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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

Muchos Padres

The UN sponsored excellent postgraduate courses at the Instituto de Hidrologia de Madrid, which was directed by eng. Rafael Heras, and occupies a beautiful building with modern architecture, next to the Manzanares River. The coordinator was José Liria Montañes, engineer of “paths, canals and ports” (in Spain it corresponds to civil engineer), author of a beautiful book on canals.

Classes started in January and, for us South Americans, they were more formal than we were used to, with “call” (presence check), teachers in suits and ties, etc.

This story happened in 1976 on the irrigation course. The class had about 40 to 50 students, from all over the world: Latin America, Africa, Asia and four Spaniards. Some were civil engineers, others agronomists, mechanics, electricians, two meteorologists, in short, interested in the Irrigation activity. The subjects were edaphology (pedology), pumps, canals, notions of agranomy and botany, agrarian infrastructure, etc.

In mid-February, Prof. Liria applied a surprise test and, in the next class, began dictating the grades: António: 7, Benjamin: 6, Carlos: 6.5, Dino: 8, Eduardo: 5, Fernando: 5.5, Ignácio: ZERO. And stopped there. General silence. We all looked at Ignácio, who was Spanish, from Ecija, in Andalusia, and the youngest of the group, recently graduated in agronomy, very expansive and, although it doesn't matter, it was noted, of good purchasing power.

The silence lasted until Professor Liria, a little irritated, declared:

“Usted há faltado, que pasó?” (you missed it, what happened?)

Then Ignatius rose and, almost standing to attention, declared solemnly: "It's just that my father died...".

General consternation, we all looked at Ignácio, what a stoic fellow! He hadn't said anything to us and continued with his usual good humor. Prof. Liria hurried to schedule a test for that same day, well, life goes on.

Months pass, and Prof. Liria decides to do another surprise test. The situation repeats itself almost as in a movie rerun. Finally, after the formal silence and the same question from Professor Ignácio, he stands up and formally says:

"It's just that my father died..."

General surprise, everyone turned to Ignácio not believing he said that! He realizes the blunder, the teacher too and taking advantage of the occasion says: - If my memory serves me correctly, your father died a few months ago... General silence. A few more seconds the teacher returns and insists, with Ignácio still standing, not knowing what to do:

- What do you say?

Ignácio stutters a little and says:

- “Me perdone, és que nosotros, los hijos de puta, tenemos muchos padres...” (Forgive me, it's just that we, sons of bitches, have many fathers...)

General confusion, laughter, laughter, even Professor Liria, always very serious, laughed out loud! That was the engineer Ignácio de Jove, an excellent friend, an excellent person, an excellent professional, who became technical director of the irrigated perimeter Marisnas del Guadalquivir (Andalusia, Seville). He died early in 2002, aged 47, from cancer, leaving two children. As they say in Spain: May in Peace Rest.

Miguel Fernández, consulting engineer, chronicler and columnist Rio de Janeiro, published in ABES Bio Magazine n°91 Apr/Jun 2019, p.45.

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