“We’ll have a party.”
The little kitsch statue of the village finally had a home and needed to be officially blessed and inaugurated. Its home didn’t look like a nice little chapel to me, but resembled a makeshift prison, a plastic box on stilts with two stone slabs to form a roof. The statue was even denied the magnificent views over the hills on the right, from behind its bars he looked straight over the road into villager O’s cabbage patch.
Although I hadn’t been involved in the decision-making process on any of this, the only non catholic in the village, I wasn’t going to miss out on a party.
The possibility hadn’t gone unnoticed to me that the village women were organising all this to show off their virtuous community village hood to the young priest. He hadn’t been assigned to the area for very long when I arrived but mass was certainly popular. He didn’t really look like a priest. He had the perfect son-in-law bookish look but I could also easily imagine him as part of a boy band, the token slightly shy one. The kind you would take home to mother. I liked him. He had mentioned how he’d never ever met a community so unified, villager C told me, full of pride. I commented he probably wasn’t aware what villager P said about villager S behind her back, but she told me he meant in general.
The priest had said he’d contribute to the inauguration party by paying for a few empanadas but that had caused outrage among the women. It was to be a thoroughly stressed about in advance occasion, with added indecisiveness about who’d bring what. But it would be small. It would not be a huge party like the ones I had attended in nearby villages. I liked the idea of small.
Normally, village parties are nothing like the kind you’d imagined to find in a small village. Forget village Fete. Village parties are insane. Huge trucks turn up the day before which transform into stages, singers and dancers with legs up to their armpits, skimpy outfits, salsa, merenque and waltz with the occasional modern hit, thousands of people. All ages turn up. Before the actual bands begin, people have huge meals in their houses, families and friends invited. After that everyone joins to watch the spectacle. If you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all of them. Except the more expensive bands have prettier girls and better voices.
This party would be without all that.
After a lot of stress the party was set up, the tables laid, village women arrived with trays of cakes and empanadas and wine. The priest turned up late and the women stood in front of the statue, reciting the holy Mary at breakneck speed, reminding me of those adverts where they are trying to cram in all the terms and conditions at the end.
It was nice. No, it wasn’t nice, it was awesome. Sitting there with all the villagers and a few outsiders, eating and drinking and laughing.
But it wasn’t until after the majority of nonvillagers had left that the party really started.
“Sing!” Someone said. “M…Sing!”
And they all looked at villager M.
Villager M is my direct neighbour, he lost his leg when younger. His wife either yells at her donkey or at him but I get on with both. He’s quite soft spoken apart from the odd rant back at his wife when she has gone too far.
And I still get tears in my eyes just thinking about that. The power and emotion was so unexpected it blew me away. When he was younger he always sang during parties and weddings, I was told. Everyone in the end sang that evening, joining in with traditional Galego village songs and some made up songs with rude lyrics which caused roars of laughter.
I looked differently at that little prison of a chapel from that day on.
For me that village spirit which I witnessed that night is locked up in there, guarded forever.