National Geographic : 1965 Mar
plots to get the properties into workable size. To the pulse of windshield wipers, we drove across northern Spain while I practiced say ing eskarrik asko, Basque for "thank you." I used the phrase in villages, but in the smoke smudged industrial city of Bilbao it was of little use. Our burly, bull-shaped guide, Man olo Valle, apologized: "Sadly, I do not know how to speak my national language. Here in the city only old people use it. Even our game ofjai alai is less favored thanfutbol." Did that mean Basque pride was dying out? "What!" At least he could swear in fluent Basque.* Flash Floods Batter Textile Towns Martha and I were driving along a moun tain road when the car radio announced flash floods in the Barcelona area. Next day the papers gave the grim details: The textile processing towns of Sabadell and Tarrasa had been engulfed during the night; 400 had died. 318 Floodwaters had receded, but rain had begun again when I drove alone into stricken Tarrasa. Beyond an olive grove stretched a rubble-strewn valley, a mass of brick and branches. Eroded red clay resembled a fresh wound. I picked my way among half-houses and debris, then went to the hospital, where I talked with Mother Esperanza, a Carmelite nun and nurse. Through ether-scented corridors, Mother Esperanza took me to see one of the survivors -"a very valiant young man, Jose Nflfiez G6mez." We entered his room. He was 26, with the dark good looks of his home city, Seville. Gently, Mother Esper anza told how Jose had come here and bought a house for his wife and two children. Jose picked up the story. "When the water struck, we started to flee. I picked up our three-year-old boy, and my wife took the baby. Then the wall fell on me." "That was the moment when his leg was broken," said Mother Esperanza. "A bad break and deeply torn." Wordlessly, Jose shook his head from side to side. "In his pain, he lost hold of the child. But even with an injured leg, he got his wife and baby into a tree and held them there for three hours." In a low voice Jose spoke again. "They found my little son later on the beach. The last thing he had said to me was, 'Papa, I do not want to die.' " The father's eyes filled; he turned his face into the pillow. *See "Life in the Land of the Basques," By John E. H. Nolan, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1954. Ocher and charcoal bison stands guard on the ceiling of a prehistoric art gallery, the Caves of Altamira near Santander. The lifelike paintings, 12,000 to 15,000 years old, came to light in 1879, the first of their kind discovered by modern man. Spaniards venerate the celebrated Cathe dral of Santiago de Compostela as the tomb of St. James, their nation's patron saint. King Herod decapitated the martyr in Jerusalem. Spanish legend tells how followers returned his body to Spain, where he had preached for seven years; his tomb, lost during Roman persecutions of the third century, was found some 600 years later when a star miraculous ly pointed to the burial place. Christians im mediately flocked to the site, and with west ern Europeans Santiago ranked for a time with Jerusalem and Rome as a place of pil grimage. The Spanish believed that St. James took a personal part in the battles to evict the Moors from the land, hence their war cry "Santiago!"