by Ana María Ruimonte ©2018
It was not a coincidence that my husband and I traveled in February to Savannah, the city of “Forrest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt, to attend a Copyright Congress in the Arts.
Savannah is a beautiful and mysterious city. I sat on a bench in the plaza called Chippewa Park and I felt as if I had woken up in the 18th century. The streets of the historic center were very little traveled. Walking, I arrived at a park that was a cemetery. There were some people sitting on benches. Others, they walked their puppy. Tombstones and obituaries told who the most illustrious personages of the city were.
People and souls coexisted in solitude accompanied. I read their stories: That young man whose name I can not remember who died during a duel to defend his honor; the founder of the first Savannah newspaper; Edward Greene Malone (1777-1807), recognized as the finest miniature painter in the United States; Hugh McCall (1767-1823), the author of the first treaty on the history of the state of Georgia at the time of the War of Independence and who said “We will never forget the blood poured out by the suffering patriots and the precious jewel that they bought with their blood will be cared for with courage and the last generations will remember them with gratitude”; and William Scarborough (1776-1839), a businessman and designer of the first steamboat that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1819. Beautiful historical and very well documented walk in the cemetery of the Historical Center of this city that provided so much information about the War of Independence and the War of the Secesión.
Savannah, city of mansions, streets and phantasmagorical squares.
I kept walking and saw a sculpture of a family of blacks that narrated how they had been separated from their country of origin, separated from their families and finally treated in subhuman conditions as slaves of wealthy families working hard in the fields of peanuts, tobacco and cotton.
A thick greenish river, very large and flowing, which was fed by tributaries to increase in strength and volume, crossed Savannah to reach the Atlantic Ocean a few miles away. I looked around and saw the beautiful promenades full of giant trees from which green blue ferns hung. It is said that they are the beards of the Spaniards whose ghosts advance among the trees gliding in the search of the beloved one that they persecute.
The Pink House was a beautiful mansion, and in one of the most intimate rooms was the engraving of “El Glorioso”, the famous Spanish galleon and triumph of the English navy. The ship looked very beautiful and impeccable with a lion that seemed to roar in the prow and with a flag of the crown of Castilla y León. A small English flag on this along with some lines indicated that the English settlers were very proud of this important naval conquest.
It was not that night but the next day when La Madrileñita and I met. And where was she going to be waiting for me if not in a museum so we could look each other in the eyes? She hung on the wall of a high-ceilinged living room of a beautiful mansion in the company of other paintings and sculptures. She looked straight at me, her eyes wide open but calm and curious. Her mouth ajar and relaxed as if she was still breathing from the same air as me… How beautiful she was! Her hair, gathered from behind with two red ribbons to match her lips and her dress with half sleeves with very wide, flared and transparent straps marked by a golden bow bracelet with big red ribbons on her shoulders. A neck to the vies showed its bust discreetly on which it shone a gold medallion of apical form with three gears of white pearls. In the center of the dress, ornaments with green bows in fine lines as if they were flowers with long stems, which gave the optical sensation of centrifugal force, as if the Madrileñita was about to dance. Dotted gold as snowflakes fell down her dress tailored to the waist. She stood firm in balance and sat with one hand on her hips while the other arm rested on her skirt, showing two delicate golden bracelets. Her fine, elegant fingers met at the end and her nails showed the natural color of her skin.
How beautiful was waiting for me La Madrileñita! We both stared at each other… When our eyes looked at each other, I asked her… – “Who are you?” And she replied: – “I am you”… I read her inscription as I did with her soulmates in the park’s cemetery… La Madrileñita by Robert Henri, 1910 …
– “How is it possible that you stay so beautiful, so impeccable during all these years, my me?”
So many years waiting for me with open eyes to finally see me… so that I could tell her with my eyes, with my deepest interior that was of me, what I was doing, how I was doing with my music and my songs throughout the world … Suddenly, she confessed to me:
– “I am a dancer, and you are a singer. The two Madrilenians. We were both born for art and we will live for it. Do not give up, for you too will triumph. Go ahead, beautiful and attentive, as I am”.
I continued walking, but I said goodbye again and when I looked at her again she confessed: – “I will always wait for you. Come back soon to Savannah and sing for me. Your voice is magic and I, with the air, will dance with your music. We have finally reunited, my me.”
I bought her postcard at the museum reception and brought her with me. When I look at her, I say: – “Thanks for joining me.”
Everyone who sees her knows that it’s me. I know it too.
“La Madrileñita” by Robert Henri is located at the Telfair Museum in Savannah.