Parras – A Memoir

Parra 
Feminine noun 

(Botany) Grapevine 
: Vitis vinifera L. 
A climbing plant that flowers 
& gives fruits traditionally 
used for wine. 
A climbing plant that flowers 
& gives fruits traditionally 
used for wine. 

Parra: Singular 
Parras: Plural 

(Origin) Latin 
(Context) Salgado 

 

It starts with the feeling of never having had something 
that always belonged to you. 

La Parra familiar demasiada lejana para tu encontrar. 

You know this because you never saw roots when you were growing up. 
Your whole world, your entire family, had reduced to your mother 
and father. 

De seis Parras que crecieron solamente quedaron tres. 

Three had remained; One who had humoured your whims to be 
pushed in a cardboard box through the hall. Two who’s leaves begun 
to fall. Three that would arrive with cuchufli’s filled with caramelised 
stories and figs on the evening bus. Family went from flesh and warmth  
to 15 inch faces who said they missed you every six months. Evidence  
of a life that slowly became pixelated collateral of the distance. 
Everything that belonged to you, all that was truly yours, and would 
always belong to you, was left behind when you got on that flight. 

From place to place, you rebuilt a life. From the dust on the 
floor, to the people you let in through the threshold. You learnt 
of the importance of recycling and how to make doormats out of 
the many masks you’ve worn. This life you’ve made, was not 
something easy or something that happened over a short time. 

Una Parra puede tomar años en crecer, y solo entonces cuando ya se encuentre lista, 

empezara a dar fruta. 

It has been your lifetime. Veinte y casi dos. 

It’s always been you alongside yourself. Births, seeds, resprouts and funerals. 

Una Parra que tuvo que crecer entre baldosas. 

*

Parron 
Masculine noun 

(Botany) Grape Arbour 
1 ) Trellis, support framework 
used to guide climbing plants. 
2 ) Traditionally found in Chilean 
Backyards; a sign of an established 
family. 
3) A trellis covered w/ grapevines. 

(Origin) Unknown 
(Context) Salgado 

 

Septiembre a Octubre. ¿Como ocurre? 

El patio of your childhood home has un parron. You sit under it and 
have a strange epiphany. You’ve never been in this home long enough 
to see the flowering Damasco tree. Never in your life had you seen it 
bloom. How incredible it is to you: A thing as ordinary as this – a 
flowering tree – isn’t something you’ve ever seen in the place that’s 
meant to be home. You’ve never seen el Parrón bare leafed, only in 
spring when the fruits are mature enough to pick. You’ve never seen 
different nights with foreign constellations cross the sky standing
barefoot in your backyard. Gotten to know the sounds of a small town, 
the smell of smoke clinging to the evening air from chimneys in the 
winter, the horn of the coastal line bringing in cargo by train from the 
ports in the dawn and dusk. You’d never seen the people as one of the
people. So many things lost and missed. Perhaps this invite of hurt 
welcomed a chance to see the life that you never got to live. 

And how you have wondered what it could’ve been like. 

Had you never left, had your mother accepted the big job, your father 
still an architect and not unemployed. Had you never left that little 
school, in that little town, in that far strip of the world. When people 
would speak of ‘half of a whole’ it was never another person, it was
always you. It was always this life you slip in and out of that would 
come to mind. Perhaps that is why you would never feel complete, 
wherever you go. Because you’d left the two important parts of 
yourself suspended through time on two continents across the world. 

La Parra trasplantada. Transatlantic. 
Different soil, different sprout. 

¿El pasto será más verde al otro lado de esta pradera? 

As you got older, you began to see this side of the world through 
different eyes. The things you notice in your adulthood makes you 
realise why the notion of ‘having a childhood’ is so well protected. 
It’s not so much that you realise the world around you is a throbbing 
wound, scarred over from the hurt we inflict on one another. Rather, 
you notice those same scabs and infected parts in your own self. 
Acknowledging them is part of growing up. 

You found envy for the simple life that a childhood friend lives. The 
small world she occupies. A life that’s small enough that if it had been 
that way for you, perhaps you could have found more comfort in it. A 
thought that comes in no way packaged as a condescension or grown 
out of pity. 

