Time, Space, Existence

Cima de Vila in 2001

How it all began
Growing up in Argentina, I used to overhear members of the Galician diaspora discussing Cima de Vila, as a special place, which I, as a six- or seven-year-old interpreted as a kingdom with a castle, or no less than a mansion. I knew that my father had come from a farm in Galicia, Spain, that Cima de Vila had been his home, and that he had left behind his parents and siblings.

I began visiting my family in Spain in 1972; then I was 27 years old, and I had only known my family from photographs and stories. I met my seven aunts and uncles for the first time then.

There were three aunts: Concepcion, Hermitas and Lola, and four uncles: Jose Maria, Julio, Eladio and Teodoro. They were middle aged by then. They had lived in Cima de Vila since they were born.

In December 1972, I flew from Washington, DC where I lived, to Madrid and took the train (the Talgo) to Orense where my family was waiting for me to celebrate Christmas. It was lovely to meet them. They were thrilled to finally get to know me other than in pictures. My stay was short. Barely a week and a half. It was close to a miracle that I had been given vacation time at Christmas given that I had only joined the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in July 1972.

I did not return to visit them until 1986. By then Concepción, my eldest aunt and Eladio, the next to youngest uncle, had died. There was awareness in the family by the 1990s that none of the aunts and uncles were going to get married and that the next generation, three nieces, were going to have to deal with Cima de Vila. 1

Through the early1900s, as I understand it, there was a legal figure in inheritance practice in Spain called “Mejora” by which the firstborn male would inherit the properties with the proviso/commitment that he would take care of his parents until their deaths. In the context of my family that meant that my uncle Jose Maria inherited everything, and the rest did not. My father’s consolation prize was a third-class ticket on a ship sailing to Argentina in 1928 when he was 17 years old.

2001 was a seminal year in this story. Jose Maria had died long before and Teodoro had inherited everything. He was my last surviving uncle when he died in 2001. And I, together with two other heirs, inherited Cima de Vila, and the land.


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by Susana Almuiña