1 - Stories from Galicia 1960 : by Michael Furstner ------------------------------------- Next - Contents

My friend Maria-Luz
I recorded another one of my own compositions and put it online. It is called Paseo, a bossa nova in a 12-bar blues musical format.

The paseo used to be one of Spain's nicest countrywide customs, and I assume it still is. Late afternoon or early evening (around 5-6 PM) all the young girls in the town or village make themselves pretty and stroll arm in arm in groups of two, three or more, up and down the main street. The young (and not so young) men, also cleaned up after work, sit outside on the Cafe and Bar terraces and inspect the lovely passers by.
Especially up to the 60s or even 70s, when Spain (unlike these days) was very strict and puritanical, this was a very good way of searching for a potential novia (girl friend) or wife.

Caión and its main beach, Galicia, NW Spain

At the local Fiesta Maior (Birthday celebration of the town's protective Saint) too, there was a paseo like stroll by the girls before and in between every dance. The girls would stroll arm in arm in groups of two or three up and down the dance area, usually the town or village square. You could never ask a single girl out for a dance but had to come up with a dance partner for all two or three of them. Quite a good strategy which ensured that all girls, including the not so pretty ones, would be dancing.
Depending on the size of the village or town a Fiesta Major could last just a day or two or a full month (like in Santiago de Compostela for example).

Henk Rijks, 1961 My University ('Pimpernel') Club friend and fellow geological student Henk Rijks was fortunate to have his assigned fieldwork area right on the North coast of Galicia, where he based himself in the tiny lovely fishing village of Caión (sardines, sardines, sardines!!!). I and another geology student (Freddie Warnaars) had our field work areas 30-40 km inland, halfway between Carballo and Santiago .Not surprisingly therefore Freddie and I regularly spent the weekends with Henk in Caión, especially during its full week long Fiesta Major.

I will never forget my first Fiesta Major at Caión in 1960.
In the morning of the first day the three of us (Henk, Freddie and I) took a stroll on Caión's main beach. It was totally deserted except for one girl, lying on her bath towel in the sun. We casually walked passed her and on to the end of the beach, then turned round.
As we approached, the girl, with beautiful long shiny black hair and dressed in a bright red one-piece swimsuit accentuating every sensual curve of her body, got up and casually, without looking left or right, walked to the water's edge and into the surf.   Wow !! What a sight, we were absolutely bowled over.

In the evening dancing commenced in the central village square while I was sitting in one of the bars having a quiet drink with some of the locals. Suddenly Henk and Freddie came in excitedly. They had found some girls who agreed to dance with them, but there were three of them, one with glasses on for which they needed to find a partner. In those days (much unlike now) all eye glasses were revoltingly ugly and any girl's absolute worst enemy. But never mind, I complied to do my duty as a good friend and be the third man for the ugly duckling.

Village square in Caión

We started dancing and for a while I kept looking around, taking no notice of my dance partner. But eventually I looked down at her and could not believe my eyes. She had taken off her glasses and I instantly recognised her, it was the girl from the beach this morning ! I immediately took charge of her glasses, not to be seen again for the rest of the night.

After the dance my friends strolled up to us, and, to my great satisfaction, saw their eyes pop out off their sockets. I had without a doubt landed the most beautiful girl of the evening. I am by no means a Don Juan, on the contrary, but this girl liked me too, much preferring me over the others, which was extra salt in my friends wounds.
The two of us had an absolute wonderful evening together, dancing, talking. She wrote her name for me on an empty packet of Lucky Strike (cigarets) : Maria Luz Pet Morales. I kept that packet I believe for over 25 years and will never forget her name.

My sister Wivica dancing with Freddie, 1961 Marie Luz invited me to come for lunch next day at their rented holiday house just 5 km East along the coastal road (at the letter A on the map) where she was staying with her family. Freddie, who had been dancing with Marie Luz's sister was invited too.

So we went the next day.
Marie Luz and I walked along the beach all afternoon, I tried to kiss her once, but she pulled back. Enormously shy and always trying to be the gentleman (my mind is both my best friend and my worst enemy) I did not try again, which I realised later she enormously regretted (she had not wanted to appear too "forward").

Nevertheless we both looked all fired up when we returned from the beach and her Dad who saw what was about to happen immediately ordered the whole family to pack their bags. The holiday was over, cut short by several days, and within half an hour they had all disappeared.

In those days gossip talk in any small town or village could destroy a girl's chances of a good match forever. No way that Marie Luz's Dad would allow his prized Roman Catholic daughter to have anything to do with a foreign heathen (assumably) Protestant boy.

The following year I was again in Caión for its Fiesta. Marie Luz had gone to study in France (she had indicated this wish to me the previous year), but I danced and talked with her sister. By this time I was seriously involved with my wife to be Antien.

Marie Luz's father, a solicitor in Carballo took an interest in me, and with his eldest daughter safely away in France and me now attached to a Dutch novia he felt it safe to invite me for dinner at his home one evening. We had a great time together and talked a lot. I still remember one rhetorical question he put to me :
"Most Spanish households have at least two books in their home : The Holy Bible and Cervante's 'Don Quijote'." "Which one" he asked me "do you think they consider to be the most important?"

In this regard I have the spirit of a true Spaniard. I am and will always remain a sentimental and endlessly dreaming romantic.   And occasionally (especially when thinking about Spain) the thougt goes through my mind :

"Where are you Maria-Luz?   Did you have a good life?   Are you still healthy and happy?"

PS : July 2010
My former fellow student and geology colleague Charley Arps has just returned from a holiday in Galicia. Passing through Caión he was kind enough to take several photos for me there, including a nice shot of Caión's main beach and of the market square where I danced with Maria-Luz (and one year later also with my wife to be Antien.)

This story about Maria Luz, together with my other Caion story about Joseliño, was published in Dutch in 'Veldwerk Deel 2 - Lustrum Gedenkboek van de Leides Geologische Vereniging' in 2010.

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Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner