December 9, 2023

A beautiful, crazy and brilliant woman met a lifetime ago, in 1957, a man of numbers, calm and also very handsome. She, who then believed she wanted to be a nun —she had even visited a cloistered convent— is called Julita Salmerón and in 2018, at the age of 83, she collected a Goya for the documentary film that recounts her life with that industrial engineer with whom she finally had Many children, a monkey and a castle. He, who ended up writing a book of poems for her, is called Antonio García Cabanes and summarizes: “I have been a supporting actor, but happy.”

They met in Requena (Valencia), during a field trip. There were other girls, but Antonio stuck to one of them: “She was a kind of magnetic attraction,” he explains in scientific terms. The next day she left and until two years later they did not see each other again. “I no longer remembered you,” Julita confesses, trying to provoke him, an exercise that she has perfected for 63 years. The vocation was soon blown up. “He was elegant, very educated, had black hair and looked at me in a different way. I suddenly lost the desire to be a nun”. They were chatting, getting to know each other, when some drums sounded. “Antonio suddenly said: ‘I have to go!’ because it was Holy Week and he was participating in the procession. I asked him, very sad, very sad: ‘Wow, and now you’re going to leave?’ They abandoned God for a much more important mission: to fall in love.

Julita says that the night he asked her if she wanted to be his girlfriend, on Calle Virgen de los Desamparados, she did not sleep “from emotion.” Antonio brings, proud of her, the first photos of her, he always placed next to her, whether there were three or 20 people posing. “The next day, as soon as I arrived in Barcelona, ​​where I was studying, I wrote him a letter.” During their courtship they saw little —only on vacation— and they wrote a lot —every day—. The letters were burned in a fire, but 81 albums have been preserved that collect the many adventures that followed, because when they met they not only conspired to love each other, but to try to fulfill all the other’s wishes. They started from the back to the front, for the oldest and simplest whims, including eccentricities like placing a slide next to a bathtub-sized pool or holding a black mantilla funeral for their pig. lupita after turning it into sausages. And they ended in style, in an impressive castle 100 kilometers from Barcelona.

―Antonio told me that once, as a child, they gave him chocolate with muffins and he said: I would eat 40! His mother replied that this could not be, that they were very expensive, so one day I went to an oven, ordered 40 muffins, not 39 or 41, and I sent them to Castillejos, which was where I was doing the military. Every day of his life this man has a cupcake for breakfast.

-There is no more madeleine than her.

“This belly belongs to the children. I had six and I would have liked to have more, but I suffered two miscarriages. I have done all the diets, I have visited all the doctors… but it does not go away.

There were ephemeral dreams, like those Proustian madeleines at the beginning of their engagement, and others that brought blood, sweat and tears.

―Antonio has followed me in all my follies.

“Well, not all of them.

– Let’s see, say one that is not.

-I don’t remember.

“The thing with the castle was a real madness,” she recalls, referring to the moment when, fulfilling one of her dreams as a child and taking advantage of an inheritance, the couple bought the Castell de Perafita. In addition to many damages, which Antonio gradually fixed — “I had a great time with the repairs” — the castle even had its own ghost.

―It turns out that its owner had gone on a trip and when he returned a few days ahead of schedule he found his wife with another…

-And I kill him. It was the 19th century.

―He killed him on the stairs and of course, I was very afraid to go there, but despite everything I got up at night to go to the kitchen to make myself a sandwich.

Julita Salmerón and Antonio García Cabanes, in the living room of their house in Madrid.
Julita Salmerón and Antonio García Cabanes, in the living room of their house in Madrid.INMA FLOWERS

The doctors were not able to remove a belly that goes completely unnoticed between her big eyes and her talkativeness, but Julita did manage to get rid of her early-morning sandwich habit thanks to some hypnosis sessions.

