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What is happiness?: the story of an Asturian couple who died of covid in Madrid

By hollisterclothingoutlet 05/12/2022 522 Views

In Cuba they ate a lot of puff pastry. More salty than sweet. And the fame of El León de Oro was such that even the presidents sent someone to look for them when they had an official visit.

Inés was born in 1935. The only girl among five brothers. She was born right in the middle of the two oldest and the two youngest. Of docile character. Quiet, but naughty. With Asturian blood, from Tineo, through his veins.

He left home every day, on his way to the María Auxiliadora de Tejadillo school, of the order of the Salesianas de Don Bosco, just behind the Cathedral. She was walking, because Old Havana was easy to navigate. Jumpsuit with blue suspenders, white shirt and stockings and Mary Janes. Monday to Friday, school. With a stop to go eat home. Back home at 5:00 p.m. to do homework.

What is happiness?

Weekends were in the park. From riding to a stroller (skateboard). And also to help in the family business on Sunday mornings. He was good at dealing with clients and, besides, there was only pay if he worked.

With that money, he went to the movies on Sunday afternoons. She was always very cinephile. Double session. I would go in at 3:30 p.m. and leave at 7 p.m. And then, to have a snack at Ten Cent. Perhaps a visit to El Encanto, Ramón Areces' first store, or to Flogar, for clothing and accessories, or to the End of the Century, or to Los Precios Fijos, or to La Época.

And that's how life went by in Havana.

As a teenager, if the weather was good, she liked to go to the Malecón with her friends. And she used to have good weather. It was there until the sun began to set. Cándida, her mother, was not very amused. Many times he did not find out, but other times he asked. Inés preferred to put up with the downpour and do what she wanted.

He finished eighth grade. He started the baccalaureate of letters. I wanted to be a teacher. I had to pass some oppositions. 360 people entered every year. On the first attempt, he did not get a place. He could not finish his second year of Pedagogy. Batista had closed the University, where the gunmen were beginning to appear. There were classrooms through which you could not pass.

She tried to be a nun.

At the age of 23, he attended a tribute to El Presi, a well-known Asturian singer, at the Asturian Center in Havana. An imposing building, especially inside. The entrance to the building is chaired by two stairs that go to the same place. That day, Inés went downstairs talking to her friends from one of the sides.

“Hey, who is that pretty girl?” They introduced him to Inés, but she didn't pay much attention to him.

In the other, two guys were walking downstairs and one of them asked the other, “Hey, who's that pretty girl?” They introduced him to Inés, but she didn't pay much attention to him.

She was unaware that her life had just changed forever.

It was late 1957.

José Alberto Martínez Alonso was born in Coruño (Llanera). He was in 1931. Son of Benjamin and Edelmira. The youngest of two brothers.

He had a happy childhood and was very fond of his parents. As children, they went out to play ball. One day a dog they had came up to the ball and put a paw on it. They decided to call it Goal. They had another one called Diana. They also had cats.

The school in Coruño was like a palace. Huge, precious. Celestino Tresguerres was the teacher. an eminence. There was no river in the world that they did not know about.

The family moved to Lugones. José walked two kilometers every day to go to class to Coruño. He was a good student. Very calm.

When the explosives factory left, they demolished the school.

The original location of the Zara Restaurant, on Calle Infantes in Madrid.

When the Civil War broke out, they sent everyone to Oviedo. His father couldn't get in. He was a turner and they needed him. He worked at the Lugones metal factory.

In the house they had an orchard, and in the orchard there was a gochín. Sometimes Joselín would pass by, a homeless man who took care of the garden in exchange for food and shelter. He was a saint.

What is happiness?: the story of an Asturian couple who died of covid in Madrid

War. José remembered everything about the war. I was six years old. He saw dead people in front of his house. They weren't allowed to look out the window, but childish curiosity was stronger. He remembered being hungry. And shake the bread basket to catch the crumbs that fell. And his mother going out to the towns and picking two pears from here, a panoya from there.

After the war, the family rented rooms for factory engineers. Her mother cooked very well. They gave meals in the bar. They had a garage and bikes.

At the school in Lugones, his teacher was Víctor Martínez. He wanted to study Commerce. At the age of 14, he began at the Oviedo School of Fine Arts, at the end of Fruela street. It was no more than charcoal, but it won 12 prizes. Each one was endowed with 100 pesetas. But José was ashamed and did not dare to go looking for them. His father had to accompany him. They were 1,200 pesetas. A liter of milk cost two reales.

