|sent from: London, UK. destination: Venice, California, USA|
A few years ago I received an email from someone in the USA asking if we might be related, that her grandfather came from a small village in Spain, El Tejado de Bejar. A small village about which she could find very little, except photos I had uploaded and some of my writings. I did what I always do, promise myself to reply within a couple of days. A year later, I received an almost identical email from her again. Shit, I never replied, I thought.
After much back and forth and detective work on the part of my father it emerged that, yes, her antecedent had come from El Tejado, our village. He, along with a group of other young men had left the village in the early 1900s seeking a better life in the USA, as did so many Europeans at the time. My grandfather, just a few years younger, remained. The majority of those men left never to return or be heard from again, their inheritance divided amongst the remaining siblings, best forgotten. But here was proof they’d survived, prospered, become part of the Great American Story of immigration, integration and self-realised success. “I believe in America,” says the opening line of The Godfather.
Having made real contact, the woman went about reuniting with her distant Spanish cousins, and tracking down the families of the other men who had landed in the USA with her grandfather. One of those men, Salustiano Sanchez, eventually settled in Niagara Falls, New York and incredibly, was still alive, well over 100 years old. Known as “Shorty” he is a local legend for his longevity. A legend that, this past weekend spread across the world as it was confirmed that this man from a small mountain village in Spain, a man my Grandfather may have looked up to when they were boys with nothing but dreams, who crossed the ocean for a different life is the oldest man in the world.