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23 May 2022

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Mojacar Stories



by Ric Polansky ©

It´s factual. Just like so much is true and good and so many-- just don´t want to believe it. Of course, no one in their legalistic right mind would say such a thing in print. It wouldn’t just be deformation of character, libellous, slanderish, hearsay calumny, rumour mongering, or downright dangerous gossip. Perish the thought! It would stretch the very limits of the imagination to the breaking point that would trouble our own childhood concept of fantasy.

Walt Disney was as American as they came. You can say it out loud: "Mother, apple pie, green backs (dollar bills) and Uncle Walt." A man of such immense importance and universal acclaim could only have come from far away golden shores. The image is appropriate. Disney fits together like all great American myths: Superman-- "truth, justice and the American way." And the best of that tradition was represented by the very ideals Disney espoused: imagination, optimism, and self-made success in the best of American traditions. Even the slightest murmur of that hallowed Disney name conjures up the finest reminisces of childhood: Snow White, Dumbo, Captain Nemo: pure fantasy served up on a big candy mountain.

For generations the Disney company with the same home drawn milk of comical commercialism that nurtured the American family of the 50’s hasn’t missed feeding the world it´s environmentally correct concepts. Whether it be nature films, travel logs, cartoons, educational documentaries, TV specials, theme Park fun, feature films, or a slight peek into what the future holds for mankind-- Disney was always there. Leading from the front, showing others how it was done.

One big block-buster song, film, or park followed the next. The whirlwind of fantasy never ceased.

But in all the hull-a-la-boo very few examined the man. Normal in most ways, he drank scotch heavily, smoked 70 specially rolled black cigarettes daily (and died from it youngish at 65), washed his hands thirty times an hour and spent his eighteen working hours dreaming of unusual characters from a world within himself: a talking mouse, a duck that became so famous he learned to quack in every known language; Goofy dog´s, Cinderella’s losing slippers, charming princes´ that awoke sleeping beauties, Lion Kings, Indian Princesses , beasts and of course fairies. You might say that other than his Kafkaesque habits, Walt Disney never grew up. He remained his entire lifetime locked into a living character resembling the antimated Peter Pan. Disney relived his childhood every day.

Not unsuccessful at his work he won more than 950 honours and citations world-wide, including 48 Academy Awards, 7 Emmys, 29 Oscars, and had received special commendations from every US president and many heads of states of Foreign countries for "his universal good will."

Disney just didn´t give a nation what they wanted. His concept of the future helped to remind the working class that they too could laugh and enjoy themselves. That done, the life of leisure was just down the road. That being so, Disney expanded out from just the motion picture industry and created theme parks for his new liege of followers to enjoy their universal "feel good concept." Now, it wasn´t just the thrill of individual assimilation but the whole family travelled there and shared the excitement together.

But while the media focused its attentions on Disney´s whimsical industry of escapism rumours persisted, spurred on by intimate friends, that Disney had an unusual past. Some suggested that this man that correlated to the American dream had an un-American background, an adopted childhood. The exact historical situation is complicated because Walt Disney himself never once denied his Hispanic origins. According to his life long friend Salvador Dali, they mutually discussed the situation on more than one occasion in private and Dali contended frequently "that Walt too was convinced of his Spanish origins".

In the states every public document asserts that he was born at 1249 Tripp Avenue in Chicago on December 5th, 1901. This much we know only from his legitimate daughter Diana (the other heir, Sharon Mae, was adopted). Diana insisted in her biography of her father this certain fact! However, two other biographer’s Richard Sickley and Bob Thomas contradict her both contending that when they queried Disney if he was from Mojacar "he smiled a far off nostalgic grin and would only repeat "Quien sabe?" Who knows? No one has been able to come up with an authentic birth certificate either from the Windy City or here in Mojacar where all the records were destroyed during the civil war.


Don Jacinto, the former mayor of Mojacar that made the village famous by giving away free houses to lure the foreigners here to live tells the story that many years ago in the early 50´s men arrived at the then lonesome rugged hill top village attired in dark suits and examined the archives for traces of Disney. The detectives found little in their search but did announce themselves as working for Disney.

