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    • Evergreen

      In the dark turmoil of 1936 Europe, a young Spanish Civil War captain showed up at a refugee camp in France.

      Barely twenty years old, Eulalio Ferrer had nothing: alone, disillusioned and shell shocked, all he had in his pockets was a crumpled pack of cigarettes. Starving, having witnessed war and death and horrible atrocities, Ferrer was on the brink of madness.

      "Tobacco for a book", - Ferrer suddenly heard a voice of an old French soldier, looking to exchange a pocket tome for a pack of cigarettes. "Tobacco! Who has tobacco?".

      The soldier's book was very small. Ferrer hesitated; the book could serve as a pillow, he decided finally, and gave the soldier his pack of smokes.

      But instead of putting the little volume under his head, the young captain opened it and began reading. He devoured the book from end to end. Then again. And again. And again.

    • Evergreen

      It was “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes - and it became a light in the darkness.

      "Don Quixote’s insanity became an anchor for my own sanity in times of chaos and turmoil, and I read the book over and over again. I read it hundreds of times", - Ferrer recalled later.

      Few years after, Ferrer escaped to Mexico. He began working as a reporter in Mexico City, but soon created his own media and public relations company that prospered. Ferrer became wealthy, influential and powerful; his company had offices in Mexico City, New York, London.

      But he never forgot the years in the French refugee camp - or Cervantes.

      “Don Quixote saved me in my time of need. I felt like I owed the noble Knight”, - he used to say.

    • Evergreen

      Ferrer began collecting books and artwork that featured Don Quixote. Soon, his house and studio were filled with paintings, sculptures, and literature that was all about Cervantes and his Knight. Artwork on Don Quixote spilled out of every nook and cranny; finally, Ferrer realized he needed to share his passion with the world.

      In 1987, Ferrer established the Don Quixote museum in a small Mexican town of Guanajuato.

      Every October, the town now celebrates Festival Cervantino – an arts festival to honor Miguel de Cervantes and Ferrer’s Don Quixote legacy in Guanajuato. The festival is now of an international scale, fame and prestige.

      If you are ever in Guanajuato, look for Cervantes and Don Quixote - they are everywhere in this town, peering at you from windowsills and roofs, looking up at the sky from statues and monuments.

      Tobacco for a book...

    • Chris

      Fascinating!!! I have never heard this story. What a jewel of a short story with visuals. Had I known about it, I would have stopped there.

    • Pu

      I took my daughter to Guanajuato when she was in college minoring in Spanish. She had taken a lot of classes but never spoken with a native. The first morning we were in the hotel restaurant and the waiter asked, "Le gustaría algún café?" (would you like some coffee). She replied, "Sure!". Fortunately her Spanish improved by the end of the trip.

      I like Guanajuato because, although it's geared towards tourists, it's not overrun with gringos. San Miguel has that covered. Guanajuato caters more towards Mexican tourists.

      There's a Rally Car race every Spring that starts in Guanajuato then moves out into the mountains. The start is a night circuit inside the city. Several of my coworkers from our plant in Reynosa go every year and it's been on my bucket list but I just haven't been able to make it happen yet.

    You've been invited!