Souvenirs of Spain (Recuerdos de España)

Friday, November 1, 2013
Washington (DC)

For as long as I can remember my family has been hauling stuffed suitcases, from Maryland to Spain and back again. On the way to Spain, we carry gifts collected by my Spanish mother for her family and packed with Tetris-like precision by my father.  On the return, the suitcases are filled with our souvenirs from Spain.


Bath gel, wheels of cheese, nativity sets, instant coffee, museum brochures, olive oil, clothes, polvorones cookies, espadrilles, bracelets engraved with my name and birthday.  I seem to love everything from Spain--the tourist crap too.  In nearly four decades I may have bought it all:  tiny plastic boxes of saffron, castanets, too many keychains, tacky t-shirts, a flamenco dancer clock, an apron printed with paella recipes.    


When my sister and I became older, my grandmother and her sister entrusted us with little pieces of family history – old photos, bits of lace, figurines saved from the roscon de reyes Christmas cakes, mother-of-pearl buttons, rosaries in every color.  But I’ve seen that almost anything from Spain becomes precious to me.  I can’t seem to throw out a 1987 calendar from a television repair service, empty cologne bottles, old cans of olives that threaten food poisoning or a pretty box of violet candies—now melted into a lump.


The trip back to Maryland is always hard, even with a suitcase of souvenirs. To see family only once a year or less is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, although I know that I am luckier than many.   Technology has made it easier to get a Spanish fix with Skype and online shopping and news.  However, I doubt the irrational hoarding will ever go away.  I find a used metro ticket or a button from my abuelita and I feel the delights of Spain and the love that awaits me there.

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