Updated: Jun 28
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by Henry Kamen (NY, NY: Harper Perennial, December 2008) paperback 544 pp.
According to one review, “This is a fascinating study from an old hand and one that looks afresh at a crucial theme in Spanish history.” Author is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London and an emeritus professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona. He is the author of Empire: How Spain Became a Great Power, 1492-1763, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest living historians of Spain.
It was a warm and clear summer afternoon in August of 1991. There sat my grandfather, with a smile, handsome and strong; and in front of him, a birthday cake, lit with “90” candles, as three generations sang happy birthday to him!!!!
Juan de los Reyes Santistevan, my maternal grandfather was born on August 11, 1901, in Costilla, a small agricultural community in northern New Mexico. He was the second generation of his family to be born in Costilla; which was established in the early 1850’s.
I remember him to be always happy and friendly; never did I see him sad or angry at anyone. His kind and playful disposition attracted his grandchildren to sit on his lap and play with him. For me, it was rather unusual to see a tall and strong man be so gentle with so many young grandchildren around him.
I was fortunate to have lived with him and my grandmother for three years during my college experience. As a young adult, I came to admire, and appreciate him ever more. His fluency of the Spanish language, and appropriate use of “dichos” (expressions or sayings), made him a treasure of forgotten traditions. I recall several times his advice to me, “Cuando andes en silla, maneja bien” (When you have something good going for you, stay with it.) When I was down and sad, as I was going through a divorce, many times to pick me up, he would tell my grandmother, “Rebeca, con los listones a Juan”, (Rebecca, lets put some colorful ribbons on John to cheer him up.) It was a New Mexican tradition that people would wear colorful ribbons at joyous events. As a devout Catholic, he would use several dichos. One that I remember, “Dios tarda pero no olivida” (God will answer your prayers sooner or later.)
Grandma Becky and Grandpa John at home in Avondale, CO.
There are many more memories, I have of “Grandpa John”. I will save them for a later time.