The street story of Mojacar is that Walt Disney´s real name was Jose Guirao, the son of a man by that name and a local beauty, one Isabel Zamora Asensio (popularly known as "la bicha"). Walt Disney, or better said, Jose Guirao was born in the village barrio of Espiritu Santo sometime in 1900. The father died young. As the mother had relatives in Villaricos she went there to live, met a sea captain that took the boy to Boston and sheltered him with a farming family from Kansas. Plenty of older residents keep this story alive as a matter of historical fact. "Where else could such a talent have come from but the very CORNER OF ENCHANTMENT."

Another version exists which I shall refer to as the GUAZAMARA

tale in which the same woman became romantically enlaced with another Mojaquero, Pedro Gonzalez Carillio, married and father of quite a few other children. In her disgrace she left Mojacar and took up residence in nearby Guazamara (some 25 kms away near Pulpi).

I went there. You start asking important questions by going to the bars. Buy a few drinks. Let the people know that you´re not a tax inspector. I was surprised. The very old folks remembered "something of the story". Apparently there had been a recent TV documentary done. News to me! The general consensus is that relations of "la bicha" (which isn´t necessarily an endearing term) live up one of the back roads. Lots of Zamora families have small cortijos near town. I discovered that the farms were located in a region known as EL Guirao (ring a bell?). It would have been a real kinda caper if Walt Disney had been born in one of them. The area is famed for alcaparas, in fact about 95% of the world´s capers come from there. The mother, Isabel Zamora then later moved to Murcia, then to Valencia, and it was there that she met the captain of a ship that transported minerals from Villaricos to California. They left together, Isabel becoming the maid in the house of her patron, a Disney that allowed the boy to use the name.

Another researcher on Disney, Ken Polsson who maintains a very good Disney write-up on the webb has written to me suggesting that I "beg, borrow, buy, or steal a copy of "Walt Disney - Hollywood's Dark Prince". It goes into some detail the darker side of Walt that few books ever mention. It mentions that Walt suspected he was adopted, that his father (Elias) had an affair with a Spanish woman, and then adopted the resulting child (who was supposedly born in Spain). The book mentions that even the FBI investigated this in Spain. I don't know the facts or details of how much truth there is to it."

The more recognized public American version had him growing up in Kansas on a farm, attending art school, then moving to Chicago where he studied at McKinley High and later at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1917 with war spirit moving him he decided to enlist but could never find an authentic birth certificate. He became suspicious himself. His parents helped him forge one so that during WW I he could serve as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. Following the war and a bankruptcy failure from early cartoons he moved to California.

In reality, nothing documentary was every known about his early years. But, amongst the many American versions there is definite mention of Walt Disney himself being suspicious about his true parents. What few documents remain regarding the subject is that during the height of the Hollywood purge of anti-communism and un-American activities US President Eisenhower sent a memo to FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, asking for a quick name check on Walt Disney and three others, as persons considered for appointment to the Advisory Committee on the Arts, National Cultural Centre. As a result of the report, Walt was not appointed to the committee.

For my part I like leaving this story just where it is. Confused but factual. Mojacar deserves to claim him just as much as anywhere else. Walt Disney belonged to the world. That unique status is confirmed every generation by children that become enamoured with the same childhood antics that we all perceived: Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Huwey, Dewey and Louie still bringing smiles and giggles to Japanese, Arabs or Laplanders.

It makes no personal difference to me whether you accept my research or not. Like all good things from abacus to zeena... if you want to believe-- it´s true! I think he did come from Mojacar. Yes, born in the barrior of Espiritu Santo. Come over and I will show you the exact house. As all of us true life explorers say around the camp fire when such momentous issues are discussed: "If it ain´t true-- it should be."


by Ric Polansky ©

Dear Penelope,

I sincerely thank you for your lovely letter and the wonderful sketch you included of the Unicorn.

I don´t get many Unicorn drawings sent to me these days. Mostly traffic fine reminders, bank statements that I´d rather not be reminded about and the occasional voodoo doll with an amazing likeness to me sent with the warmest regards and adulation’s from one of the local church groups. Your kind letter and rendering will be especially cherished.

You have asked me a very erudite (clever) question for a girl of only eleven years old. I hope I can answer you honestly. Older people learn to veil their words and hide their true meanings often--it´s a bad habit that I hope you don´t grow into. I am sorry to say that I really don´t know a lot about Unicorns. Never having seen one. But I am positive they do exist!

