Updated: May 15
It has been a year since my last blog entry… lots going on, some things exciting, others mundane. A few near to home adventures and lots of quiet time.
To end my four part series of my New York in Ribadeo to move on to more compelling things while feeling trapped with what appears to be a never-ending global pandemic, here I go.
There are moments when I have to feel I am on top of the world, to think, reflect, gather my thoughts. At best, to realize most problems are smaller than they appear in the scheme of things.
New York´s Central Park embodies the cities romantic green space. Yes, it is beautiful. It is smack in the middle of the island. It´s cruel history of community displacement for its design. Its picture-perfect backdrop for film, both good and bad. It is surrounded by towering edifices beyond the Fifth Avenue Gilded Age mansions on the East Side, and more contemporary residential buildings to the west. It is very welcoming during the day and appears somewhat dark and sinister at night- abandoned, with dim turn of the century lamp posts lighting meandering concrete paths into the parks underbelly. It's a paradox...
I would walk past it all on Central Park West, starting point at Columbus Circle to its end at 110th street and continue walking all the way to Bennet Park, in Hudson Heights, Fort Washington, near the northern tip of Manhattan Island. Geographically it is the highest natural point in the city, app. 265 feet, (81 meters) above sea level. The high point where the Continental Army delayed the advance of the British troops in 1776. A playground for Revolutionary War re-enactments and for the most part it is quiet and forgotten during the fall. Bennet Park overlooking the Hudson River, view of the George Washington Bridge crossing into New Jersey, the Garden State.
A lone American Elm tree is settled in the park´s bedrock. On a bright brisk autumn day, the turning leaves of the old elm give the impression of gold dropping from the sky. This would be my quiet place.
In Ribadeo I have Santa Cruz, it is not the highest point in the area but the views and quietude in the fall are reminiscent of my New York.
Santa Cruz is a hill overlooking the villa and The River Eo. Across the river is Asturias. Castropol and Figueras, emblematic port villages fill in my view. On a clear day to the west our sister villa, Vegadeo, often hidden in the valley surrounded by mountains on misty days, can be seen.
200 meters above sea level I get the panoramic view of where I now live, so reminiscent of where I came from. The Cantabrian Sea tease the northern shore, the Puente de los Santos stretches over the river to unite the two autonomous communities, Galicia and Asturias.
So similar yet different at the same time.
Mentioned as far back as 1805 in historical archives, it has had several modifications through-out the years. The most recent in 1989 which unfortunately was the removal of the portico.
The entrance is crowned with an equal armed cross. A symbol representative of the four seasons, four winds or four elements as far as I know.
It represents the Holy Cross in Ribadeo-
There is no imposing image of a saint, instead she is tucked away behind the chapel in a makeshift alter made of stone,
La Virgen de la Guia, The Guiding Saint. La Virgen de la Guia ties in with the maritime culture and history in the area. Prayers for a safe return from sea were once whispered to her. Fishermen and sailors would make and present small replicas of vessels before their voyage asking for protection from the dangers at sea.
A circular road leads to the top. Chestnuts trees and pine trees shade the meadow.
A spectacular, larger than life granite sculpture of Gaiteros greats all visitors.
The Bag Pipe:
During the first weekend in August, there is a country tour, a pilgrimage of sorts, to play homage to the Galician Bag Pipe, La Gaita. In my blissful ignorance I thought a bagpipe was a bagpipe, but not all bagpipes are the same. The Scots play it, the Irish too. It is Asturias self proclaimed native instrument and Galicia, well Galicia brings it to a whole new other level. The bagpipe is considered the soul of a Galician as proclaimed by local native Fransisco Diaz Rey in 1990 entitled La Alegria de Vivir, the Joy of Living.
With Galicia´s ties to pagan rituals and ancient Celt traditions, there has to be something more to this...
During the annual Xira Campestre there are no floral offerings made to the image of a saint. The floral offerings, the devotion and celebration is for the Gaita.
People hike up to the hill and have a communal picnic with residents, neighbours from surrounding towns and new comers. They eat, they drink and they play the bagpipe, sing and for accompaniment dance folkloric Muiexñeira, an energetic regional dance.
The bagpipe was introduced to Galicia in the fifth and sixth century, then there was no mention of it until the latter half of the twelfth century.
Smaller than the traditional Scotch instrument with a higher pitch, a wider range and depth in tone. No local holiday is without it in this land that I love.
La Xira Campestre:
La Xira Campestre has been celebrated from as far back as the 1940´s in Ribadeo. It was originally celebrated in May- I connect it to the Celtic festival of Beltrane.
Beltrane is the midway point between spring and summer, 01 of May- celebration of the Spring Solstice.
On 07 July 1962 an association was created and called themselves Los Amigos de la Gaita, Friends of the Bagpipe. Armando Suarez Cuoto was one amongst them. Creating a board of directives, the date of the celebration was changed to the first weekend in August. Suarez-Cuoto pioneered the first all female Gaita players, founding members all from the villa- As Meniñas de Saudade.
As Meniñas de Saudede became representative of the villa, its progress and part of the Galician culture. Their popularity and regional performing tours paid for the commission of the Galician Piper sculpture.
Warmer weather, less rain, longer days waiting for crops to mature after they have have been sowed have had attendees increase in numbers while holding on to the same magic as chronicled in the earlier decades.
Dna. Primi Nècega Gallo, a native of Foz who made Ribadeo her home, best described it when Master of Ceremony of La Xira de la Gaita in 1999:
"In front of the chapel the dance was improvised, in a small esplanade of earth and green grass. From each snack came a singing group: habaneras, Mexican corridos, muiñeiras, Galician songs ,,,. Everything was mixed in happy harmony, while in the background, from his viewpoint, Ribadeo small, beautiful ... like a beautiful postcard swayed with the whisper of his Ría. At dusk it was necessary to return. With regret, you said goodbye to that improvised spree, something remained in each tree, in each branch, it seemed that a bit of your laugh, of yourself, was being left behind. When he came down with his eyes on, waiting for another look, another laugh, another hand, a love that often began there. On the road or corredoira we sang happy with the last rays of the sun ... and in San Lázaro it was getting dark; Santa Cruz would stay there until next year, silent, silent, while the last fire rose to the top."
I often leave a little bit of my laugh and myself when I visit and I realise things are not always as bad as they seem.
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