Sunday, 20 November 2011

Maria's story

I spent this past summer in India, volunteering once again in the village of Gulabgarh. During a very pleasant summer evening, a group of men and women gathered together in the home where I was staying.

There had been many weddings this year in the village, and it is customary for people who were not able to attend the celebration, to later organize a family reunion in their own home to honor the parents of the newlyweds.
As a sponsor of the W.L.P., I was asked to address the ladies who had not yet enrolled in the project, to try to encourage them to do so. I decided to tell these women the story of my grandmother--with the help of Tashi Chering, of course!
I was only 5 when I moved with my parents to the U.S., where I grew up, so I remember very little really about what life was like then for women in the small fishing village called Caión, located in the northwestern corner of Spain. I do know, however, that it wasn’t easy. In Galicia—that’s the name of our region—women used to be taught from a very early age how to take care of a home, a family, work the land, everything except how to care for themselves. In fact, they usually completely forgot about themselves, including their own education. If this was still true in the 1960s and 70s, can you imagine what it must have been like for the women of my grandmother’s generation?
My grandmother Maria was born in 1902 in a tiny, isolated village of Galicia, called Lendo. She was incredibly strong and tenacious, an intelligent and adventurous woman whose dream had always been to travel to Buenos Aires. There were no schools back then in these areas, but Maria was determined to educate herself. She learned to read and write on her own so that she could understand the letters that her brothers’ sent to her from Argentina.
So, this self-taught young woman eventually became a sort of local scrivener who would help her neighbors by reading them the letters they received form their loved ones, immigrants in far off Argentina or even the U.S.  During the Spanish civil war, she read and then wrote the replies of the mothers, wives or fiancées of the men who had gone to war.
These readings gathered neighbors and family together in my great-grandparents’ home, where they sometimes shed tears and others laughs about what was recounted in those letters! After the readings my grandmother would write her neighbors’ replies for them. Knowing how to read and write was obviously important for my grandmother, a woman who lived through such tragic events as the Spanish Civil War and the post-war period.
I don’t know whether Maria’s story finally inspired these women, but their success stories certainly motivate me. They encourage me to keep sponsoring this project that I am so enthusiastic about.

In later posts I'd like to tell our readers the inspiring stories that I heard about the women of the WLP.
The future of these women, the future of this emerging economy that is India depends on the development of isolated, rural communities such as this one. Hopefully, this nation will one day proudly claim that its literacy rate has reached one hundred percent.

1 comment:

  1. I wasnt aware of this project before, it gives me an immense pleasure to congratulate you on your efforts towards a noble cause. the work that you have taken up for educating women is really a beautiful thing one can do towards the far flung areas like Paddar.
    Good luck to ur efforts..