I have been told by many others that have lived here longer than myself they can sometimes be spotted in the early morning hours in the mountains behind Cortijo Grande. In fact, my experienced good friend, Andreas Piñero, the former caretaker there, has many tales to spin about them. But, of course, he too has never seen them either owing to the fact that he too is a man and as you probably already know-- unicorns apparently enjoy the company and adoration of the fairer sex. I am told some of Andrea´s younger children, years ago, had the occasional rare glimpse of them flitting about across the dew glistened greens. So, the legend stays alive.

I wouldn´t worry about big words that you have mentioned in your letter like "mythological." Lots of grownup people that never enjoyed a youthful childhood use terms like that to describe what they themselves can´t explain. Your picture says it best. And the fact that you already knew what Unicorn’s looked like when you drew one, tells me already you too know more than most grown-ups.

I have it personally on good evidence that unicorn’s exist owing to the simple historical truism that they are mentioned on nine separate occasion in the Bible (in the books of Job, Numbers, Isaiah, Deuteronomy and Psalms) and that great an august nation entitled The British Empire has one on its own coat of arms. Now, you wouldn´t think that such an important place as Great Britain would waste their time nor display to the reading world a fictitious emblem no more than you would suppose that the United States would replace their flag the stars and stripes with a miniature characture of Mickey Mouse pouring rivers of Coca-Cola? Indeed!

In olden times Unicorns were apparently quite extraordinary to view. Greek historian Ctesias in 398 BC wrote about them as having been from the area we know today as India. He described them as "wild asses which are as big as a horse, even bigger ...with a single horn on their forehead which is approximately half-a-meter long." Apparently during this epoch in time Unicorn´s were plentiful as they were frequently painted and adorned many different castles and keeps, seals and signs.

They were often hunted for their valuable horn which was suppose to have magical powers. Large bands of armed men tried to capture the elusive animal, but never managed to do so. The unicorn was far too fast and wild for even hundreds of hunters. He could only be tamed by a young maiden similar to yourself. She would have to sit lonely underneath a tree in the woods. The Unicorn, attracted by the scent of purity would slowly approach her and then would lay his head on her lap and she would rock him to sleep. Then she could cut of his horn and leave him for the hunter and his vicious dogs. Naturally, not many young girls did this so Unicorn´s thrived.

Marco Polo the great world traveler said that all Unicorn´s originated from China but the warlord that owned them mistreated them horribly so the great Gheghis Khan had most of them slain so as to not endure more cruelties.

In modern day literature discussions of Unicorns are still popular. But a lot of people have forgotten that Unicorn´s have their viewpoint also about our lives. From their standpoint children are mythological and dream like characters that have fun all day and play in their gardens. The only recorded meeting to have taken place between the two was noted by Lewis Carroll: "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, "I'll believe in you if you'll believe in me. Is that a bargain?" (Alice Through the Looking Glass).

Probably for a small and darling girl like yourself it is hard to understand that some folk older than yourself never learned how to dream or have pleasant thoughts. Those Mommies and Daddies and Aunts and Uncles work hard to make plenty of money so they can buy things that never really allow them the free time to fantasize such nice thoughts as a Unicorn prancing through their garden on a Sunday morning eating somebody’s carrots. Anytime a person acts too much like what they presume themselves to be-- they forget the pleasantries of really living life, allowing for the fanciful. Older people usually make this frequent error. They rarely have time for imagining nice playful thoughts--and then letting those daydreams run wild for a moment or two just before it´s time to get up. Unfortunately, men more so than most get so busy being busy they wouldn´t recognize a Unicorn if it stood right next to them. Men generally have their work and games to occupy them but, as the ancient Tibetan saying goes: never play leapfrog with a Unicorn."

Scientists tell us that Unicorn´s hate watches or any contraption that deals with time. For them life springs Eternal. Unicorn´s not only can hear the ticking of a clock for miles away but it disturbs their very own free nature so much that anyone approaching them wearing a wrist watch will be heard miles away as if he were beating a drum. Unicorn´s by their very nature are clever too. That´s why you´ve never seen one caged or in a circus.

Almost every language has a name for them: German / einhorn; French / la licorne; Latin / monoceras; Spanish / unicornio; Italian / alicorno; Norweigan / enhjørning; Polish / jednorozec

I am sending to you by return post some sunglasses. I hope you also already know that Unicorn´s because of their incredible whiteness can almost blind a person should you look directly at one-- so be careful.

