Story-Writer: María del Carmen Salazar Jiménez

Organization: Didark and UGR

Title of the story: Passage of childhood-adolescence

Level: Advanced

Language: English

Abstract: This story reviews the childhood and youth of its protagonist.  

Key-words: Life, Dictatorship, People, School, Social changes.

Passage of childhood-adolescence

I have always loved analyzing people’s behavior. I like to think about old traditions and see what they have become today. Some of these traditions have disappeared and others have, little by little, evolved over time. I really like to analyze what student life is like today and what student life was like in my day. I am not very old, I was born in 1953, but in these decades I have seen and suffered many social and economic changes. Life has improved in many aspects, although I have to point out with some sadness, that I miss some traditions and customs. If you want, we can talk about some of those things I remember from my childhood and adolescence and compare it with today, how young people today live differently.


In the 50’s, children began their academic career in the so-called nursery school, which are the current day-care centers. At that time, it was not mandatory to attend one. The time of the year when the nursery used to leave the children there was during the harvest season, in the case of parents who worked in the fields, such as my parents. During those days, for the peace and quiet of the working families, children between 3 and 6 years old could attend this school.


At the age of 7, primary education began and lasted until the age of 14. At that stage, after attendance, good behavior and an exam, the School Certificate could be obtained. At this time there was a lot of school absenteeism, since it was a time in which many families allowed or even forced, out of necessity, their children to go to work. The most common job was working in the field as day laborers. Only a few families could afford to keep their children in school and travel to Granada to take classes, since there was no school here, in Íllora, a village located in the eastern part of the Loja region in the province of Granada.


I remember fondly my time at school. Life in the schools was very nice and quiet. After attending school, we played together all day in the street where, besides having a great time, we learned many things. During the time of the Dictatorship in Spain, which took place between the end of the Civil War in 1939, until the death and succession of Francisco Franco in 1975, it was obligatory to pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary in the colleges and schools, every morning before the beginning of class.


The classrooms in those days were not as colorful as those of today: regal wooden desks, a blackboard and a table for the teacher, set squares, bevels and some wooden compasses could be the only decoration in those classrooms.  At each desk we had a pencil and a pen with two glass inkwells. The ink was not bought ready-made, as you can do nowadays; this ink was made with tablets that were dissolved in water and we children always ended up staining ourselves. As a consequence of all this, the teachers would punish us by hitting us in the hand with an almond tree stick or a wooden ruler. They also used to punish us in this way if we arrived at school without having learned a lesson. Just like today, the laws of the student body prevent a teacher from hitting you, even if it is just a little slap.


Every day, at recess time, we were given a glass of American milk. American milk was a type of powdered milk that was bought in big bags. It was poured into metal pots and stirred. Every day two students were in charge of mixing that milk powder with water; they stirred it, put it in the refrigerator and during recess it was distributed among the students. Some of us children would season the milk with chocolate granules with sugar or cinnamon, which greatly improved the flavor of the powdered milk. What memories! At that time there was a lot of poverty in Spain and children did not usually take lunch to school. That’s why that milk was distributed, to prevent children from falling ill due to malnutrition. An anecdote, which I now remember with astonishment and disgust, is that some students, when it was their turn to make the American milk mixture, urinated in it and then gave it to the rest of their classmates who drank it without knowing that it had an extra seasoning that was not at all pleasant.


In the afternoons, classes were dedicated to the reading of Sacred History, what today is called religion class, which at that time was obligatory. Part of the text of each day was read by the teacher and the rest was read by the students, who laughingly took turns reading. Also in the afternoons, we drew pictures of figures from Sacred History: Jesus or the Virgin Mary were our protagonists. At the end of class, before going home, we were given a portion of red cheese. It is a type of American cheese, goat cheese, with a very strong flavor. Both the powdered milk and the cheese were an aid to the children’s nutrition at that time, because of the poverty that existed.


The houses were very humble. Many families of several members lived in just one room. Many houses were cold and in winter they could not be heated. Of course there was no running water in those houses, so imagine washing in winter. There were pylons scattered throughout the neighborhoods where we would get water. Sometimes, some water carriers would come to our house to offer their water. These were men and women who collected water in barrels and delivered it to the neighborhoods. I liked these peculiar characters, loaded with canteens, baskets and sugar cubes that they used to sweeten the water.


