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Maribel, the teacher who preferred to leave everything to the young talents of Santa Pola than to become rich

By hollisterclothingoutlet 31/03/2023 685 Views

The scene is in black and white. Maribel is 18 years old and it is summer in a fishing village with fewer than 7,000 residents at the end of the 1940s. Santa Pola, in Alicante, is not yet a beach destination bursting with real estate developments. That extremely hot day has some unusual visitors: a group of young Swiss, who are on vacation in Spain, have run out of water and are looking for a source. They approach Villa Adelaida, a farm surrounded by almond trees, a paradise that also has a well. Maribel gives them a drink and there she meets Edgar Werner, twelve years older. Two years later, after a courtship of comings and goings, Maribel turns 20, Edgar is baptized, converts from Calvinism to Catholicism and they get married in the church of Santa Pola, which they leave immediately to go live in Stanford ( California). Werner dies a year later, the victim of a skiing accident, and she, our protagonist, who barely knew the language, decides to stay in the house where they lived and continue with a story worthy of a novel, a movie, or a series. Maribel didn't take long to meet Hans Bremermann, her second husband, a scientist with whom she traveled halfway around the world for forty years.

"It's a long story and an amazing life." On the other end of the phone, Marian Sempere starts her story about Maribel Pérez-Ojeda (1931-2015), a woman they will know nothing about if they have no relationship with the municipality of Santa Pola, in Alicante. Before the person in charge of the municipal library discovers the fascinating biography, it is necessary to clarify that in his will he left his greatest jewel to his hometown: Villa Adelaida, a small palace from the beginning of the 20th century, valued at close to ten million euros that he never wanted. sell it, on the condition that the council turn it into a public cultural center with exhibitions and residences for young artists, writers and scientists. It will be called the Hans Maribel Shami Center for Arts, Sciences and Letters for the Promotion of Young Talent. Almost nothing.

This is a true story of a woman who left Santa Pola in the fifties, at the age of 20, and became a patron who loved, traveled, spoke eight languages, lived through the hippie revolution at the University of Berkeley (California, USA) where she graduated in Art, Philosophy and Letters, received her doctorate, was a professor, head of the Spanish department and professor of Romance languages ​​for four decades. "She was groundbreaking and struggled to be independent," says Rafael Pla, archivist at the Santa Pola library and author of the book Vivir sin fronteras, the biography of Maribel commissioned by Shami Mendiratta, Maribel's third husband. It was the gift he wanted to give his wife before she died.

Maribel and Shami met at the Dalai Lama's birthday. The woman from Alicante traveled to the celebration in India with her second husband, the scientist Hans Bremermann, already sick with cancer. Shami and he were friends. Maribel was widowed for the second time in 1995 and in 1997 she returned to her castle -Villa Adelaida- along with Shami. Her third husband understood that a life like his wife's well deserved a book and gave Rafael Pla the 22 letters in which she told him her story during their courtship. The correspondence lasted from the time they met until they were married.

The biographer

"The story with her first husband seems like a movie because of the complexity of the relationship and the tragic outcome," says Rafael Pla, who did not know Maribel Pérez-Ojeda before she was commissioned to write his life. When Maribel suffered a stroke, Shami paid the two archivists to scribble down the life of her wife. "As much as I tell you, you will not be able to understand the dimension of Maribel. For us she was unknown when we began to write in 2013. It was a missed opportunity. We did not know how to take advantage of her international capacity and generosity in life. She lived in seclusion in Villa Adelaida and until the donation has been forgotten and ignored in Santa Pola", recalls Rafa. The story was signed together with Toni Mas and in a year they had it finished.

Maribel, the teacher who preferred to leave everything behind the young talents of Santa Pola to become rich

"We didn't have anything else. Then he also let us see some photos and in the same drawer were the letters to his parents," says Pla. Years later, after Maribel's death, her donation and all the archives of her history would arrive in full. They are still cataloging the boxes that turned up full of their memories. I kept it all. "We opened one of the boxes and found one with 40 matchboxes from the hotels he had been to with Hans Bremermann. It has furniture from all over the world. It is an inexhaustible biography and now we are in contact with universities in the United States for which what happened for them to send us information about it", explains Marian, who has abandoned the tasks that link her to the library to dedicate herself exclusively to reviving Villa Adelaida just as Maribel dreamed of. "She was a woman out of her time, a visionary," says Marian de Maribel.

Maribel was known in Santa Pola as the American with the loose robes and every summer they went to see the fashion she brought from the United States. Her outfit was the cause of conversation and scandal: she was the first woman to go to Playa Varadero in a bathing suit. "I have the feeling that she was very happy, although she lived trapped between two worlds: Santa Pola and San Francisco. Although she would never have taken advantage of her potential here, in her letters she said she missed the Virgin of Loreto, patron saint of here, and the stew of balls. He called his castle his earthly paradise, "says his biographer. His grandfather had a position in the Navy and his great-grandfather was the local notary. His parents wanted to give him an education and he studied internally in the religious of Alicante. "In his memories we have not found political clues, but religious ones. He was always a believer," says Pla.

