Mi Abuelo

The following was written in 1995-96.
I was 9 or 10 years old, and this was completed as a class assignment in 4th or 5th grade.

I remember typing it with my father. Okay, mostly he dictated it, and then took over the computer for a couple parts to get his thoughts straight, but still, we did it together. I'm really glad I had this as a class assignment or else I wouldn't have this hard-bound 14 page book in front of me now with a little bit of family history.

I've retyped the book below, and added additional comments in blue.

This book is dedicated to my father, Antonio Burillo.

Chapter 1 - The Early Years
I was seven years old when I visited the small village where my grandfather was born. My parents and I walked through it and saw that little had changed. There is now plumbing, electricity, and the women no longer wash the laundry at the river. Now I realize how different life was in those days.
Indeed, I was, and I did. And plumbing and electricity is actually a really big deal, but the rest of the buildings were pretty much in place and the roads were all cobblestone.
Jose's father, Antonio, owned the one and only bar in the town of Muel. (My father was named after his grandfather) Of course you should know that a bar in Spain is different from a bar here. It is a restaurant that serves wine. They owned a grape farm, and they used the grapes to make wine that they served in the bar.

Jose helped his father process wine in a cave. One day his father told him to close the spigot on a barrel after the wine finished draining into another barrel, then come home. Jose was hot and thirsty. When the wine was transferred, he closed the spigot and opened the one with the wine in it to a trickle. He sat under the barrel and let the wine trickle into his mouth. It became dark and Jose's father was worried about him. His father went to the cave to find that Jose was asleep and foaming at the mouth because he had drunk so much wine. Antonio carried his son home. A few days later Jose finally woke up. He was severely punished!

Jose's best friend was a boy named Capeticas. They are still good friends these many years later. One day Jose and Capeticas had seen Antonio shoot a large brass-barreled blunderbuss that had belonged to his grandfather and they decided to try it themselves. They snuck it out of the house, took it to the nearby forest, loaded it with gunpowder, rocks, broken glass, and stuffed an old shoe in the barrel to hold the charge in place. The were both afraid to hold on to it to shoot it, so they tied it to a small tree. Then they tied a string to the trigger to fire it, and after several attempts the flintlock finally ignited the gunpowder. The small tree broke. The whole village heard the gunshot, and most people came running out to see what happened, including his father. Jose was severely punished, again!

Chapter 2 - The Loss
There was a man in the village who wanted Antonio's bar. He was friends with the local military authorities, so he told them that Antonio was against Franco [the dictator]. Shortly thereafter, Jose's only brother was found shot to death on a bridge near town. A couple of days later, the authorities went to Jose's house at night and took him and his father away on a truck to be executed. When the guard dozed off, Antonio pushed Jose off the moving truck. That was the last time Jose saw his father. He was only 12 years old. Jose hid in the ditches for a couple of days. He went back to the village and found his mother and two sisters who told him that all that they owned had been taken from them. They fled to Zaragoza, a nearby large city, to hide. Jose became head of the family and had to get a job to support them. He could no longer go to school.

Chapter 3 - Starting Over
Like all other young men, when Jose turned 18 years old, he had to serve in Franco's army until his 20th birthday. Shortly after he got out, he and his family decided to move to Bilbao, a large port city on the Bay of Biscay.

There, he worked for a large company as a machinist apprentice. He married a woman named Pilar whom he met at a dance in the city park. They lived with her parents. Ten months later they had a son and named him Antonio, after Jose's father. About two years later, Jose and Pilar were involved with a group of people who wanted a democracy instead of the Franco dictatorship. Franco found out about this and tried to have them arrested. As Jose was going to work one morning his friend who worked on the night shift told him that the police were there to arrest him. He decided to return home instead of going to work. He got his wife and left their son with his wife's parents. They fled to France in a row boat with several other people. While they were fleeing, the military police spotted them and shot at them. One of the men in the boat was killed.

In France, they applied to stay as political refugees. France, having its own difficulties after World War II, could only let them stay until they found another country to live in. About one year later, after Jose and Pilar had learned French, they met a lady whom they could pay to sneak their son across the border. She lived in France, but worked in Spain and had a son the same age as little Antonio. One morning, she crossed the border without her son. After work, she waited for the guards to change. Then she crossed the border with little Antonio pretending he was her son. Pilar was waiting at the border to be reunited with him. My dad was 5 years old at the time. He said his grandmother prepped him for this trip by telling him that he was going to meet a woman dressed in such and such that he'd never seen before, and that he was going to pretend to be her son, and she would re-unite him with his parents. It was important that he didn't say a word or look at the guards or else they would all be shot and killed.

