Mario’s dad

La Mili, Spain’s Former Compulsory Military Service

Long, historical post about Spain’s military service, coming right up!

La Mili Spain


In March of 2001, Spain’s then-Minister of Defense Federico Trillo, made a huge announcement: “Señoras y señores, se acaba la mili.” My husband, Mario, was then in his first year of university, studying translation and interpretation—he hadn’t had to do the formerly obligatory military service, nor had his brother. As for me, Spain was the last thing on my mind: I was in eighth grade and planning on taking Japanese, not Spanish!

But for over 200 years, Spain’s young men were expected to their duty and spend just over a year in the military, ever since King Carlos III introduced conscription in 1770 (the idea came before him, however). He issued an order in which one in five young men of military age would be conscripted. These names would be drawn from a list, a census, of young men.

And so it was for a long time. Although my husband and his brother were not affected, my father-in-law did indeed serve. I decided to interview him. When I sent him a list of a few brief questions, he replied with a four-page document. (He is nothing if not diligent and studious!) I will include his answers in Spanish, which I will then translate for my non-Spanish-speaking readers, of which I have a few.

¿Con qué edad tenías que alistarte? How old were you when you had to sign up [for the military]?


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How to Host Thanksgiving in Spain

Having hosted two Thanksgivings in Spain, I now consider myself an expert, obviously. That’s just how these things go.


  • Buy a female turkey, una pavita. I had no idea before 2010, but smaller turkeys are tastier



Mario helped too!

  • Have a pinche, a sous chef. Mario’s father, Jesús, was my sous chef, and the best one there could possibly be. He spent the whole morning chopping, cutting, and just generally being helpful. Also, he is totally relaxed. Find one of those.
  • There will be bread. This is Spain, how could there not be?
  • Stand up to the idea of primer plato, segundo plato. Stay steadfast in your American-type meal and have your guests eat everything off the same plate. The horror!



  • Let someone else make the dessert, even if they make it differently than you would. This year, we didn’t have the traditional pumpkin pie; rather, we had a sort of pumpkin cake. No big deal. We ate some pumpkin, okay?!


  • Drink local wine. Better yet, have another person bring that local wine, especially someone from Toro!

There you go, my recommendations for a Spanish-American Thanksgiving. Go forth, and roast yourself a turkey!

Happy Belated Father’s Day

In case you didn’t know, yesterday was Father’s Day in Spain. Happy Father’s Day to all the Spanish dads (and the American dads living in Spain)!

I wrote a post once called Why You Should Have a Spanish Mother-in-Law. Read it—I talk about Mario’s mother, how great she is, and how much she worries about me. (I almost hate to cause her that worry, but it does make me feel loved.) Anyway, I got to thinking, and it seems that Mario’s father deserves a post because he, too, is wonderful.

Overlooking Lago de Sanabria

Mario and his dad, Jesús, are similar in many ways. They are both intelligent, passionate learners, avid readers, and generous, kind people. They are both golosos (they have a huge sweet tooth). They never pass up a chance to eat dessert. I would say that Jesús wins this one, though; I think I’ve seen Mario refuse dessert a time or two. Jesús? Um, no. At a wedding we all attended last June, after a huge meal, he gleefully recounted how he hate not only his (very rich) dessert, but also those of two other people sitting at his table. Typical. I really love it when he brings out the cookie box after every meal—Mario’s mother, Pepita, is always rolling her eyes. Again, typical.

Jesús is a high school teacher, although he teaches middle-school-age kids really. In Spain, high school includes both middle-school and high-school-age kids. He teaches geography, and he knows basically everything there is to know about Spain. Also, everything. I still remember the first time I went to Mario’s house in Zamora to meet his family. There we were, for some reason discussing wine and vines, and there was a word that no one knew. His cousin told me something along the lines of , “Well, no one knows that word.” But guess what—Jesús did. Typical.

Learning about Sanabria

Teaching me about Sanabria.

Last year, after my day at the local high school, I would often go over there for lunch, even if Mario wasn’t there. For some reason, I think Jesús was glad of this. After a full day of teaching, he got yet another student: me. He loves to teach me, and I love it, too. You see, Mario and his brother, Víctor, have heard it all. They’re always telling him, “I know, Papá.” Well, I don’t know, so he gets to tell me. And tell me he does, often with millions of details I’ll never recall in two hours. Nonetheless, I enjoy it immensely. He also enjoys teaching me Spanish words. I’ve stopped telling him if I already know them, just because he enjoys telling me so much. Also: he’s really funny and always ready with a joke, no matter if you think it’s lame. (I never do!)

Monte la Reina Wine Tasting

I have some really great parents, parents who always support me, parents who loved me immensely since the day I was born, parents who have gone to Spain twice to see me (and are going again in July!). Yet I am so lucky, because I get another set of my parents—mis suegros—who love me, who worry about me, who make me amazing food … the best set of suegros I could have ever asked for.

Happy (Belated) Father’s Day to Jesús: ¡eres el mejor!

Spanish Father in Law Wedding

¡Estoy de Vuelta!

(Translation: I’m back!)

Being back in Spain is wonderful. So far, there has been sun, fresh crusty Spanish bread, red wine, walks, sunsets, and more. Mario’s apartment has two French doors in his living room where his table sits. I love to sit there in the mornings, sipping coffee, eating oatmeal, and watch the sun creep in. Oh yeah, and there’s the part where I AM WITH MARIO!! That’s good too.

If you’ve ever lived abroad, I hope you’ll agree with me when I say some things just seems weird about the other country. As an American, I’ve never felt more American than when I was living in Spain. The whole foreigner thing just makes you realize how utterly American you are. I realized this immediately upon arrival in January of 2008. Everything about me: my height, my hair color, my clothes, my shoes, even the way my face is shaped screams “American!” to all the Spaniards. Now, it’s not a bad thing, so don’t think I immediately took to sewing a Canadian flag on my backpack. No. I didn’t, however, try to look Spanish, as some of my fellow study abroad classmates did. For one, I can’t. As Mario told me, “Hombre, tú tienes cara de Estados Unidos.” (Translated = “You have a United States face.”) Obviously, such efforts would be futile. Secondly, why would I? It’s silly to pretend to be someone you’re not. Our differences are what makes life interesting. A lot of people, believe it or not, are interested in talking to someone who’s different. Mario’s dad, for one, apparently is always asking how you say such-and-such a word in English. Mario says that when we go for lunch there one day I should be prepared for this … well, I’ve already taught him sheep and pig. (We were driving past grazing animals on our way to Salamanca, okay?) So no, I won’t be going to Zara anytime soon and buying a whole new wardrobe, I won’t be cutting my hair in the Spanish style, I won’t take to wearing only high heels, I won’t be painting my face every morning. I’m far too lazy to wear makeup daily and I’m far too poor to buy the expensive clothes and shoes … oh, the shoes!

So yes, life in Spain as an American is good. It helps that I have my own little tour guide, host, and boyfriend all rolled into one. He knows the ways, the customs, why things are the way they are. Moreover, he’s always correcting my grammar. I ask him to, and he complies, even though many could find that annoying. This way, I’m constantly improving, constantly bettering my speaking skills. His help is invaluable in my transition to American expatriate in Salamanca, Spain.

¡Hasta luego, amigos!