But keep looking. Some things you have to believe to see.


Ric Polansky ©

I lied, I’ve been there since. ‘Bout two thousand times. Well , at least, two hundred and fifty nine. Guadix is a geophysical anomaly. A cross roads that can take you to Murcia, Granada, Jaen or Almeria. It’s on a river junction and also near the foothills of both the Sierra Filabres and Sierra Nevadas. Geologically it is located alongside one of Spain’s major fallas (rifts) that forms a deep canyon effect on two sides of the town. Anyone that has travelled anywhere in Spain has to have passed through Guadix; the keyhole to Moorish Granada. Nothing looks of any particular interest other than the fortress cathedral with its monumental but unmistakable minaret converted church tower. From the purifiers Guadix lacks appeal or intrigue.

But I had to go there. I was a man on a mission of stealth and cunning. I needed to buy a door knocker. Not the usual kind. This one had to be nothing less than the "hand of Fatima". I knew it could be purchased in Granada. I got mine there. So I gambled, planned a cheaters journey, crossed my fingers and hoped that I could find the hand. Naturally, I didn’t want to waste too much time in Guadix, even if it was Spain’s most renown cave city.

I possess nagging ritual travel habits. Besides packing, that I continually and mistakenly believe that I can do in less than twenty seconds, I pull out of my library two or three of my favourite guide books on Spain and settle down fto thumb through history’s footprints. IBERIA by encyclopedist James A. Michener is still the Mother of them all. For it was Guadix, he pointed out, in which Spanish writer Pedro Antonio de Alarcon located his short novel El Sombreo de Tres Picos (The Three Cornered Hat); immortalised by Manuel de Falla in his Opera. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief; I now had two reasons to make the expedition.

Few towns in Andalucia look so unpromising from the outside as does Guadix. Located some 55 Kms. distant from its more famed brother Granada Guadix still embraces a past that encompasses a kaleidoscope of Spanish emotions: sights, sounds, mystery, repugnance and beauty. Reputedly founded by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. strategic Guadix also became an important agrarian centre from the rich surrounding plains. The Rio Guadix helped trade as did the natural chalky white soil being conducive for inexpensive cave dwellings. Aerelius married Ceasar’s sister and became the first governor. Time passed and the Arabs arrived, then the Christians. An important battle for control of the town was fought in 1489 when the Christian armies finally conquered the impressive Alcazaba therefore leaving Granada’s flank unprotected and certain to fall. During Spain’s horrific Civil War no town best exemplified the famed artist Goya’s horrors of war worse than Guadix. Priests and nuns were killed and hung up for all to see but were soon avenged when the other side captured the intellectuals and gypsies and marched them off en masse to be mowed down in the main plaza.

The town remains unmistakably agrarian. Everyone dresses in boots and heavy coats even if the sun is shining. No posh shops with glitter or gold unless it was one of the many jewlery stores. I bought a beer in the El Dolar saloon adorned in early 1890’s casino decor. I interrogated the bar man for directions to the local monuments. He leapt from behind the counter as if I had enquired about a personal relative, through his arm around me marching me to the street. He wanted to definitely make sure I didn’t get lost or would miss the importance of his village. Hmmm, reminded me of older, almost forgotten Spain. It was that way long ago.

I was directed to the main "Plaza de Armas". Every town in South America has a central area where the town hall and all important government offices are situated. So did Guadix. A lively market was being held. I bought six different varieties of peanuts. The sellers wanted me to linger and chat just a little bit longer. Hmmm-- friendly; everyone.

I then meandered about seeking music stands, having established in my mind that I simply had to possess the symphonies from the Three Cornered Hat. In the largest kiosk selling more than 2,000 tapes the owner hadn’t even heard of Manuel de Falla, In fact, he had never heard of his music or any music. He was stone deaf! I decided that the muse of music had sung against me and therefore set my mind to collecting the next curiosity--obtaining the hand of Fatima.

