[two pro travel journalists turn amateur bloggers]
[words and photograph © Mark Eveleigh]
What would you do if you won the lottery? Be honest – you’ve mulled over that before, right? You’d go travelling, pay off your debts, give some to charity, of course. But would you – could you – give every single cent away? Here are the stories of two men – one a homeless Argentine absolutely passionate about football, and the other a Spanish immigrant who’d travelled to Mexico to seek his fortune. Their stories of rags and riches are extraordinary…
Crazy Julio was a Mendoza city streetkid who slept in the shadow of the Godoy Cruz football stadium. Perhaps Julio had always had a different kind of craziness… or maybe it was just that fate gave him an unusually dramatic way of showing it.
Julio isn’t too sure how old he was when he won the lottery, nor is he sure now just how much money it was. “Mucho, mucho!” he says.
He became a local hero overnight, but not in the way you might imagine. Without a second’s hesitation he gave every last centavo to his beloved Godoy Cruz football club and became universally known as “Julio el loco”. When I met the the old man – his face now etched like old leather from 60-odd years under the highland sun – he was panhandling at the ticket office by the stadium. He led me to the huge mural commemorating him at the back of the stadium and pointed happily to the towering floodlights that were bought with his money. He gave everything he ever had to his club but, even to the most dedicated Godoy supporter, the old man is only ever known as Crazy Julio.
Later that afternoon I bumped into Julio again on the terraces at the Godoy Cruz – Boca Juniors match. There I was, a nominal Boca fan, among the coked-up ranks of Godoy’s hooligan army: a lone Englishman in the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas (Argentine Falklands Stadium). Julio was decent enough to keep quiet about my nationality and the supporters around us patted him on the back when I went over to shake hands.
“Ese es nuestro Julio!” they shouted proudly – that’s our Julio. “Julio el loco.”
These days there are many millions of Latin Americans hoping to make their fortune working in Spain. But it wasn’t always so. Here’s a story from the days when Mexico was the land of opportunity and Spain was a poor peasant country just emerging from a terrible civil war into a period of dictatorship…
My friend’s grandfather was the youngest of several sons and as such opportunities were limited. Like thousands of other immigrants who sailed to Mexico that year, he had little to lose and even less to keep him at home in the village. He had heard the stories of booming business in Mexico City and was determined to make his fortune. It might take 10 years, it might take 30, but somehow, he told himself, he would return a rich man.
His story is possibly the luckiest immigrant story ever told. Two weeks after he arrived in Mexico City he bought a lottery ticket and a month after that he arrived home in Spain as a millionaire. Three generations later his family is still wealthy from the old man’s whirlwind trip to The New World.
Fascinated by parallel worlds? Read more stories here.