From that time he also remembered the pilgrimage of San Pedro. They were not orchestra parties. They were gramophone with speakers.

Also take the tram on Sundays to Buenavista, to see Oviedo de Herrerita, Lángara and Sansón play. They got off at La Vega, because it was cheaper. They stopped at the window of the Camilo de Blas confectionery. But they only watched.

Sometimes they would buy a kilo of figs. They would spend all the money they had and run home.

Her uncle Manuel had stores in Cuba, in Sancti Espíritus. And he wanted to take José with him. He went there aboard the Marqués de Magallanes, a cargo and passenger ship that left Gijón. The whole family cried as they said goodbye. His father turned around before he zapped.

La Coruña, Vigo, Lisbon, Cádiz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, San Juan de Puerto Rico, La Guaira (Venezuela), Santo Domingo and Havana. One month of travel

She shared a cabin with a violinist from Aviles. José passed the cap after his performances on the boat. On the boat, he met a family that was going to Mexico. They offered to go with them.

He had marked in his memory the entrance through the Malecón. They took him to eat. They gave him ropa vieja—his first ropa vieja—but he couldn't eat it. He ordered a couple of eggs and potatoes.

After being in town for a month, he was performing like no other. One day he sold 40 meters of cloth to some nuns.

Doctor Viña asked him if he did not want to study. He said yes. I left work at 8 and at 9 entered class. Then he went back to the store, to do the accounts. Until 1 in the morning. And so every day.

Mosquitoes burned him at night. If he stuck his nose out of the mosquito net, the next day he woke up red.

After two and a half years, he asked for a vacation. She went to Havana. There was a party every day and he enjoyed it with his friend Mimi. He decided that he wanted to stay there. Got a job.

And, one day, as a good Asturian, he went to the concert in honor of El Presi, at the Asturian Center in Havana.

While walking down the stairs, I ask Mimi, “Who is that pretty girl?”

José also didn't know that his life was about to change forever.

It was the last days of 1957.

Pepe pours cider on Gascona street in Oviedo.

After meeting on the stairs, fate brought them together again at Salomé's house, where many of the young people from the Asturian colony in Havana went to eat.

He began courting her. She, who was already working as a teacher, wanted nothing to do with him. But he was very insistent.

She caught the bus every day at the same corner, and he was always waiting for her. When she arrived, she thought "this man is here again". They greeted each other, and that's it. It seemed to her that he was courting her too much. And you know how bad that tactic sometimes goes. He claimed not to remember any of that and added that he was working at that time. And she was laughing. That he never persecuted anyone, he added. And she laughed more.

He liked her because she was so pretty. And she liked her walk. He walked like Chenche, which is a Cuban expression that defines a walk that swings his hips as he moves forward.

She was asked how she didn't like José, who was a very handsome and very nice boy. One day she decided to talk to him and give him court. And they spent 63 years together.

They would laugh at the memory. Inés explained that her brothers didn't let her go out alone, and José added that she would be her for a reason. José assured that they married him, and that Inés's father rested the day he achieved it. And the two looked at each other and laughed out loud.

The Wedding

After nine months of dating, they got married. They did it in the church of María Auxiliadora. They did not know it, but that Virgin had brought them together before they met. Because Inés was very devoted to her, who had a church near her house. José, in the house of Sancti Espíritus, had rescued a picture of the Virgin and had become a devotee. Inés never explained that it was not the Virgin of Covadonga that José venerated.

They were married at the Asturian Center in Havana. Band and all. They kept photos of her bachelorette party. And the official ceremony, with Rojas, the notary, and the after party. There is one in which they are seen already mounted in the car.

In 1959 the revolution arrived. Inés was pregnant with her daughter Inesita from her. In six months, everything changed. José remembered having met twice with Che Guevara, who at the time was president of the National Bank.

They left on a trip to Asturias, since José's mother was ill. On the way back, and by mistake, Pepe was confused with someone else. They retained it. They told Inés that she could get off the boat. But she said no, without him she was not going anywhere.

They went back to work. José recalled how the typewriters fell through the windows of the Diario de la Marina building, while thousands of people watched from the street.

