During a time when revolutionists around the world began to sprout from the soils of the earth, a war poet by the name of Emiliano Zapata best said it, “It is better to die on my feet than to live on my knees.”
With this being the mindset of anarchists throughout Catalonia, a rebellion combined with socialist and fascist ideologies quickly brewed into a lethal concoction of ongoing violence, destruction and death.
Natural heat on another sunny July day fueled the fire of chaos, as it continuously erupted onto the streets like a volcano consuming an island. Multi-leveled residential buildings with a variation of bright colors shared the neighborhoods with traditional Catalan Gothic architecture. Most of the wrought-iron balconies alongside the buildings resembled the attractively forged iron stands that outlined the point where the walls met the sidewalk. Inside of the iron stands was a diversity of wheeled hand-painted pots. Different styles of art including common swift birds flying freely, Jennet horses being ridden by flashily dressed matadors, and regal Andalusian roosters covered the flower pots adding character and beauty. Each pot was made of milky glazed porcelain or earthenware clay resembling brown earthy tones. Some of the handcrafted pots held red wine carnations and sapphire-colored bluebells. Some of the clay pots held Valencia roses with shades of old gold and copper. Imperial purple butterfly orchards and white bee orchards shared the grass along the edging of the walkways.
What stood out the most was that all the flowers were dry and wilted showing no color of life. Many said that all the flowers were dying because of the intoxicating energy in the air. Only the narcissus plant mysteriously stood straight and plump into the air with a long and narrow strap-shaped stem. Its cream-white petals reached out to the sides from its lemon-yellow corona demanding attention. The narcissus plant appeared to admired itself, even more, when surrounded by all the dead flowers.
In spite of the lurking threat of violence taking place throughout the city, twenty-five-year-old Concepcion Metello Pio walked quickly as her white block heels echoed click-clack off the hand-laid stone streets that reflected a combination of blue-purple, silver, and quartz colors. Even though it had not rained in weeks, the stone streets were shiny and looked wet. Concepcion wore an angel blue dress with shades of lavender that fit her short body snug and perfectly outlined her thick hips. Her dark brown hair was tied back and held with a light blue ribbon matching her dress.
Her only concern was that of her seven-year-old son Gusto and his weekly appointment with a doctor specializing in psychology. Gusto held on tight to his mother’s hand as she tugged him along the way. When visiting the doctor, Concepcion always dressed Gusto in his best outfit of black dress shoes, black pants that were held up with suspenders that draped over his shoulders, and a white button-up shirt.
Gusto had never spoken a word in the seven years of his life, and this brought concern to his parents. He had been diagnosed with muteness being able to speak but preferring to be silent. Concepcion’s empathy, patience, and love that she had for Gusto were pure and it showed by never missing an appointment with a therapist, teacher, or doctor hoping that one day her son would be able to speak. After being rejected from the school system under the belief of mental retardation, Gusto had no proper education. Even though Concepcion attempted to teach him to write and read at home, the only thing Gusto ever responded to was how to add and subtract numbers.
Gusto’s most revealing moments were at Dr. Velez’s office where Concepcion has been taking him every week for the past year. Dr. Velez was upon retirement and anticipating his move to Athens, Greece, where he imagined the cool breeze blowing through his white hair as he sat on his balcony enjoying a cup of Shepherd’s Tea.
As Concepcion and Gusto approach the doctor’s office, a six-foot-tall artistic ornamental black wrought iron gate opened. Standing on the other side was Dr. Velez wearing a black three-piece suit and bifocals over his aged eyes and wrinkled face. A smile appears on his face, as he greeted Concepcion. “Good afternoon Ms. Metello Pio.”
Concepcion returns a warm smile. “Good afternoon Dr. Velez.”
Dr. Velez slowly leans down with his old frail bones popping along the way attempting to make eye contact with Gusto. “Hello Gusto. How do you feel today?” With no response from Gusto, Dr. Velez says, “Well, let us go inside shall we?”
The familiar smell of fresh fruit brings a smile to Concepcion, as they walk through the doorway and into the doctor’s office. Immediately she notices the fresh berries and apples taking center stage, as they rest inside a Spanish baroque bowl sitting on a Sardinia console table at the entryway.
As Dr. Velez walks over to his antique Roman bookcase holding a variety of books from all over the world that he has collected during forty years from his travels and studies, he says, “Today let us try something different.”