The story of the anecdotes is shared so well that it seems that they have rehearsed. But they don’t need it. They didn’t need it either when the youngest of his sons, a filmmaker, turned them into a movie after recording them for 14 years. Gustavo Salmerón realized that he had the best story in his own house; that there was no couple with more chemistry on the screen and that his mother aloud was an extraordinary script. The documentary, which won a dozen awards for authenticity, also shows the eviction of the castle, which they had to abandon due to the crisis. It is the funniest eviction in history: between conversations and surreal memories, a very long family -six children and 13 grandchildren- packs armor, skeletons -the one they baptized Pepito now presides over the living room of the Madrid house of Julita and Antonio-, some vertebrae of the grandmother murdered in the Civil War kept in a box of laxatives and all kinds of odds and ends.

“The monkey thing wasn’t bad either.

“Well, that dream of yours of having a monkey seemed more reasonable to me than others, like José Antonio’s.”

“José Antonio” is Primo de Rivera, with whom Julita, born in 1935, was platonically in love in her childhood, when they took her to the Women’s Section and she was a conjunctural Falangist. “Her portrait of him was everywhere and I thought he was gorgeous. One night I dreamed that I made croquettes with it and ate it, ”she explains matter-of-factly. The monkey was called Oscar. They promised them, when they picked him up, that he was very docile and that Julita could put on him the 125 Mariquita Pérez dresses that she had, but he turned out to be aggressive and misogynistic. She shows the scar from a bite – “even so, I would give anything to see it again” – and Antonio tells his pranks: “Sometimes we had him tied to a tree with a rope, but he would reach out and grab the bow of the ladies what happened”.

Asked if one day of the almost 23,000 that Julita has together has stopped surprising him, Antonio replies:

-The truth is, no. Here we are never bored.

“Now he’s horrified with me because I’ve confessed to him that I’m a lesbian. He has asked me not to say it, but I have realized that I like women more than men: the culotte of a woman, the chest… everything is beautiful, but what does a man have? Horrible legs! And what guts!

―(Antonio sighs) I don’t have a gut!

“No, you’re perfect. That’s why I like you.

Before going to sleep, every night, Julita looks at an old photograph of Antonio’s very black hair and cuts it from the other bed with an extendable fork that she invented herself to check, without leaving the place, that they are still together.

“It’s just that suddenly I can’t hear him breathing and it scares me. Now I am terribly afraid of death, of his. I can’t imagine life without him. The children take out my defects, but Antonio does not. I think we have endured so much because we are very different: he is slow, calm, prudent… since he speaks little, he makes few mistakes. I am spontaneous and I make many.

“She’s very fast, she doesn’t mean what she says. Then I ask her: Julita, why did you say that you ate José Antonio?

-Know? Saint John of the Cross says: “At the end of life we ​​will examine ourselves in love.” I, Antonio, am going to give you a 9 in some things and a 10 in others. He is very cultured. When I ask him where anywhere is, he pulls out the globe and shows me everything.

―Well, I give you a 10 minus 0.5, because sometimes you mess up.

-Everyone makes mistakes.

“You many times.

It seems that they are arguing, but throughout the conversation they have taken advantage of any excuse —a misplaced lock, a shared armrest…— to caress each other. In the same way, in the car, it seems that they are fighting when Antonio gets lost driving and, at first, refuses to ask the way, but if you look closely you see that while Julita scolds him, she is cutting pieces of pear from the driver’s seat. co-pilot.

On the dining room shelf is one of the bottles with which they have just celebrated 60 years of marriage, that is, the diamond wedding anniversary, the hardest mineral. The “grand reserve marriage” label shows an image of the couple during their courtship, she dressed in his military uniform cap.

During the party, a parody video was projected in which Michelle and Barack Obama, the Queen of England and the Pope congratulate them on having come this far.

“The Pope even beatifies him. And nothing to me.

“Hold on, Antonio”, says goodbye to the former president of the United States.

“Wow, what a lucky thing you’ve had to find me.”

―And you, when Obama says “hold on, Antonio” it’s for a reason.

Julita combs her hair again with her hand.

“What fun it’s been.” I have not detached from her nor will I.

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