My grandma Susana, or as we call her, abuelita Susana, passed away at the end of 2022 at the age of 102. This week is her birthday, and I want to honor her because she significantly influenced me.
Note: Some actions referred to here might be true or just family myths. Regardless they are very treasured!
Abuelita Susana was an extraordinary woman of the 20th century. She had a challenging but rewarding life. Susana was born in 1920, at the start of the roaring twenties and after the 1918 pandemic.
One of her many attributes was that she was a fantastic storyteller, so we were always looking forward to hearing about her amazing adventures. She was a treasure of stories.
One of her earliest stories was about how she spent her weekly allowance buying the “Cuentos de Calleja”. In 2021, I was lucky enough to find two compilations of his work and gave them to her. Mr. Saturnino Calleja was a best seller and icon back in the day.
Abuelita Susana was a woman entrepreneur in a mid-size town in the State of Veracruz. She started selling Tupperware and later moved up the ladder and was able to pay for some amazing trips.
One of her most cherished voyages was her around-the-world tour in the late 1960s. She traveled to some places that are hard to visit, even today. She went with her sister, and they started in Hawaii. Later they went to see Angkor Wat before the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and committed genocide.
The next stop was India, where they were received with great surprise as it was uncommon to see two middle-aged women traveling without a man. Afterward, they visited Iran before the Islamic Revolution and Iraq before Saddam Hussein. They took fantastic pictures of their stop in Lebanon, the then “Paris of the East”, before the civil war tear apart the country for many decades. Their last stop was Rome, which seemed dull after the extraordinary places they had visited beforehand.
The trip was extraordinary, but even more so was her ability to do it without knowing much English. She visited Paris several times, and she remembered how to get to the hotel from the famous shopping stores by memorizing the shop displays on the way because she still had to learn French.
Every time she returned from her travels; she gave me coins from all the countries she visited. That is how I started my coin collection and my interest in traveling. After listening to her adventures overseas, I picked up the Encyclopedia (there were no personal computers or the internet back then) and searched entries about the countries I had coins. It was then that I knew I wanted to travel like abuelita Susana, and I enjoy learning about different nations and their history. It was when I developed the love for maps that I still have today.
All my grandparents had the travel bug, especially abuelita Susana, so I didn´t even question why I wanted to travel the world. Furthermore, I was so interested in different countries that I studied International Relations and later became a diplomat.
Another facet of her life was art. She was an inherent painter. Every summer, when all her granddaughters and grandsons spent time in her house, she had several activities, including painting classes. Below is one of her paintings.
Another quality of abuelita Susana was that she loved reading. Every day, after lunch, she read the local newspaper and was a big fan of history books. She read for as long as I can remember and did it until the day she passed away.
She also had a heart of gold. Besides caring for her large family, abuelita Susana was a Red Cross volunteer. For several decades, she visited the hospital to assist in any way she could.
Abuelita Susana struggled like most women in the last century but overcame many obstacles. She was as contradictory as the 20th century, with remarkable advances and innovations but also holding to traditions and views that were not politically correct.
¡Feliz cumpleaños abuelita Susana! (Happy Birthday Grandma Susana).
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.