Faustino in Sydney, 2012.
Faustino in Sydney, 2012.

I am from a place called Valdesoto, Concejo de Sierro in Asturias, Spain. I came to Australia in 1963 sponsored by my two sisters that were already here. I flew from Madrid on one of the first flights that brought migrants by plane. There were about twenty to thirty of us. My sisters were waiting for me at Mascot airport with Father Benigno a priest from Madrid. I was brought here with the Catholic Church who paid for everything upfront and I had to repay them when I could. In Asturias, I worked as a mechanic and so I did the same here.

I arrived in November, but I didn’t start working until after Christmas. When I arrived I thought it was the “Wild West”. The roof of the houses, the people, everything was a bit primitive. The social life was centered around the pubs. On the weekends the pubs were full and it nearly always ended up in fights. I remember seeing people having fist fights in front of the Town Hall with the police standing around. These fights were allowed when there were no firearms involved. What was surprising for me was that even women stood around watching. The onlookers would clap as if they were in a boxing arena (Faustino smiles).

I lived with my sisters in Balmain and they took me to the Employment Office in Leichhardt where I found work. I never had a problem finding a job because there were always a lot of opportunities. In my first job, I worked with elevators for a company in Glebe. It was right next door to the dog track. The ‘dogs’ were a novelty to me because in Spain they didn’t exist.

The only problem was the language, as I couldn’t speak or understand anything in English. We had an interpreter who was Greek and spoke various languages, one of them being Italian. I was able to communicate with him in Italian and Spanish. After living here for a while I saw an ad from a lady called Maria who taught English. The truth is she didn’t know much English herself, her spoken English was a bit rough, but she helped us. She said that we should “twist our tongue” and we pretended we understood what she meant (Faustino smiles). A bit later on there were English classes in Rozelle given by Australian teachers. I attended classes for a couple of hours a night once a week for five years. It wasn’t enough, but I started to learn something. In those days there were no headphones or computers, so it was more complicated to learn. I began to speak a little and I could understand a lot. I speak the language quite naturally today, back then it was completely different!

Like other Spaniards, I used to go to the Spanish Club as it was easy to relate with everyone else. We were able to meet people from all over Spain. It was very good. I originally thought that I would only stay here for two years and then return to Spain, however it didn’t end up that way and I am still here. Although I will always feel Spanish and I love Spain, I am different now. I feel good here. In Spain there are too many different ideas, each person is a political party (Faustino smiles). Australians do have different ideas to Spanish people, for example their approach to work, but when Australian people talk about Australia they are united. Spanish people, on the other hand have millions of different opinions (he laughs).

What I like most about Australia is the lifestyle. Life here is a lot easier. In Spain, it seems that there are more problems. It is difficult for young people to find work. Here, there is work for everyone. Of course, I miss my family even though I was there only for a short time. I have to say, “I still miss a good Fabada” (a famous dish in Asturias).
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