Reaching up to the middle shelf he grabs a wooden box with Japanese letters engraved along the sides of it as it sits between “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine on the right side and “Monadology” by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz on the left side. Placing the box onto the worktable in front of Gusto, Dr. Velez introduces a box filled with cut out images from newspapers and magazines from Japan. Gusto begins to place together the different clippings spreading them out onto the table creating his own unique image. A smile appears upon Dr. Velez’s weathered face as he feels that Gusto is beginning to learn how to communicate.
The doctor explains to Concepcion that this method is used to help children grasp the understanding between reality and imagination. He explains that this concept originated in China and how the Japanese later implemented this technique into visual arts. Since Dr. Velez has been unsuccessful with Gusto, he believes that this approach will help because art is a form of expression. If Gusto can learn how to express himself, it would be the first step in his understanding of how to verbally communicate.
After thirty minutes of working with Gusto, commotion is heard outside, and Dr. Velez raises up from his chair and walks over to the window that faces the street. Looking outside Dr. Velez sees a group of men assembling outside on the corner. Yelling and chanting can be heard coming from a large group toward the center of the city. Concerned with the escalating situation taking place throughout Catalonia Dr. Velez asks Concepcion, “I apologize Ms. Metello Pio, but would it be okay with you if we cut our session short today?”
Wondering why Dr. Velez was afraid and now concerned for her own safety, Concepcion stands up and gathers her belongings. Feeling a sense of guilt even though the situation is not his fault Dr. Velez offers the wooden box for Gusto to take home with him so he can practice the exercise at home. Pleased with this, Concepcion smiles shaking Dr. Velez’s hand and says, “Thank you, Dr. Velez, we look forward to seeing you next week.”
Dr. Velez nods and waves good-bye to them, as Concepcion and Gusto start to walk home. Their white painted home keeps them cool in the summer and throughout the year the sunlight creates the most wonderful shadows reflecting from its white walls. Dead pomegranate flowers stood in clay pots on the outside doorway, as dead geraniums hung from the second floor. Upon entering, Concepcion quickly goes to the back where she hears noise and ruckus. Standing at the threshold of their bedroom Concepcion sees her husband in a panic as he grabs clothes and blankets from the drawers and tossing them into several open suitcases.
Drenched in a nervous sweat streaming down his twenty-six-year-old baby face, Cecilio notices Concepcion at the doorway and frantically says, “We have to go!”
Concepcion asks, “Go where?” As Cecilio closes and locks the filled suitcases he says, “Out of the country, we have to leave the country. I already packed a bag for you and Gusto. We have to leave now.”
Even more confused Concepcion asks, “Cecilio, what is going on? Are you involved with the rebellion?”
Cecilio answers, “Yes. And since this morning the army has been doing raids arresting everyone. They arrested Francesc Ferrer and Alejandro Lerroux is missing. They are saying that Francesc will be executed. Without those two the rebellion is unwinnable. My name is on their list, they are coming for me Concepcion. We have no choice we have to go now!”
“What about my mother, father, and sisters? What about your parents and your brothers? This is our home! We can’t just leave our families like this Cecilio!”
Cecilio calmly walks up to Concepcion and delicately places his hands on her slender shoulders. “I understand if you want to stay, I don’t blame you. This is my mess, not yours and it isn’t fair to you or Gusto, but I’m leaving now and you have to make the decision if you want to stay here or come with me.”
With tears in her eyes, Concepcion looks down at Gusto, as he stares up looking back into hers, and she realizes the three of them were now their own family. The most noticeable thought was that she was deeply in love with Cecilio and couldn’t begin to think of a life without him. Turning her head toward Cecilio and looking deeply into his eyes, she nods, agreeing to go with him. Filled with relief from the fear of losing his better half, he tightly hugs Concepcion because the truth is that he, too, was deeply in love and could not begin to think of a life without her.
The steam whistle blew loud along with the words, “all aboard!” yelled over the crowd gathered at the Madrid-Irun line railway station to let everyone know it was time to board the train.
With three one-way tickets to France, they reluctantly boarded and found their seats. Gusto sat quietly and outlined the Japanese engravings with his finger, as he stared at the wooden box in his lap. Concepcion could not help herself but cry into the shoulder of Cecilio, as the sadness of leaving their home and never being able to return was too overwhelming.
The day the Metello Pio family left their home and country of Spain and fled to France, there had been 1,700 civilian indictments for armed rebellion, many of which ended up being executed or sentenced to life in prison. One hundred and fifty civilians never made it to courts and were killed in the streets. In the end, the rebellion lost, and the Catholic Church kept its power and reign over Spain.