¡Ésta es tu tierra! This is your land!

May 2009.

“Sevillana, you are a Sevillana!

Next year you will be dancing at the Feria with your cousin Guillermo, bonita!

Because this is your land child! ¡Ésta es tu tierra niña!”

La Tata is cradling our seven day old child on her lap. She looks down and murmurs her words with her husky, broken voice, the soft down of her upper lip reminding me my own late Grandmother. She continues to coo and chat away to her as I look on. Clara is the third generation of Javier’s family that Tata has looked on. Now that she is retired some ten years, since the death of Javier’s Grandmother, she doesn’t have to take care of anyone, or change any nappies, instead she enjoys being looked after in her own flat near my parents-in-law.

La Tata, who is really called Encarnación, or Encarna for short, started working for the family when she was only 12 or 13 years old. Her own family couldn’t afford to have her and so she went to live and work for the Amaro Amador family in Jaen in the North of Andalucia, looking after Javier’s mother and siblings as babies.

In the thirties, Spain was at war with itself, and in the forties and fifties, the rural areas and small towns continued in poverty. They were closed off places with little circulation of things of the world. “La España Profunda”, it’s called, a bit like our “Deep South”.

Here is the story of first time there was a jogger in her village:

“There was a man who was seen running through the village. What was he running from? Good God! What was happening? Yes, everyone looking at him like he was mad. There is work to be done, who wants to run just for the pleasure of it?”

As a working girl, it wasn’t unusual that La Tata never learnt to read, her education about the world limited, she doesn’t comprehend the distance between my land and hers, and she knows little about how a baby is really made.

“Emma,” she says to me, “it is one of the greatest mysteries to me that this child was one week ago in your belly.”

I’m in full concurrence with that mystery myself, my body is still reminding me with every ache! One week ago, I was pushing very hard and out came Clara Frida at midnight, 25 April, Seville, Spain. It was the turning of the clock to ANZAC day.

“Esta es tu tierra niña!”

A couple of mornings ago, Javier and I were lying on the bed, our little flat in blesséd sleepy morning silence. Javi was wanting to now what an ANZAC biscuit was. The Edmonds recipe book has a good explanation of it and so I got it out to read to him. Naturally the conversation turned to what an ANZAC was and to the wars. Only a couple of years ago I found out that some of my Grandfather’s cousins and Uncles lost their lives at Gallipoli and at the Somme and are buried here in Europe. My Granddad had served in the Pacific as a pilot. I explained about the fields of poppies and the cemeteries in France, Belgium and in Turkey and the services at dawn on ANZAC day all around New Zealand.

“Emma, why did you never take me to one?”

“Well, for one, you don’t like getting up early and two, I don’t know. I haven’t been to a service since I was at high school.

“We should have gone.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right….you know while Clara was but a few hours old, people were gathering over on the peninsular for the dawn service. It starts at the rising of the sun. It’s kind of nice to think that was happening. All these people focused on one thing that no one can disagree on: that humanity is constantly committing itself to grave folly.

Clara’s unsettled. The trip to see La Tata, who is unable to climb our stairs to see us, in the noisy streets with the bumps and rumbles has been all new. We also had a coffee in one of my favourite haunts on the way home and it’s all proved too much for her. She’s missed a good sleep. Javier looks down at her as he hands her to me.

“Sing to her in Maori Emma, she likes that.”

“E tangi ana koe

Hine e hine

E ngenge ana koe

Hine e hine

Kati to pouri ra

Noho i te aroha

Te ngakau o te matua

Hine e hine

Ésta es tu tierra niña….”


About the author Emma Louise Pratt

Emma Louise Pratt studied at Ilam School of Fine Art, Canterbury University, New Zealand. She has been the runner up in the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award (2005), and a finalist in the Norsewear Award (2007) in New Zealand and finalist in the Focus Abengoa International Painting Prize, Spain in 2014. Emma is known for her landscape based work where she explores specific landscapes that convey significance to her either for their historical or personal importance, serving as they always have, as a personal travel map.

All posts by Emma Louise Pratt →

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