It’s a way to come to know the self that you’d see in the corner of 
your eye or a sense walking in step beside you every time you visited 
over the holidays. The self that you were too afraid to turn around and 
look in the face because what was the point – you’re only there for 
three months at a time. Perhaps someday in the future, you thought, 
when there is more time, a longer stay. Older and wiser. How silly. 

¿Qué es una semilla de uva cuando crece en un bosque de eucaliptus? 

In the quiet moments of these past months, you saw that ‘could-have-been’ 
version walk ahead on your way to el mercado. You saw her  
en la plaza eating ice cream with her friends. Getting on la micro 
Talagante a Estación Central en-route to university in the capital. Allowed 
yourself to feel her, become her, amongst the six million eight hundred 
twelve thousand (6,812,000) of Santiago. The longer stay came, but the 
reason behind it was the price you paid. Careful what you wish for, 
your younger self mocks. You finally faced the self you had been turning away from. 

La uva amarga y exportada. Traspapelada entre el dulce grano nativo. 

*

Tallo 
Masculine noun 

(Botany) Stem 
1 ) Stem of a plant 
2 ) Organ of the plant which 
grows vertical to roots, upkeeps branches, 
leaves & fruit of a plant 
3 ) Associated with ‘trunk’ but 
used in reference to smaller plants; 
flowers, small fruit-trees… 

(Textual relevance) 
The stem of the grapevine. 

(Origin) Latin 
(Context) Salgado 

 

El tallo de una Parra se convierte en su casa. The Place. 

Every etching on its bark is a story. The mistake of plastering the 
inside walls with pebbled dash, the cobwebs behind 50-year-old 
frames that were never touched, the doodles you once made on the 
doors of the pantry. Each engraving formed your family tree. 

15 months and a funeral. La Muerte que nos acompañó. 

Three women spread out across three generations: one roof, one 
surname. It had been a time since that had happened in the family. And it 
began to change the way you saw things. The weight of three 
generations coming to an end and start with you. At the price of a loss, 
came the opportunity for a re-encounter. A pocket in our lives had 
formed, and as soon as we stepped foot in it, it began to close 
behind us. Something your people believed in. Amongst the many 
superstitions they kept alive, it was this which reigned above all; that 
all things happened for a reason. And they always repeated themselves 
the same when they did. Not a question of if they were repeated. But 
when

Your family had a way of recreating moments from the past. La 
Muerte was always our protagonist, the Salgado family always the 
supporting cast. Our most recent when had come. Your longer stay. It 
was the whole reason why you were back in your childhood home. 
And as always, La Muerte left the family in disarray. They say there is 
strength in numbers. Numbers was not our problem. It had been 
cancer and time. Numbers are not a strength when they are written on 
subscriptions for medicine, hidden diagnostic reports or a time of 
death. We had dealt with recreations of the past, but never one like 
this. 

You began packing things up. Getting the house in order with 
impersonal efficiency. Understanding of the reality that this was your 
Abuela’s whole life, her whole world, and you were helping to dismantle it.  
Her history, her memories, her identity, her family. 

Our family. 

Untouched for four generations. Perhaps it was the premature detachment  
from this place that made you as cold as you were. Unforgiving with  
the rubbish bags of memories that you tossed in the back of the car.  
Understanding, yes. But also hurting. 

La Parra transatlántica. No acostumbrada a la tierra nativa de su especie. 

Or perhaps it was a deeply buried sentiment. Resentment? Envy?  
Fear? A grudge that festered the roots and lay dormant to this point  
and manifested as synonymous with uncaring, detached, insensitive,  
unfamiliar, disloyal. 

Foreign. 

It was never said, but the subtext was always there. The label you  
carried with you. As you. Alongside the two passports in your  
luggage. Nowadays, it was something for you to reclaim. A pride. But  
amongst certain circles, the word still echoed between sentences in  
conversations. 

It was louder in the house now, bouncing off the walls with every  
move you made. Ringing from inside every plastic bag with clothes  
and memories you filled. They weren’t your memories, and the people  
you loved didn’t seem to care for the ones you could’ve made here  
when they decided to move you halfway across the world. Let them  
Know what it felt like to have a life upheaved and uprooted from where  
they were supposed to be. Let them see their life in suitcases  
and rubbish bags. 

