His name was Martín and his is a story worth sharing. Fortunately he shared it with me as we drove from Denver to Alamosa near the border between Colorado and New Mexico. We worked for the same company and were on assignment together.
Martín was the son of a Spanish Don, a member of the royal family. More importantly, Martín was the second son and thus destined to the priesthood, the fate of most second sons of the landed nobility. The first son inherited all. All other sons depended upon their elder sibling's generosity. Daughters depended upon it for their dowry.
Martín was already engaged in his religious studies as a young boy when the Civil War erupted in Spain pitting the fascists against a coalition of communists and loyalists, a Left vs Left/Right coalition. When it became clear that the fascists under General Franco were winning, Martín's father and uncle escaped to the local church for sanctuary. Word was sent to Martín's school and a monk took him to a cave in the mountains for safety. There they hid while Franco consolidated his power.
In time Franco had to deal with the two men in sanctuary. An emissary was dispatched to the church with an offer of deportation in lieu of imprisonment and peaceful pardons for their families, if they quit sanctuary voluntarily. Thus Martín's father was deported to Spanish Moraco, his uncle to the Canary Islands, and Martín returned home.
In time Martín joined the Spanish navy where he served with honor in hopes of winning favor with the Franco government and reuniting the family.
Sadly, his hopes never bore fruit.
Martín resigned his commission and returned home where the Guardia Nacional harassed him repeatedly. They would beat him up for a couple of days and then let him go, a kind of “catch and release program”.
Ultimately, he left Spain and immigrated to Panama where he secured a berth as captain of a coastwise oil hauler.
By the time I met him, Martín was a professional photographer.
Of even greater interest than his story, Martín showed me the ways of a gentleman. Although he dressed like a Fidelista (one of Castro's revolutionary band) and advocated communism, we never argued. We debated. Although our ideologies were separated by an unbridgeable abyss, we never resorted to ad hominem attacks or disrespectful dialogue. We learned from each other and our respect was unbounded and mutual. He taught me how a man could bear himself with great dignity in spite of his circumstances. I tried to teach him what it meant to be an American. We became close enough that I asked him to be the godfather of my first daughter and he graciously accepted.
I often think of Martín, especially when I become embroiled in an Internet discussion thread and am attacked by a Leftist for my contrarian views. Martín had the courage to own his ideology. He never perverted the language to hide behind more acceptable labels such as “Liberal” or “Progressive”. He was a proud Communist.
How much better would the world be if more of us were so gentle, if I could find some other Leftist who wasn't afraid of debate. Sadly, I have never met such another...