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The story of the Castromonte bar owner (now almost 100)

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Here is a link to a story that warmed my heart.

http://www.castromonte.net/claroline-1.11.9/courses/2014/document/libros/El__camarero_nonagenario_de_los_Torozos..html

If you have been in the Bar Caribe and met the owner, you will probably enjoy the story. I have translated it (forgive any errors) just because I think it is such a great read. Yet another reason to walk untraveled caminos, you can meet people like this.
Buen camino, Laurie

Here goes:

At a very early age, Braulio Martín had already decided that he would open a bar in his hometown, Castromonte, in the heart of the Montes Torozos of Vallodalid. When he reached the age of 40, he realized his dream by opening the Bar Caribe. This was almost 54 years ago.

The nonagenarian had worked in RENFE. He had been in the Spanish Civil War, in the “Baby Bottle Battalion” in the Battle of the Ebro, when he was only 16 years old.

“We saw a lot of misery, a lot of death. We were very young, just children, and our mission, the mission of the Baby Bottle Battalion – they called us that because we were children – was to pull the cadavers out of the Ebro. We would bring them to shore and others were in charge of burying them. Some of it had such a nauseating smell that our bosses ordered us to smoke so that the smell of the cigarette smoke would cover the smell of death.” At his 95 years, his mind is sharp, fill of names, of stories, of people and of dates which he processes absolutely correctly.

Baulio Martín went to work at RENFE, so he would have a fixed salary, but he gave it up at age 40 and rented a house in front of the church in Castromonte, a house he would later buy, and where he set up the bar that has possibly sold more seafood than any other bar in the province of Vallodolid, including the capital city.

For more than half a century, Braulio and his wife Victoria Gómez, “only” 87 years old, and so timid that she doesn’t even like to be photographed, have been in charge of this business. A huge number of well known individuals of all ages, professions, passions and conditions, principally from the world of bullfighting, sports, journalists, intellectuals and painters, have been in the bar and have either enjoyed the famous seafood or had big meals or family celebrations. The walls are lined with pictures that immortalize these events.

These days, Braulio opens his Bar Caribe, every day, around noon, but he only does it because it’s fun. “It helps keep me alive and it helps keep me active, and I can chat with my life-long friends. They may have a glass of wine, but I rarely charge them anything because I enjoy being with them," says this bartender, who is probably the oldest one in Spain.

The quantity of kilos of seafood that Braulio Martin has brought to Castromonte from the Mercado del Val in Valladolid is impossible to count. “At first I brought it up on the “Train Burra” (something like milk run in English, I think, meaning slow and with many stops) to Medina de Rioseco and then from there to Castromonte on a bicycle.” The bar only opened on weekends.

He would leave his job at RENFE, pick up the seafood, and take it to the pueblo. "When I began to bring the seafood here, some people called me crazy, because in the town no one had ever seen a crab or a winkle (?) not to mention shrimp or lobster, which were thought of as food for stuck up dandys. I made a lot of trips on the bike, then I bought a Guzzi motorcycle and later a Seat 600, which has transported more kilos of seafood than many boats. Thousands of servings of these things went on the grill in the Bar Caribe. But no longer. I'm not up to that kind of work anymore, but on the occasional Sunday, at the hour of vermouth, we put out some shrimp, but not much, more than anything to maintain the tradition." And he gives a big smile, this delightful person who has, in his professional life, dealt with Captains General, even ministers, presidents of football clubs or hunters of the likes of Miguel Delibes, who used to be a regular customer, as his children are now. Delibes even dedicated some lines to him in his book The Last Preserve.

The bar is decorated with a lot of pictures, some in black and white, like the 1926 class picture from his school. Of all of them only he and one other survive. And there is another photograph, placed prominently, of his teacher, who was killed during the Civil War.

"... How good he was... And how many good people like him were taken from us", Braulio says, while a tear runs down his cheek.

Bulls are his passion, but painting and reading are his two great hobbies. Braulio has a series of pictures in his bar and in his home, which he did himself. They call out to you, because they are painted on the wall itself, not on screens or cloths, on the wall.

"They are painted with paint in a tube, the kind that they sell in the drug store, but no one would think so. Felix Cuadrado Lomas, one of my patrons, told me I could dedicate myself to painting and leave the bar. The paintings are there, and on the walls of my house I have a series of little vignettes that I painted in the 1930s. Whoever wants one of my pictures will have to take it with the house attached," Braulio smiles. He shows us the tools he uses to do pyrography (an art done by burning designs into wood). He has completed pictures of all of the animal life of the Montes de Torozos, which are intimately connected to his history, and which he can do at almost the age of 100 with no visual assistance. A genius and a great person.
 

