Families may lose track of each other, but bonds in this family were kindled thanks to an unusual name.
This is a story of a long overdue family reunion and discovery that is both true and somewhat unusual.
My great-grandparents, Antonio Dies and Antonia Matarredona, lived in Valencia, Spain and had 5 children. For this story I will focus on 2 of them: José, my grandfather, and his brother, Francisco. José moved to Alicante, a province of Valencia, married Guillermina Terol and they had 6 children. One of those children, my father, was named Haroldo, a very unusual name in Spain. My father’s family moved to Madrid when he was still a teenager and did not keep any ties to their relatives in Valencia City that they had left. They only kept some vague recollection of the existence of their family.
My father, Haroldo Dies, married Pilar Angulo in Madrid in 1931. They moved to Paris, France in 1935 where I was born the following year. Because of the Civil War in their native Spain and the imminent German invasion of France, my parents with me in tow, sought asylum in Mexico in 1940. Two years later my brothers, Guillermo and Haroldo, were born in Mexico City on the same day, 15 minutes apart – identical twins.
In time Guillermo became a chemical engineer and Haroldo a physician specializing in diabetes.
My grandfather’s brother, Francisco, remained in Valencia, married Casilda Diaz and had 5 children. Their fourth child, also named Francisco, is our focus on this side of the larger Dies family. He became a lawyer and accountant in Valencia and married Amparo Gil. They had 2 boys named Francisco (the third in a row with that popular Spanish name in his family) and Haroldo, the first so named in his town, if not the region or even the country – an unusual name. For many years there was no contact between those two branches of Antonio Dies’ family.
The third-generation descendants lived in different regions of the country at first and then in different countries. There was some vague knowledge on my father’s part that the family was much larger than we knew.
In the mid-1990s a newspaper in Valencia, Spain published news from Mexico that Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who had gained fame as a mediator between warring factions in Mexico, had fallen ill from complications of diabetes and was under the care of my brother, Dr. Haroldo Dies-Angulo. Upon reading this news, brothers Francisco and Haroldo Dies-Gil, my cousins living in Spain, were amazed. They knew from family lore that there had been a Dies family member named Haroldo who had travelled to America. This was such a remarkable family event that one of them had been named Haroldo after that adventurous, almost mythic relative. When the cousins came out of their amazement, they said to each other: “This doctor in Mexico has to be family!”
So, they took what appeared to be the most expeditious step at the time and they wrote a letter to Dr. Haroldo Dies, my brother, care of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, identifying themselves and asking relevant obvious questions.
Their letter reached Bishop Ruiz and he relayed the letter inside to my brother. We all read the letter at my parents’ home and immediately understood who these cousins were: the descendants from our grandfather’s brother. After that things proceeded smoothly. Of course, we replied to their letter, identified ourselves with appropriate detail and made plans to travel to Spain. Shortly after we arrived in Madrid, we took a rapid train to Valencia City. We had advised our “new” cousins of the time when we would be arriving in Valencia.
When we disembarked the train our group included five: my mother (my father passed away the previous year), my brother Guillermo, his wife Eva, my wife Rosa Maria and I (brother Haroldo could not come this time). We were met on the station’s platform by no less than 50 members of the Dies clan who were descendants of our great grandfather, Antonio Dies.
They cheered, we cried, and all had the best conceivable reunion as we moved to the home of one of the new cousins. We met on a large lawn with a canopy, tables for food and a pool for the younger cousins to swim. We ate “paella,” the traditional dish from Valencia. It was the best we have had to this date. We drank good Valencian wine and we talked like we hadn’t seen each other since last Sunday.
There was great chemistry and we have maintained the relationship through letters, emails, some Facebook and occasional in-person visits to this date. They are also going through the corona virus pandemic with social distancing, masks, hygiene, while maintaining a relatively good mood and patience, but thankfully without major complications. It is a great feeling being a member of such a large family and keeping up with all of them is more than worth the effort and time.
Contributed by: Federico Dies
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