MONTEVIDEO – More than 1,000 people gathered over the weekend for the traditional “romeria” fundraiser at Montevideo’s Hogar Español, a nursing home for Spanish immigrants who settled in Uruguay, enjoying abundant Uruguayan barbecue amid the sounds of Galician and Sevillian bagpipes.
A 3,000 sq. meter (9,800 sq. foot) garden shaded by palms and oaks is where several regional Spanish clubs in this South American country joined forces on Sunday to make it a special day for the 185 residents at the facility, which was founded in 1964 and provides care for elderly people without families or other resources.
“There are several fire pits and, with a 500-peso (about $21) ticket, you can get a bottle of wine, a bottle of water, a hefty piece of barbecue, a ‘chorizo’ (sausage) and ice cream,” Angel Dominguez, president of the non-profit Hogar Español, told Efe.
Organizers estimated that some 1,200 people, including residents’ friends, Spaniards and Uruguayans of Spanish descent and others just willing to help and enjoy a day of food, music and solidarity turned out for the event.
The goal, Dominguez said, is “to raise funds to support the home and give a different tone to the daily lives of residents,” of whom 60 percent are totally dependent on the Hogar Español’s assistance.
All of the residents are 65 or older, have scarce economic resources and receive health and social assistance, Dominguez said.
Food for the party is donated by Spanish and Uruguayan businesses and members of the Galician, Asturian, Balearic Islands and other regional communities give a helping hand, tending the barbecue pits at the Hogar Español, which is on the outskirts of Montevideo.
Twice a year, these gatherings become a festive occasion with “muñeiras” and “gaitas” from Galicia and Andalucia providing the music.
The December feast, held as spring turns into summer, focuses on Uruguayan meals, while in March, as the calendar brings fall, the menu becomes Spanish, with all its regional varieties.
“Most of our residents are Spaniards, and most Spaniards are ‘gallegos,’” Dominguez said, referring to natives of the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia.
Three of the Hogar Español’s residents are 105 years old, Dominguez said.
“There are a few who were born in Uruguay but later became Spanish citizens,” Dominguez said.
Large numbers of Spaniards arrived in Uruguay between 1930 and 1950, when they were between 15 and 20, seeking economic opportunities or fleeing from the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War.