Donovan

Active Member
Hi Laurie, a great post, thanks for taking the time to translate it. I spent a fair few hours in the Bar Caribe in May last year, so the article brought back fond memories. The bar has a warmth about it that I think comes from the character of the owners. The comment about the bar now being more of a hobby than a business rings very true. I bought a number of small items during the time I sat there – coffee, a couple of beers, glasses of wine, a bottle of water, and everything seemed to be charged at one Euro. The prices were all low, and they seemed not to want to have to mess about with small change. I attach a couple of photos to update those you took – one of which was taken during a photoshoot of the owner. I lacked the confidence in my Spanish to engage in conversation, something I’m rather regretting now.
 

Attachments

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
Such a wonderful Laurie, thank you for taking the time to translate it.
Yes indeed...you meet the most amazing people 'off the beaten track'--this year on the Sam Olav (in Modubar de la Cuesta) I met the mayor of the town, who then proceeded to open the church for me, and showed me around the town, rightly proud of his beautification projects including the fruit trees he'd grafted and planted himself. I regret not having the Spanish to understand most of what he told me, but it was still special.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Great story, Laurie, thanks for posting. I can say I was lucky to meet senor Braulio in 2014 and same as Donovan spent couple of hours there during the storm. Even spoke with him because I was the only customer but unfortunatelly my Spanish was limited so I understood maybe one third of what he said. But it was fun.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi Laurie, a great post, thanks for taking the time to translate it. I spent a fair few hours in the Bar Caribe in May last year, so the article brought back fond memories. The bar has a warmth about it that I think comes from the character of the owners. The comment about the bar now being more of a hobby than a business rings very true. I bought a number of small items during the time I sat there – coffee, a couple of beers, glasses of wine, a bottle of water, and everything seemed to be charged at one Euro. The prices were all low, and they seemed not to want to have to mess about with small change. I attach a couple of photos to update those you took – one of which was taken during a photoshoot of the owner. I lacked the confidence in my Spanish to engage in conversation, something I’m rather regretting now.
Thanks, Donovan! I had left out a line or two because I couldn't figure out what the author was referring to, and your picture clears it up. There was a line in there about calabazas (pumpkin, squash) and it must have been talking about the gourds he has painted. And I also didn't remember the painting on the wall behind him, which illustrates another part of the story very nicely. Thanks so much for posting them!
 

Wokabaut_Meri

merely labeled
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPdP - Santiago (April/May 2015)
Thank you Laurie for this story that reminds us that we are walking through the backyards and lives of the local people... and everyone of them has their own story...

We stayed one night off the Camino Francés in Isar, only a few kilometres and yet a world away. Walking around the village streets we came across an elderly man working in his vegetable garden and managed a conversation of sorts. It was an ordinary moment yet a very special one.
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
Thanks Laurie. The "oldies" we meet both on the Camino and in our daily lives are a special treasure. Here are some from Valdeperdices, including a gentleman who was almost 100 years old and mending a tool to use in his garden.
 

Attachments

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Laurie, so good you wrote about Braulio.
I sat in his bar with Emilio, a young man from Madrid, the only other pilgrim I met on my ill-fated early August Camino de Madrid a couple of years ago. The two of us were "hecho polvo," burnt to a crisp by the heat, struck stupid, really... Braulio was the soul of accommodation, he phoned up the butcher for us, so he'd open up and sell us something to eat; he phoned up the priest to come and offer a Mass for the evening. (The guy was there in town, but no dice on the Mass... Braulio went over and had someone ring the church bells so everyone would come for a Mass, and demand the priest come and do the job ! (which he did, the quickest, most mean-spirited "Misa Relampago" I think I ever heard!)
Best of all were the photo albums. When he learned I live in the Tierra de Campos, he showed us a spectacular collection of 50-year-old B&W harvest photos, including one rather scary one featuring local women sickling and gleaning in the fields. They wore hoods over their heads with eye-holes cut out, to protect their skin from sun-damage... it looked like the Ku Klux Klan cutting barley!
The next couple of days I wished to God I had one of those spooky hoods. The sun out there is a killer!
 

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