In addition, most of the village streets were not asphalted. Some streets were paved, but the rest were made of gravel, a type of very light sand, which generated a lot of mud when in contact with water. Imagine when it rained! For us it was like an amusement park: we improvised trampolines that ended up in mud puddles. The worst part of those rainy days was the return home. In addition to the dirt, a good scolding awaited us at home. Katiuska boots became fashionable for these purposes, and I believe they are still worn by children today. They were water-resistant boots, made of rubber and with small laces, that all the children wore to play in the street and avoid getting dirty. Mine were blue. I remember them perfectly.


When it rained we also played what in those days we called „the bridge”, which consisted of making two very long parallel lines in the sand on the ground and jumping over them. When it was not raining we played the spinning top. The game of „la chirumba” was also very popular: it was played with a wooden stick cut at the corners and the game consisted of hitting one of the corners to make it go up in the air and thus see the skill of each of the players. I can’t forget „the donkey”, where some children jumped on top of the others who were bent down and, while jumping, we gave them a heel on the butt. There were countless other games, such as „the ball” or „hide and seek”, which was one of my favorites. Let’s not forget the stickers and albums, and those exchanges we did on the spot for the missing stickers. Many of these games and toys are no longer played by today’s children and are being forgotten.


With the arrival of spring and good weather, we started to skip school because we preferred to go to the ponds around the village for picnics and swimming competitions. At that time teachers didn’t send home notices of non-attendance, unlike now via email or cell phone, so that parents quickly find out about their children’s absences. But, at one point, two new young teachers arrived at my school and they did notify parents: they sent notes home for students who missed classes. This led to a decrease in absenteeism, as these two teachers were stricter about truancy, which contributed positively to the students taking their studies more seriously. This put an end to the picnics and swimming competitions.


When I committed some misdeed, I remember how my father punished me: he made me repeat over and over again by heart the lesson I had to learn for school. He was very careful that I repeated it very precisely, because if I didn’t, he would punish me. This made me take more interest in the lessons and studies as a whole: from this moment, my interest grew. 


In my family, there are five brothers, with me being the youngest brother. My older brother was in the military and lived at that time by the sea in the city of San Fernando in Cadiz. When I finished the General Basic Education in my town Íllora, my parents decided to send me to him, something that filled me with excitement, because I got along very well with him and I looked forward to traveling to Cadiz. It was my first railroad trip. I remember it in an exciting way.


San Fernando in those days was quite a big city, with maybe 100,000 inhabitants, quite a lot if we compare it with the population of my town, Íllora, with only 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants. Therefore, the life of that maritime city was very different from that of my village among olive trees and mountains. I was fortunate to know the important culture of the people of Cadiz and to live with them. I even fell in love with a lively woman from Cadiz. I had a great time and those were very nice and happy years. 


In San Fernando I began to attend the Arts and Crafts School to continue my education during the 3 years I lived in that city. Then I returned to Granada, where I enrolled in the School of Industrial Mastery, which is the current Hermenegildo Lanz Institute and finished the Industrial Mastery with its corresponding equivalences in electrical engineering.


The children of families who had a certain position and economic means could afford to live in Granada, renting an apartment, but I did not, so every day I went to Íllora and back. I had to take a bus at seven o’clock in the morning from Íllora to the train station, and there I took a train to Granada, where I arrived about 45 minutes later, to be on time for the start of classes, which was at eight in the morning. In the afternoon I did the same, in the opposite direction, arriving home around nine in the evening.


Student life, at that time, was very different from today; we had fewer means and resources than today. One of the most important subjects of my studies was drawing, a subject to which I had to dedicate many hours of practice at home. As I did not have a study space, I had to wait in the evenings for my whole family to go to bed, so I could take advantage of the space in the room where we usually had our family life, using the table where we ate to be able to practice the subject of drawing. But I remember being happy. And of course my determination made me pass that subject.


