Postcard from Genoa, Italy: Hey, don’t knock peanuts

The graceful statue of Caterina Campondonico is among the most popular in the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno because of how it was secured. Peanuts.

“It’s only peanuts” is an idiom that never made sense in our house. Peanuts meant everything to us. My father, Lawrence Conway Brennan (1918-1988), was deep in peanuts.

Not that we grew up in a peanut patch, but our father was treasurer of the Columbian Peanut Company in Norfolk, Virginia. His engagement in the nerve-wracking gamble of predicting peanut deliverables by the railcar-load, subject to all the possible whims of Mother Nature in several southern states, sent three girls to college.

Campondonico scrimped and saved lire throughout her life to commission Lorenzo Orengo (1838-1909) to sculpt this prime example of Bourgeois Realism art in 1881, prior to her death. She funded the monument, as fine as those of neighboring aristocrats, from a lifetime of sales of doughnuts and nuts on the streets and at fairs in Genoa. She clutches a rosary of hazelnuts and a pair of doughnuts in her hands. The restoration of the statue was completed in 2016 by American Friends of Italian Monumental Sculpture.

“The Peanut Seller” is far from alone in the 82-acre cemetery; she is in the company of more than 2-million other Genovesi. The cemetery opened its gates to welcome its first deceased occupants in 1851, and the majority of its monuments are from the period of the following hundred years.

In addition to Staglieno’s monumental pantheon and marbled halls for the dead, families erected individual house-like or chapel-like mausolea climbing up the surrounding hillsides on narrow “streets,” forming sort of a suburban village overlooking those resting down below.

If this abundance of photos fails to satisfy your taphophilia, you have a severe obsession. As do I. I finally added a separate category on this blog for locating and scrolling down through related posts: Haunting Graveyards.

And, maybe, in memory of Caterina “The Peanut Seller” and Connie, my father aka “Goober,” rethink that dismissive idiom. Perhaps even improve a few sayings. A peanut in the hand is worth two in the ground. A peanut sold can be a penny saved. The road to heaven is paved with peanut hulls.

Postcard from Zinacantan, Chiapas, Mexico: Roosters Rule the Roost

Densely clustered deep plum and royal blue embroidered flowers blanket the huipiles of women running errands in San Cristobal de las Casas from the nearby Tzotzil town of Zinacantan. They were my favorites spotted on the streets.

As with San Juan Chamula, male leaders operate the small town of Zinacantan somewhat autonomously, charging a toll to outside visitors. But here the women are not subjected to polygamous marriages.

The feathers young women spend months weaving into their bridal outfits do symbolically spell out their standing in the marriage. The feathers aren’t brilliant parrot or peacock feathers but are those of the humble hen. Unable to fly, hens don’t flee the coop. Chickens stay close to home, subject to the rooster’s whims.

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Several churches abut plazas at the heart of Zinacantan. The church of San Lorenzo dates to 1546. We are not sure why Saint Lawrence was popular, but he is the patron saint of chefs.

As punishment for having distributed the church’s wealth to the poor instead of Roman authorities in the year 258, Lawrence was slowly grilled upon an iron grate. He is alleged to have quipped to his tormenters, “Turn me over; I’m done on that side.” Perhaps Nana (Katherine Ann Conway Brennan, 1887-1972) was prescient in naming my father Lawrence (Lawrence Conway Brennan, 1918-1988), for no one enjoyed grilling a thick sirloin steak, fork in one hand and Bourbon in the other, more than Dad.

San Sebastian has a more obvious connection to a second church built about 200 years later. Some believe the saint who was martyred about the same time as Saint Lawrence miraculously appeared to construct this church in Zinacantan with his own hands, a feat he accomplished in only three days.

Others claim he reappeared in Mexico only to be pierced by arrows shot by Spanish soldiers, as he originally had been in Rome. He died, once again, on the site of the church and was buried there. Saint Sebastian is a patron of athletes and soldiers and a protector against the plague, particularly beneficial when Spanish soldiers are spreading European diseases among the native population with no immunity to them.