Why is it that things of the past, own or others, produce so much nostalgia?
An old house, an object worn by use, something as prosaic as the kitchen utensil that has passed through the hands of people of ancient generations, have the virtue of arousing sensations that, like the bamboo, are happy to dance and sad as to take out a scarf.
Whatever the answer, the older ones like to venture into the world of antiques, in a rather masochistic way, because it is as much as wandering through the world of memories.
And it is well known that memories are more painful than pleasant.
These thoughts occurred to us when, sitting with Anita Rodríguez Fonnegra in her ancient reception room, her nieces – Lucía Rodríguez de Fajardo and Juanita Rodríguez Perdomo -,
Hernán Díaz and this collaborator of Diners, began to hear the stories and tales of the housewife about her childhood, the neighbors and all the old things in the home.
And the longings began. Hernán Díaz could not stop talking about his mother, so similar in her tenderness and beauty to “Doña Anita”, while he came and went with his camera looking for the best angle of her.
The older niece described the tulle dresses and ribbons that they put on when they were little to see the processions that passed down the street from the balcony of the house.
The great-niece, meanwhile, watched with love and in silence the grandmother. It was evident that his wealth of memories was not enough to harbor nostalgia.
With different concerns, visitors feel like a sanctuary.
Anita, fine and discreet, in her living room decorated like more than a century ago, and the manor house itself, inspire admiration, respect and seclusion.
Anita Rodríguez Fonnegra is eighty-nine years old and is the only surviving daughter of the marriage of Bogota lawyer Eduardo Rodríguez Piñeres and his wife Mercedes Fonnegra.
Her brothers were Emilio, Jaime, Julita, Guillermo and Inés. The first three married and she, along with the last two, remained single.
At almost ninety years old, Anita retains her fresh face, her five senses that many young people would envy and a great grace for storytelling.
His best interlocutor is Monsignor Solano, with whom he exchanges a repertoire of anecdotes and jokes.
It is very happy. At first glance it inspires tenderness and confidence. Despite the years and having been left alone, she maintains her interest in keeping her home as in the days when the family celebrated events with large parties.
He receives visits, makes invitations, so that the mansion has the splendor of the years when his father acquired it for $ 18,000 from Banco de Colombia, through its manager, Don Ernesto Michelsen.
- The liberal presidents Alfonso López Pumarejo, Alberto Lleras, Carlos Lleras and Virgilio Barco had lunch in this house on the day of their possession and went directly from it to the Palace.
Anita remembers that her family has lived in this house for seventy years. It was built by Don Enrique Silva, married to Doña Elena Montoya de la Torre in first nuptials and later with Doña Francisca Herrera.
Don Enrique and his family lived in it for many years. Then came a Mr. Boshell and later Don Marceliano Vargas.
This was the first brick construction in the La Candelaria neighborhood.
Through the large wooden gate, today adorned with veneers, a knocker and a very bright copper bell, entered the horse-drawn carriage, or carriage, in which the family took their Sunday walks.
There was a stable at the end of the cobbled courtyard.
Modernism forced the owners to make concessions. As cars appeared and cars disappeared, the patio floor was covered in red brick and adorned with geranium pots.
The main staircase, with its metal balusters, as well as the corridors, could be covered with carpets.
The somewhat peasant aspect of the manor house disappeared to make way for the sumptuous residence that was the hub of youth and old gatherings and grand celebrations for several decades.
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And speaking of celebrations, Anita notes with some pride that her elders instilled in her: «Here there were many parties and dances, always the girls accompanied by the mother and father.
Every Sunday the house was full of visitors, we took eleven and the young people danced waltzes, hallways and fox-trot, which was the newest, while the older ones talked.
Dad delighted friends with his talk, because he was very cultured.
A lot of people came, but, yes, they did not let you get in but with the one from the aristocracy and parchments.
Monsignor Zaldùa, Luis Vargas, Diego Uribe, Carlos Ezquerra, the Venezuelan poet Andrés de la Rosa and many others sat on this sofa.
They recited and made verses for us. All the important ones from Bogotá passed through here.
“They also did not allow us to deal with people of doubtful conduct.
When it came to ladies, they could be very prayerful and scapular, but if they had given their arm to twist, they had no entrance into the house. ”
- There were also living in the block Eduardo Santos and Lorencita, the Vargas Lorenzana, the Casas, the Delgado Barreneche and a little further on the De la Torre Montoya, the Ricaurte, the Michelsen, the Vargas and others that I do not remember now.”
The La Candelaria neighborhood was, therefore, exclusively for those who could hang a family tree and coat of arms in the reception rooms.
There were other sectors of large and elegant houses, such as Los Mártires, San Agustín, Santa Bárbara and Las Cruces, but the aristocratic one was the first. Viceroys, bishops and archbishops gave it great status.
“On Calle 10,” says Anita Rodríguez, “Monsignor Perdomo’s car was going up when he was coming from the cathedral to the archbishop’s house.
- But the poor people of the Egypt neighborhood also went up and down with their burritos to pick up and bring the food that was given to them in restaurants and social clubs. ”
This parade of aristocratic and humble people who came and went with different purposes, concluded on April 9. Anita remembers it:
«It arrived on April 9, forty years ago, and the aristocracy of La Candelaria emigrated to the north of the city.
The families left and the pomp disappeared. They did not return to make great celebrations and the processions lost their splendor ».
He is happy when he remembers the celebrations of the Virgin of La Macarena and the Octavary:
«The Lord Archbishop went ahead, carrying the canopy with Our Master, and the girls threw flower petals at him.
The ladies wore their best mantillas and the men top hat. There were military gangs and cadets paraded arrogantly.
All that is over. There are still processions, but they are not so nice anymore. And the people of Egypt keep coming down, although now they look well dressed. Very elegant men and women pass through here ».
Anita’s nephews describe her aunt as a woman who was very cute. They say he did not get married because of taking care of his parents and younger siblings.
She admits she was very judicious, but pretty? She blushes when considering that quality but she does not deny it:
«I was very formal and not like my sister Julia who was misapplied. She had a boyfriend who was posing as a tailor so he could go to school and see her. ”
Anita learned many things with the Sisters of Charity of San Facón and received a diploma of «Enough Instruction».
The award ceremony was attended by the President of the Republic, the ministers and the archbishop.
The presence of these characters in the important acts of the schools of distinguished girls, they were very accustomed,”
she adds. Later, she took piano, pyrography and French classes, subjects that were called «adornment» and that completed the training of the aristocratic girls who reached the «age of deserving», that is, of fishing for a husband.
He insists that simplicity was his main virtue, because his father instilled it from a very young age. She keeps an album in which he wrote her the following wise advice:
“There is nothing more unfriendly than a person who makes others feel the real or supposed superiorities with which God had endowed them or believed they were possessed.”
Anita Rodríguez Fonnegra’s face does not reflect any feeling of sadness or melancholy when she talks about the past. For her, her life has been very beautiful and she lives in the present.
He only feels regret when he acknowledges that the people of his generation are gone. His elders, brothers and childhood friends died.
- Remember, as something very curious, that being the oldest was chosen by her parents to receive the recommendations that are customary when those feel the final trip is near.
And she is satisfied that she has fully fulfilled that commitment, since she has managed to preserve the material and spiritual assets that were left in her care. Particularly the latter.
Anita, surrounded by the affection of so many people, contradicts any afflicting feeling that one may harbor about old age. Seeing her live comforts the soul and invites optimism.