Years later, I went to do the Obligatory Military Service, the so-called mili, which I finished in 1974. The decade of the 1970s was a very turbulent time in Spain, because of the attacks by ETA, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, which was a Basque nationalist terrorist organization. We were always in the barracks, “barracked”, as they used to say. Also at that time the Green March was carried out by the then King of Morocco, Hassan II. This meant that we soldiers had to sleep dressed and even with our boots on, in case we had to run away. With this issue of the March there was a lot of commotion. I did my military service in Mallorca, and from there many units of soldiers were taken to the Sahara, to go on the Green March.  


When I finished my military service I started to work and I prepared myself for an examination for a public administration job, which I passed in 1979, obtaining a very good grade, which allowed me to choose a place. So I was able to come to the School of Industrial Mastery of Íllora as a teacher, where I stayed until the opening of the Delegate Session of the Institute of Pinos Puente, here in Granada, where I worked until a few years ago before retiring.


I have lived very well in Íllora, it is a very quiet village with a lot of history, as there are archaeological remains in the area belonging to the Prehistoric, Neolithic and mainly from the Copper Age. Later, during the Muslim Period there is little information about Íllora, but it can be deduced from the Christian chronicles that it must have been an important town with a fortress and suburbs. Precisely, in June of 1319 the princes Pedro and Juan de Castilla took possession of our town and its suburbs when they went to devastate the Vega of Granada and, according to the Chronicle of Alfonso XI, if they had stayed another day they would have also taken its castle, although the prince Pedro did not want to remain more time there, because his will was to besiege Granada and to have it surrounded, according to the Great Chronicle of the same king, although soon after both princes died in the Disaster of the Vega of Granada, in 1319. Today, in the center of the village, on top of a rock, the ruins of this ancient castle of Íllora are to be found, although only a few archaeological remains are preserved. This castle dates from the Caliphate period (IX-X centuries) and is structured in three enclosures: the villa, the citadel and the suburb, spaces that can be visited because there are some interesting guided tours.


But I’ll continue with the history of Íllora, which I have not finished yet. Already in the first half of the XIX century, a period of stability was interrupted by the Napoleonic invasion and the subsequent War of Independence. The French were rejected by the people, who supported the Granada uprising of April against Godoy, and even many people enlisted as soldiers against the French takeover of Granada. The area was left in a situation of decadence, due to the looting that the Napoleonic troops carried out. With the return of King Ferdinand VII, Íllora will be recovering its economic and social pulse to be again negatively altered with the clashes between absolutists and royalists.


I encourage you to visit my village, especially at the time of the municipality festival in honor of its patron saint, San Rogelio. This festivity is considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Andalusia being located within the festive rituals. Linked to this I will tell you a curiosity, why there are two dates for our festival of San Rogelio; the celebration of the festivities takes place on August 16 although the date of the patron saint is September 16. Celebrating the festivities in September coincided with the grape harvest season and people could not attend, so the City Council decided to change the festivities to August, so that all the neighbors could attend.


All the preparations for this festivity are managed by the Brotherhood of San Rogelio, when the procession of the saint through the streets of the town is planned, since in the morning of his festivity he is transferred from his niche to make his journey in the evening’s procession. In the late afternoon of September 16, the town gathered around the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation, a church designed by the architect and sculptor Diego de Siloé, developer of the Cathedral of Granada, during the sixteenth century. There, in the church, a mass is celebrated in his honor and at the end the procession of the saint begins, accompanied by the inhabitants of his village.


I invite you to visit this beautiful church that is located in a prominent spot in the town square, that was ordered to be built by the Catholic Monarchs after the conquest of the town in 1486. The church was built on terrain probably occupied first by a mosque and then by a Mudejar church. As you can see, Íllora is a town full of history and tradition.


And if you like landscapes as much as I do,  I have one last recommendation: go up the nearby mountains of Parapanda and Pelada and you will have excellent panoramic views from 1,604 meters above sea level. If you are hungry after the excursion, you can do the Tapas Route in Íllora, an unmissable event for those who opt for gastronomy and the discovery of places full of history.

I hope this story will help you to see some of the changes that have taken place in Spain in recent decades.

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Funded by the Romanian National Agency of the Erasmus+ Programme

Start date: 01-11-2020

End date: 31-10-2022

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