Mantilla in the Heart

Everyone has his longed for neighborhood, that marked him forever and set the paths to his existence. Mantilla is mine. It’s center was the Route 4 Station, facing the church, and alongside the Youth Campus, the school whose director was Nilo, and one of its teachers was Delia Padura, my first grade teacher. Next door was the place that sometimes offered boxing and other events.

The Station, which was made of wood at first, was rebuilt and modernized, entirely of masonry, with workshops, cleaning and greasing shots, a snack bar and huge mercury light fixtures, replacing the dim incandescent bulbs, converting the place and its surroundings day and night. Modern General Motors buses, painted green and yellow, replaced the old ones of wood and metal painted orange and brown.

Before coming to the Station, on Mantilla Avenue, at the entrance to the La Lira neighborhood, was the Clinic and then, on Giral street, there was a refreshment kiosk with cigarettes and sweets where, on one side, in two panels, they showed the daily programs for the Palma and Ensueno movie theaters. Further on, there was the El Lucero highway, the house of the statues, facing the pharmacy, where there had always been, in huge bins, white and pink sugar candy to give to the customers. Next door was the ground where, years later, was the Chic cinema which offered on Spanish films from Cifesa for adults. The mail was in a wooden house with counters and shelves, where you collected your correspondence and packages. A little further on the Chinese stand, selling all kinds of chips, fresh fruit, and delicious ice creams made of sorbets. Next to it, an old grocery store where you could find everything.

In this environment, marked by shops and the family homes of our neighbors, the years of my childhood went by. Every memory, indelibly engraved, returns often, transporting me to this unique and unrepeatable time. The friendly faces appear, many already gone, the moments of joy and sorry and the daily events, not less important for being simple.

Mantilla, with its paved avenue and trees on both sides, that came from the intersection of La Palma and extended to the town of El Calvaria, is the place that always made me feel proud, where urban and rural fused, with houses of wood and masonry, an aqueduct and electric light, and spacious patios with fruit trees and pets, where I first heard the radio, learned to read and write, and watched television. Distant in time, totally transformed, unknown, always present.

February 19 2011

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