In one of her letters, Maribel writes about her memory of the place: "I seem to hear the castle clock, in those late hours when everything rests. I seem to relive my thoughts from then, a sense of protection: the father who sleeps. Then, around nine o'clock, the balconies of the living room. The first impressions of the street. The girl in boots who sweeps the agency, the scrambled birds with the first light, those who pass numb by the freezing cold of a winter colder than others (6 degrees on the patio thermometer). Everything seems like a dream: Bru, the curtains, the blankets, the hardware store, my daily outings, a dream! That reality has been very pleasant to me".

The City Council

Shami painted the walls of Villa Adelaida. They are all over the house, in the pool gazebo, in the corridors, on the stairs, on the facade, in the rooms... But the humidity is eating away at the oil paintings that he did directly on the wall, without a layer of preparation some. There are plants, birds, fish, octopuses, it is a nature in harmony, with very bright and vivid colors. A deeply naive potpourri in which the Santa Pola City Council will invest 43,000 euros in its restoration. It was the other condition that Maribel left: her husband's paintings had to be kept intact. These are the first thousand euros of a major investment, which will continue with 50,000 more for a museographic master plan and 200,000 euros for the execution of the work that will reform the space.

Before the restoration of the mansion built in 1910 by the modernist architect Marceliano Coquillat y Llofriu, the City Council will organize guided tours in the coming weeks so that the residents of Santa Pola can discover the interior of this mysterious home, which has gone disappearing in a voracious urban environment. Originally the farm started on the slopes of the mountain and ended on the shore of the beach. Today that immense plot has been divided into many others that have been occupied by four-story buildings. Villa Adelaida is an anomaly in the architectural landscape, even though the street bears the name of its last owner. Maribel's mother, Adelaida Pérez-Ojeda, received this striking gift with a tower and bright colors from her godparents, Isabel Alonso Fenoll and Gervasio Torregrosa, a shoe industrialist. The family would gather there to celebrate Maribel's vacations every summer.

In 2016, the City Council accepted the legacy of the Villa Adelaida residence by Maribel López Pérez-Ojeda and it would not have happened if not for Marian Sempere. The new scene in this story takes place in the municipal library, where Shami goes every day to read his newspaper and check his email. Shami was born in India 82 years ago and is faithful to the Sikh religion —a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others—, he wears his white cotton Punjabi turban, takes a nap, walks, only speaks English and he barely interacts with the neighborhood and doesn't answer his cell phone either. This newspaper has tried to talk to him but it has not been possible. "He is a very reserved man, with a strict routine," explains Marian, who wants to activate the center so that Villa Adelaida can shine again.

The Librarian

"You may wonder what the librarian is doing in all this soiree." Marian pauses in the lives and misadventures of Maribel Pérez-Ojeda to tell why, on the brink of retirement, she is "very involved" in getting a cultural manager to share her enthusiasm and launch the cultural center. "The place has to be free of works and works. We want to turn Villa Adelaida and Santa Pola into a national cultural reference", Marian releases without hesitation. His life changed when Shami asked who he could talk to at City Hall to discuss the donation. Marian became their link and guide through the maze of bureaucracy and local government offices.

Marian has taken the rescue of the villa personally. Everything is going very slowly for her, but she is convinced to achieve it before her retirement. He spends the day there. There is a masonry workshop school that is fixing some parts of the house and another dynamization group that will be in charge of the visits. They have been rehearsing them for months and are looking forward to showing the house. "We are in love with this place. Everyone who enters is surprised and they are delighted to come to help. When it is time to water, the entire crew comes without pouting. We are making it beautiful for the town," says the town librarian who in summer it reaches 200,000 people.

Maribel Pérez-Ojeda had no children or nephews, her brother also died without issue. "Maribel made her life and we barely know the part of her in the United States, only what she wanted to tell us. She wanted to be with the family, but only when she wanted to," says Fernando Pérez-Ojeda, the son of a first cousin. from Maribel. He does not forget those summer parties in Villa Adelaida, nor his intelligence and his sovereign and independent disposition.

Villa Adelaida has always been the object of many interests. Also from Real Madrid. Santiago Bernabeu had a vacation home in Santa Pola (on the avenue that now bears his name) and the football club has maintained a special bond with the town. In 1973, the sports newspaper Marca published a report on the white patriarch at his home in Santa Pola, in short shirt sleeves, reading the newspaper and smoking a cigar, next to a table with photos of the sixth European Cup, Cordobés, the basketball team, Alfredo Di Stéfano, his wife and their four children... They even considered recovering that residence to create the house-museum dedicated to Bernabeu. "A few years before he died, various directors from Real Madrid came and met with Maribel to buy Villa Adelaida and the farm from her and set up a Foundation there," recalls Fernando. He told them no. Maribel had other plans for Villa Adelaida.

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