The I.R.O. (International Refugee Organization) provided Jose and his family with travel documents because they did not have pass-ports. They offered to pay their travel expenses to any country that would accept them. First, they applied to the United States, but were denied because the United States had treaties with France and did not recognize Spaniards as political refugees. They applied next to Australia, but they didn't have $50 so they could not get in. Their third choice was Canada which accepted them gladly. They traveled from Le Havre on a converted World War II liberty ship called "Nellie." They arrived in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada on November 10, 1951. They were housed in an old converted army barracks along with approximately 500 other refugees, mostly from Spain. All they had to eat their first week was a loaf of bread and a jar of mustard. One month later, on December 11, their daughter Iciar was born. She was the first child of Spanish parents born in Canada. 

About three months later, they moved out of the army barracks where Jose got a job in a small mining village in northern Quebec province. The population was less than 100. They lived on the second floor of a house owned by a local family. One of the brothers in the family was killed during a cave-in at the mine. After he helped recover the body, Jose and his wife decided to take their kids and go to Montreal. During the first few years, Jose worked at several machinist jobs. At Sperry Tools, he met a Belgium refugee name Mr. Grunvald. Later Mr. Grunvald and his two sons started Preci-Tools LTD and hired Jose as their first employee. The company gained a reputation as the most precise machine shop/machine laboratory in North America. Many times Jose had to look under a microscope to see the parts he was making. Practically everything that need to be built precisely was contracted to them. They made parts for top secret military, aerospace, and medical devices. Parts for the first Vulcan Gatling guns, parts that went to space, and parts in the first hydraulic surgical instruments.

During the time Jose lived in Canada, he met many other Spanish refugees. He would go out of his way to help these people get jobs, homes, medical help, and get reestablished in their new country. He did this even when the Spanish Consul-General in Montreal refused to help. His generosity to other immigrants continued in the United States.

Chapter 4 - In the United States
Jose was finally allowed into the United States because the government needed his skills. Jose was ranked one of the top seven experimental machinists in the United States. While working at Preci-Tools in Montreal, inspectors from the United States government and a contractor had to fly from Los Angeles to Montreal twice a week to inspect his work. One week, something unusual happened and they had to make a third trip. It was then that the government inspector said, jokingly, to Jose that it would save them a lot of trouble if he would move to the United States. Jose replied, I have been waiting for nine years to get in, but your quota system won't let me." In those days the United States quota system only allowed 15 Spaniards a year to enter the country. The waiting list was over forty years long. The Department of Defense contacted a Congress-man. He attached a rider to a bill that was going through Congress. President John F. Kennedy signed the bill with the attached rider that said that Jose Burillo could come into the United States "for the good of the country." He arrived in the United States two weeks later in early May, 1963 and the rest of the family followed at the end of the school year. Two years later they bought their first house and Jose's first new car.

About ten years later, in the mid 1970's, after Franco died, the King and Queen of Spain gained power again and established a democracy. Somehow the King found out that Jose had helped many Spaniards in Canada and in the United States. For this work, the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, presented him with the Emigrant's Medal, the highest honor that Spain can give to someone living in another country. Queen Sophia and Pilar struck up such a good friendship that the King and Queen came over to the Burillo home for a family dinner the following night. My, how things have changed!

About the Author
All Daniel's ancestors came from Europe. On his father's side, he is a first-generation American. His mother's family originates from Scotland and Ireland. Daniel was born in a 12 bed hospital in the small town of Reedsport, Oregon on July 17, 1986. Before moving to Arizona, he also lived in California, Spain, and France. He enjoys soccer and swimming. Math and science are his best and favorite subjects in school. When he grows up, he wants to get a Ph.D. in physics and be the best person he can be.  

I lived in Spain for almost a year during my parents' -- idk, mid-life crisis?-- and was just tossed into public school, because hey, why not, my dad was just tossed into public school in Canada when he was my age, and by the time he was 9 he spoke Spanish, English, and French fluently! (Not uncommon for Europeans to speak 3 languages by the time they're 10). I was 7, I had a hard enough time communicating in English at the time let alone Spanish--because I was in a Montessori school before where they let me get lopsided learning math and not learn how to read until I was 6. The only Spanish I knew was because my grandparents insisted I speak Spanish with them when I saw them once a week/month back in the US before we moved to Spain. Back to school in Spain, I could do math problems fine, because I already knew the content, and sort of understand half of the Spanish words written on everything else (at the first-grade level). Maybe if I had lived there for another year I would have been fluent? All I really remember is being able to read out loud in class -- well -- most of the time, but not other times, and the other kids would laugh when I would totally put the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable. That really didn't bother me though, I was more concerned with the fact that I couldn't understand most of what they were saying, or most of what I was reading. Then my teacher would try to correct my pronunciation, and I would be frantically looking through a pocket English-to-Spanish dictionary trying to communicate that I don't know what most of the words even meant. She called my father in to, idk, apparently say that I was too young to use a dictionary? And my father had me moved to second grade... :'-( Also, I got into lots of playground fights. Fun fact, us kids rode the public bus to school. Not the school bus, but the public bus. 6am to noon, home from noon-2pm for lunch and siesta, and then back to school again from 2-6pm. Also, there was Monday night bull-fights on TV. Life was quite different in Spain than the USA at that time too!