La Parra transatlántica. Semilla nativa de raíz adaptada a crecimiento invasivo.  

No acostumbrada a su propia especie. 

It was when you were coming back one afternoon, from one of the  
many charity drop offs, that you felt a panic rise in your chest. Words  
from years before rang in your head: “Esa mecedora era de los  
Abuelos de los Abuelos. Y la favorita de tu Tata”. It was not in the  
patio or out front with the things to give. You called everyone you’d  
made a drop to and asked for them to check. Unlike most of the things  
in that house, it was the rocking chair that made you reconsider. Stop  
and feel and remember what it felt like. Wrong. Inhuman. Unfair. 
How cruel of you to act out in that way. 

This was yours and should always be yours. The house, the rocking chair,  
el Parrón, the Damasco tree, the constellations in the sky,  
standing barefoot in your backyard in the same place your mother and  
every woman before you stood under a clouded sky a thousand  
nights ago. Strange that you let these things go as you had done with  
many things in your life. 

Look! The house cried. There are the roots that you always sought.  
Right there! So plainly in sight yet you don’t recognise them. 

That was what happened when you grew una Parra en tierras lejanas.  
You desensitise them to their own species. “Que jamás te avergoncé tu  
historia. Nunca pidas perdón por pedir lo que ya es tuyo.” 

You let yourself be selfish about this one thing. A piece of the family,  
and a piece of history that belonged to you. And to your memories.  
You start to be more careful with what you put into the bags. You get  
the rocking chair back. You open your eyes to the roots grown around  
you. You begin to water the ones that need more care. You begin to  
grow some of your own. Leaving will be more painful this time, yes.  
But you’ll have un tallo with una corteza mas dura now. 

*

Grano/s de Uva 
noun 

(Botany) Grape 
: referring to a single grape 
: referring to multiple grapes. 
1 ) Fruit which grows on grapevine, 
harvested during ‘la Vendimia’ season. 

(Origin) Spanish 
(Context) Salgado 

 

Las ramas de una Parra arman un cielo entrelazado. 

Guiding the way the branches interweave en una Parra is a labour  
shared across time. Each generation witnessing a different stage of its  
life. Each that has passed never to see its end. 

Self-realisations have become intertwined in the core of each branch. 

Yours is this. 

This chance to create a memory of Chile that was solely yours. Not  
the one grown from the past of your parents or old family friends. A  
memory of home written by you from your eyes and your heart. The  
stories you heard, the truths you learnt and the people you met. 

Perhaps for the first and only time. 

People you won’t get to see again. And people who you can return to.  
Places imprinted in your mind that when they speak of you can nod  
along knowing where they are, what they are like. Not in pretence as  
you once did or with a side eye to your parents waiting to be explained  
where that is. Leaving with the knowledge of roads travelled, paths  
taken, feet tired from walking and soul content with finally exploring. 

Finding that rhythm of your people in your speech, in your words, the  
way you think, the way you feel. A reconciliation made with the child  
you left at the boarding gate those 18 years ago. And this
time you didn’t leave it at customs or baggage claim, because this was  
the half that you had been missing. 

Ending with the feeling of having something that will  
always belong to you. 

*

Las hojas se caerán del Parrón, pero salen cada Septiembre para dar granos jugosos. 

My people. My family. Myself. 

Everyone who now lives in your memories and waits for you in a place that, for a short time,  
felt a little like home.


J S Marr – or Jo as she is known to most – is a Chilean born & Brisbane raised creative. Finding herself at the intersection of film, photography & writing, she considers people to be amongst some of the most fascinating creatures in this world.

She is reclaiming her Latin roots, always finding ways to show the crossroads of her Spanish (Chilean)/English (Australian) worlds in her works. She’s been published in ScratchThat & Glass. Marr seeks to centre the individual experience & is always on the lookout for human stories from real people. If she’s ever late it’s from prying life stories from Abuelitas at bus stops or the Crossriver rail works making a cameo in her meticulously unplanned life. 

She enjoys spur-of-the moment walkabouts, admits her weak spot in a good scoop of ice cream & small talk with unexpecting strangers. You can find some of her works, stills & past projects on Instagram @jo_sannmarr

Jo San Martin
Jo San Martin
Articles: 1

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