I know that growing without a dad is tough. If you or anyone else close to you grew up without a parent, then you know what I’m talking about. Whether it was a war, or a fatal illness which snatched your father’s presence from you, I presume you might find it within yourself to accept his absence, and get on with your life.
What can’t be so easy to swallow -I imagine- is accepting that your father abandons you, your family, and your home, and disappears to all effects from your life and your world. Such a selfish and irresponsible gesture must be very difficult to live with up to your dying day. Yet I know of several cases within my family where the father voluntarily abandoned their wives and families in order to prusue another life… often ending up marrying someone else bigamously.
My great-grandmother’s mother was the daughter of such a man. Juan Blanco was born in 1847 in the small seaside port of Puerto del Son (AKA Porto do Son), in NW Spain. The area still looks pretty much the same as it did some 150 years ago when my ancestor married Dolores Carou, who was by then heavily pregnant with their only daughter, my great-great-grandmother Josefa. Juan and Dolores were married in August 1868, and only two months later baby Josefa came into their lives. Was Juan Blanco happy to marry the mother of his child, or was her perhaps talked into marriage by dutiful relatives?
I am told by several great-aunts of mine that Juan soon abandoned his wife and daughter, who would have been a mere infant when he boarded a ship that took him all across the Ocean to Argentina. There, according to family legend, he bigamously became a de facto (if not de jure) married man a second time, and seemingly fathered another child or children, thus starting a second family. He was still alive when years later, towards the turn of the century, his son-in-law (whom he’d never met in Spain) tracked him down in Buenos Aires. Juan was so horrified by his visitor’s appearance that the first thing he muttered was: El Diablo te trajo hasta aquí (“The Devil has brought you here“). Was Juan afraid that his daughter’s husband would bring him back to Spain, or report him to the Argentinian police? Evidently Juan had no intention of coming back to Puerto del Son, and was probably more content with his second family than with the people he left back home. His son-in-law returned home empty handed, and as far as I know that was the last time anyone saw or heard from Juan Blanco.
There is a Juan Blanco recorded in the Argentinian census in 1895 listed with a wife and son… There’s a big chance he might be my great-great-great-grandfather.
As far as I know, Juan never returned home. His daughter may have been more forgiving than I would have thought at first, for she gave her father’s name to one of her sons. Despite her many hardships Josefa must have endured during childhood, she found it within herself to forgive the father she had hardly known.
I don’t know when Juan died exactly, but his (first) wife in Spain lived well into the 20th century. His daughter too lived a long life, and gave Juan seven grandchildren. Through them, his descendants have perpetuated the family line into the 21st century, many of them not knowing that just over a century ago our ancestor sheepishly gave everything up in order to start afresh in Buenos Aires. Who knows what Juan’s descendants in Argentina know about their ancestor!
I am happy to say that very recently I was contacted by a distant relative of mine who lives in Uruguay (a hop and a skip from Buenos Aires) and who is a great-grandson of Juan’s brother, who also emigrated to America. Who knows if this person, of whom I knew absolutely nothing a couple of days ago, might fill me in on any gaps about Juan’s life in South America.