Interesting that the two youth stories that my dad remembered and chose to have written were ones that ended in Jose being severely punished--for doing things that he probably already felt terrible about anyway! My dad, bless his heart, never really internalized the idea of using carrots instead of sticks as motivators, or the adage, "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." It's well documented anecdotally and scientifically that rewards work better from animal training to human development. But it still happens all the time where people seem to think the best way to get results is through fear and intimidation. Idk, maybe the biased research promulgated about fear of loss being a greater motivator than opportunity to gain has something to do with rationalizing all the unnecessary imposed suffering in slave-driving corporate environments? There's plenty of studies of, the great slave-driving leader, who's promoted every 2-3 years, yet leaves a wake of destruction, burnout, and employee disgruntlement/disengagement behind them, and actually makes the organization much worse off. Oops! And don't give me that educated versus less educated argument either about how intellectually rigorous a person's job is in the hierarchy. If fear of loss is a greater motivator than gain, then why do so many people play the lottery? Where they know the odds are against them. Answer, because the next marginal unit of work is easy when the reward is clear. The want the reward! You can't get to happiness if all you're doing is avoiding pain. The best you can do is get to neutral, and neutral is not an inspiring vision. Erwin's sermon yesterday was coincidentally all about fear and freedom, and how "God makes us all free, and it's only through our own choices that we surrender our freedom to fear." There's also a bunch of good nuggets in there about how and why churches historically used fear to get things done -- prior to the era of abundance that we now live in. Also, why we need laws to keep us from misbehaving, but how the better we behave the less laws we need. How it's definitely easier to love some people than others. Also, the difference between service in slavery versus service in freedom. What a confusing paradox this can be for people who carry so much anger for the former that they don't see beauty of the latter. They allow themselves to be deceived into thinking service is slavery, and that pursuit of materialism & status is the pinnacle of freedom, not realizing that they're just choosing to self-impose chains to another more vague and collective master. Humility and service is freedom. Happy black slave history month. Keep shipping content.

About the author... My Mom's family actually immigrated because of the potato famine, and I'm second-generation out of an orphanage on that side. Not sure how the swimming part wound up in the book. I did a sprint triathlon 4 years ago around the beginning of my PhD program and got passed by the third starting wave behind me. lol, but I finished! While math and science were my best subjects, it was not particularly a point of pride given the circumstances (grade skipping and feeling like I didn't belong because of that--as opposed to my own self-limiting beliefs and attitude at the time); I used to say that my favorite subject was lunch. >.> In retrospect, I think my Dad was in many ways trying to re-live his childhood through me, which wound up being a big source of conflict for us. I've worked with Missy Franklin's dad a bit through my volunteer work at the Cleantech Open, and he said that's one of the biggest mistakes he sees parents make in parenting -- is trying to re-live their own lives through their kids instead of treating them as their own person. Oh well, in retrospect I do believe my dad wanted the best for me, even though it did not feel that way at the time, and I engaged in a lot of self-destructive behaviors because of it. I suppose we share enough similar genetic traits that it worked out okay. I am wrapping up a PhD in Engineering, with a fair amount of math and physics stuffs in it. And at the age of 31, not bad for a guy who graduated high school at 15 huh? lol. I mean, I would not have been able to make significant new discoveries in my field had I not had the aptitude for it. Conversely, I would not have made a good medical professional, so I'm glad my Dad discouraged that -- rote memory is not my strength. Again, there's lots of different types of intelligence. Also, I do generally try to be the best person I can be. Of course, some days are better than others. So, overall, thanks Dad. I'm definitely a better person because I had an active father in my life who cared about me -- for at least the first the first half of it to date before he died of cancer. RIP

1 comment:

Jo Burillo said...

Thank you... I never knew this side of our family... I never really knew you. The Burillo struggle is real. I don't know much about you, we have the same family line...So therefore I love and appreciate what you have posted about our family. It brings me to tears. I have stories of when I visited when I was 6-10 years old. and again when I was 18 and met you.