Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Travel Tuesday – El Puerto de Santa María, Spain

I know today is no longer Tuesday but I wanted to write this post and heck why not still post it even though it's Wednesday! But I wanted to talk about my trip to Andalusia in the south of the Spain and the wonderful opportunity I got to visit a town in which I have ancestors from. This town is called El Puerto de Santa María!

Friday I traveled to Cádiz, all the down in the southern part of Andalucía, a town of importance during the Spanish's hold of their overseas territories and the import and export of goods to those colonies. 30 minutes a bit north by fast train is a town called "El Puerto de Santa María", a town in which my 9th great grandfather was born in!

Now some of you might ask, "How do heck do you know who your great grandfather is?!". Luckily with my searching and the help of other genealogists I have been able to trace my line to Miguel de Miranda, my 9th great grandfather who would move to Puerto Rico, marry, and live there. Miguel de Miranda would marry in San Juan, Puerto Rico on the 7th of January 1668 to Andrea Rodríguez and there it would mention his town of origin. Knowing that there was a concrete place in Spain I could visit, I knew that at some point I had to go!

Marriage certificate - San Juan, Puerto Rico [FamilySearch]

I arrived through the train station to El Puerto de Santa María and was actually very giddy to get off the train and start exploring the streets and places of the town my family had lived in about 365+ years ago, which is absolutely mind boggling. I had jotted down some places I wanted to visit beforehand while in Cádiz the day before and wanted to visit as much as I could in the hours that I was there.

RENFE Station [Personal Photo]

I was fortunate enough that on a Saturday a lot was still open that I could go in and see. I stopped by the tourist office to pick up a map and then right across the plaza was a castle that I visited quickly. Being the only person there for the tour between 10:30-11:30 (in English), the security guard let me in for free and I was able to wander around alone since the tour guide wasn't around and was busy elsewhere. It was actually pretty cool and at the same time pretty creepy to walk around since there was literally no one else there except the guard who checked up on me twice and then left me alone wander around for the rest of my time there. 

Castillo de San Marcos [Personal Photo]

Inside Castillo de San Marcos [Personal Photo]

After, I headed over to La Iglesia Mayor Prioral which was pretty much the highlight of my trip to El Puerto de Santa María. I knew that the church was in use during the time that my ancestors lived there and so I wanted to go inside and see what the church was like. I have visited various different churches will traveling Spain but entering Iglesia Mayor Prioral was a completely different experience for me. I knew that this church had some sort of connection to me and I knew that visiting it would sort of reconnect me to Miguel de Miranda. I walked around, taking the church in as much as possible, prayed a bit thanking God for the opportunity to retrace my roots back to this church, and then headed over to the little office to see if I could buy something in order to remember my visit. Unfortunately, there weren't any rosaries that I could purchase but I did get a little cross that I hope but on a string/chain and wear.

Iglesia Mayor Prioral [Personal Photo]

I started chatting with the older man who was helping me and I asked about the use of the church. He told me that it was built in the XV century and has been in use since then, with some reconstruction in the XVII century after an earthquake (if I'm remembering correctly). I told him I was very interested in the church because I had an ancestor that migrated to Puerto Rico from this town and had lived here in the mid-late XVII century. He told me that if I knew some dates and names that I could potentially find some information in the church's parochial archives. I was super excited and ready to rattle off names, dates, and anything else to get me closer to new information. Unfortunately, the man who is in charge of the records wasn't there on Saturdays which was a bummer. Luckily, I asked for a phone number and name I could reach telling him that I was only in town for a day. He was very kind to provide the information and told me that they should be able to pull something up with the information I have. I'm very excited with the prospect of new information and hope to call soon to get some more information on Miguel de Miranda and hopefully of his parents, Miguel Martín and Isabel Rodríguez, as well. 

Inside - Iglesia Mayor Prioral [Personal Photo]

After visiting the church I headed to the Plaza de Toros and got to walk around the area where the Matadores go up against the bulls in the main ring. It was interesting standing there on the sand (vs sitting on the stands), where the bulls unfortunately are killed, as three young boys were practicing joyfully for their future career. I grabbed some lunch at a little Italian restaurant and saw some others places around El Puerto de Santa María. Luckily for me, the weather was amazing that Saturday and the sky was beautiful blue. Walking around the town and seeing palm trees made me feel like I was in the Caribbean, and I can see why so many southern Spaniards probably settled easily into islands such as Puerto Rico. 

Walking around El Puerto de Santa María [Personal Photo]

Hopefully I'll be able to find some more information once I call the church and do hope that Miguel de Miranda was baptized there and that his parents married there. Maybe they'll even be able to extend my tree further with the information they can provide? I might need to return in the spring if they aren't able to do over the phone requests of searching for information, but we shall see! Nonetheless, I had a great time walking around the town, seeing old sites, thinking about my ancestors, and their lives here in El Puerto de Santa María. 

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