I bounced in and out of sixteen different shops. No such luck. Finally an unusual wares store caught my eye. It only sold tack for horses and every other purchasable paraphernalia for mule, donkey, burro or other four legged beast. The owner’s name was Paco and he delighted in showing me all the different apparatus that he had hand crafted. Then I suddenly spotted a Pancho clinging to the wall. It had to be mine. A souvenir from down-town Guadix. It was exactly the older type that worker’s wore long ago. Hand stitched in lovely colours over a black background. I enquired the price. He simply said: "Señor, this has no price, it is all hand done by my wife, but I would be delighted in selling it to you because no one else in this town is as big as you so it could be another twenty years before I get the opportunity to sell it." We struck a deal for just 3.000 Ptas.

Meanwhile Paco’s brother was so enchanted with my purchase his natural curiosity got the best of him. He simply had to learn more; about me, how I arrived, where I was going and where I’d been. To do so without seeming pushy he suggested that he’d drive me around town showing me the sites. His name was Eloy, he had been a chef in Malaga but was finished for the season. That formality out of the way he could then extol the virtues of his natal homestead. Hmmm! Eloy reminded me of that ancient Spain of some thirty years ago.

Guadix, as you might not know, is the largest Cave city in Spain, purporting some 2,000 different caves in which more than 10,000 souls supposedly exist. So off we hurtled at an electric pace through the crowded market streets.

I knew about the Cave Museum in the Barrio de Santiago. The cave had changed considerably. They now had asphalted roads, curb stones and garden walls and plenty of greenery. Before I got out of the car a diminutive Pepe extended his hand and invited me into his house ironically located next door to the museum. Ya, I know I was conned but Pepe was a genuinely charming and a clever entrepreneur. He made it a habit of greeting all buses and taxis and foreign plated cars. He’d drag them into his charming cave "for free" but made sure you didn’t miss the small plate ladeed with one hundred peseta visitor’s "contributions". Once in his abode you were family and welcomed comfortable. All rooms led to Jose’s storeroom where you were always invited to a convivial glass of wine and shown the many different contrivances that you could buy. It could have been a decrotive plate, a an old pot, a shiny pan, an discoloured antique, or some wonderful honey, house wine, home canned olives, pomegranates, cherries, chillies, or olive oil. Jose Ruiz Puerta,

C/ Ermita Nueva No.52, Guadix 18.500, Granada; Tel: 958-660716

The Cathedral supports a Bishop and was notably interesting. Similar to, of all places, Cuzco in Peru. In fact, I have read that the Peruvian hand carved choral benches are modeled after Guadix.

Before long I suggested that we have a drink. Eloy resuggested, "Anyone can go to an ordinary cafeteria, why don’t we find a nice bodega?" Whereupon my good fortune continued as we ended up in a quaint taurine (bullfight) bar. Full of assorted characters all drinking heavily and discussing loudly the importance of the various corridas over the years. Suddenly a semi-blind artist came to our table and insisted that we approve his pen and inks sketches. They were quite good but his entre was really just a ruse so that he could tell us that he was the actual neighbor that lived next door to the famed Paquillo, winner of the 20 Km. bronze medal recently in the European games in Budapest. Hmmm. This too reminded me of Spain thirty years ago. I was delighted.

The owner of the bar, Gabriel, was gracious and unobtrusive. Naturally he quized me about what I knew on the subject. It’s a man thing. And you gotta be able to talk it as well as walk it. Gabriel Ruiz,

Bodega Latino "Modesto"; Placeta Conde Luque No. 5, Guadix. A must visit for "taurinos."

Finally my morning was spent. I therein asked one last favour: the name of his favorite restaurant, not fancy, simple but with good food? We departed as ancient friends. We will meet again on my next trip—that’s a certainty.
Los Claveles was superb. No frills, lots of rubbish on the floor and the bar incorporated within the dining area so you can shout at those near the bar. I rather ostentaciously insisted on an expensive bottle of wine and following a good many "cups" had the temerity of sending back the chips to be done to a golden crispy brown. Not a word was said. (Eat your heart out A.A. Gill.) The wine cost four times the price of all the different courses I ate. Hmmm! Just like the old days. Cafe-Bar Los Claveles, Jose Antonio Banquez Saez, Carretera de Murcia 26,

Guadix. Not fancy but damn good hospitality and family cooking.

My return trip to Guadix, almost 29 years to the day, was long overdue and most certainly a mistake. I heartily suggest a further trip to this friendly, old time Spanish town.

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