Months later, they embarked again for Asturias. They never imagined that it would be the last time they would see Havana. They were convinced that they would return.

In 1961 they arrived in Asturias. José started working assembling shelves with his friend Mimi. Later, in Almacenes Uría. Then came the turn of El chino mandarín, a company specializing in soups, creams and flans. With that van, they went to the beach on weekends, to Perlora. His second daughter, María José, was born in Oviedo. José continued to demonstrate his sales skills throughout Asturias.

They move to Madrid and the Zara restaurant is born

In 1964 they moved to Madrid. And they opened a cafeteria. I didn't even know how to make coffee, but it was the least expensive. It was at calle Infantas number 5, next to Gran Vía. It had a fry shop and a bar. Her name was Zara.

They made potato omelette, squid sandwiches, Moorish skewers, pork shoulder... At night there was stew. It worked great.

In 1975, with some savings, they decided to open a knitting shop. Some friends who had one dissuaded them. The future is stores like Galerías Preciados, they were told.

And they started the restaurant. On Mondays, lentils. On Tuesdays, fabada. On Thursdays, Galician broth. On Fridays, chickpea stew. On Wednesdays, we don't remember.

Zara restaurant and chip shop, it was called. And many of the people who had been in Cuba passed through there. It worked great. In the kitchen you have to have and do what you need, was the maxim. And follow the American school: treat the customer well. People in the neighborhood said: "Let's go to the cubanito."

"We have a family full of normal families, that's why we're so happy"

They became kings of the daiquiri. People queued up for lunch or dinner. They gave about 160 services a day. They were pioneers in offering shared tables; the key was to know the customer. And they closed on Saturdays and Sundays, because they wanted to be with their grandchildren.

So, for almost five decades. The secret? Raw material and customer service. The Zara was like being at home. That was his goal, to make them feel at home, but always respecting the client and without going overboard. They both like to chat with customers. And customers with them.

Every time there was news from Cuba, people went to the Zara. They were years of great information intensity. Everything Fidel did was news.

He loved Cuban rice. To her, rice with picadillo and tostones.

No one wanted to return to Cuba. They preferred to remember it as they lived it.

In return, they opened a small Havana branch in Madrid. First, on Infantas street. Today, and run by his daughter Inés, in Barbieri. Zara became, with its traditional red and white checkered tablecloths, one of the best restaurants in the city. Where you eat very well. In which you drink (if you want) even better.

Inés and Pepe conveyed a closeness and respect for the client that turned visitors into friends. They had an excellent conversation –about politics, movies, books, whether Oviedo could go up this year, about life…– and they knew until what exact moment they had to chat with each table, because they left the diners wanting more.

They always said something sensible and sensible. They were always smiling. They always had an optimistic word.

And what was the secret to being together so long and being so happy?

“That we both have very good character. And that when we worked we were together almost 24 hours a day. Sometimes we argued and we could mentally tell each other to shit, but then Inés would ask me, do you want to have dinner, honey? And everything was already forgotten”, explained José.

“Pepe is the milk. The key is tolerance and not giving importance to things. And respect the tastes of the other. If he wants to paint, I'll go to the movies. And so comfortable. And beware, we almost never agree. We debate a lot. But we are happy. And what is happiness? Have peace and be lucky with family. We are very happy. As long as a person is normal, enough. And we have a family full of normal families. That's why we are happy," said Inés.

Inés and Pepe were two unrepeatably normal people. They carried Asturias in their soul. Until the arrival of the pandemic, they came at least once a year. Three years ago, they organized a tribute to them in which they played El Chalaneru or Campanines from my village. The two were moved when they heard them. They held hands.

On January 14, they were admitted with Covid to the Beata María Ana hospital in Madrid. They shared a room. On January 19, Pepe died of pneumonia. Last Wednesday, already at home and after a few weeks with palliative care, Inés passed away.

On January 14, they were admitted with Covid to the Beata María Ana hospital in Madrid. They shared a room. On January 19, Pepe died of pneumonia. Last Wednesday, already at home and after a few weeks with palliative care, Inés passed away.

A few days before, she found out that Pepe had left. When they told her, she cried. Later, she would call him from the bed: “Pepe, why don't you come look for me? Pepe, come now”, he said.

Inés and Pepe left as they lived: together. And, although their absence hurts everyone who knew them, it will be impossible to remember them without thinking about how simple happiness really was.

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