fallow. There too was the spring that crossed them and that, after so many centuries, still had the power to quench their thirst. The Father got up and looked at the horizon, and that figure who bore the weight of lies and betrayal, who barely knew how to read and write, appeared bathed in the heroic light of dawn. After a lapse of time that seemed endless, the Father eventually looked at the Son and smiled at him, he smiled at him proudly and apologetically. And the Son responded, proudly and with no need for forgiveness, recognising the Father, the Master who had taught him to love the earth in spite of everything; the Man who had sacrificed his life in order to give him a future; the Hero with whom he would now begin the great feat, the most important journey of his life: that of building once again a fertile home that would feed his Children, and his Children’s Children.

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Caspar David Friedrich: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1918. Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany

This isn’t a story of returns and atonements; this is a story of initiations, of repeated beginnings; of the desire for a new relationship, perhaps the oldest of them all—that of man and nature. And many walk over its millenary flow, remembering the successes and the mistakes, the private ovations and the public reproaches, with the wisdom granted not by their memory of the past but by their responsibility to the future. Our deepest gratitude to architect Álvaro Siza Viera, to the sociologist Walden Bello, to Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and to Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, for helping us show that real heroism is sober and not at all spectacular, and that it isn’t a longing to surpass everyone at any cost, but to serve others at any price.