Happy Birthday to Dani’s Oldest Relative

This weekend is Easter weekend. Semana Santa in Spain.

On Good Friday we took Dani to visit his oldest relative. Dolores is 98 years old today, Easter Sunday. Affectionately known as “Lalala” by Dani and his cousin Susana (who is only 3 months older than Dani and also made the visit). The name comes from Dani’s grandmother who could not pronounce her auntie’s name when she was the age Dani is now. She called her “Lalala” and the name stuck.

Dolores is Dani’s mother’s great aunt. That makes her his great-great aunt. Dani’s Spanish grandmother has an older sister who herself is 80 years old. She has a grand-daughter called Fernanda (Dani’s Godmother) who is due to give birth to a daughter this summer. That will make Dolores the new-born baby’s great-great-great aunt.

How great is that?

That is some age. She was born in 1918 and is one of the few Spaniards who can remember the Spanish Civil War. At the time that war started she was almost 18.

I can’t recall any of my relatives living anywhere near as long. Come to think of it I don’t know anyone who has a relative as old.

Dolores is a nun and has been since 1940. She has worked in south America and Africa serving the poor communities. She now lives in an old people’s residence run by the same order of nuns.

Just for the record, I am not particularly religious. However, like everyone else from my generation I was brought up in what could generally be considered a Christian based society. We had morning assembly in school with hymn singing etc. There was no Sunday opening and my home town was “dry” on Sundays up until 1968 (way before I was old enough to drink).

Some of the first-hand accounts of what happened during the 1930s in Spain are very interesting.


The republican coalition was a rag tag bunch as anyone who has read George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” will already know. During and before the civil war some of the leftist groups decided to persecute the church, rightly or wrongly blaming them for all sorts of things. Anyone linked to the church quite rightly feared for their safety. In 1936 Dolores left the convent school she was attending to go and live with her family in Madrid and later Valencia. This was mainly for her safety as it was not safe to stay with the nuns at that time. She returned to the convent shortly after the war and became a nun.

Before the civil war members of the clergy were regularly being attacked. The nationalists while generally secular were against attacks on the church. Things only got worse when the war started as the republicans generally believed that the catholic church leaned more toward the right. In fact the opposition groups thought that they were merely protecting the clergy. None of that really mattered, as once such lines were drawn there was no going back.

Dolores does not like to talk about the civil war very much and I suppose that is hardly surprising.

Although she is now more or less wheel-chair bound her mind is still very sharp and her sense of humour is still very much in evidence. She was overjoyed to see the two little ones. Of course they are too young to appreciate the fact that they have such an old relative who has experienced so much but I think they enjoyed the visit. Especially being made a fuss of by all the people working in the care home.

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