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2. The Riches of Santiago: Chapter 1-The Barceloneta

2. The Riches of Santiago: Chapter 1-The Barceloneta

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Published by Neil Burns
Young Catalan rebels, enraged by their poverty and the loss of their regional autonomy, become entangled in Royal politics and a Jesuit plot against the Spanish King, Charles III.
Young Catalan rebels, enraged by their poverty and the loss of their regional autonomy, become entangled in Royal politics and a Jesuit plot against the Spanish King, Charles III.

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Published by: Neil Burns on Nov 26, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Barcelona, April 1766
“Hey, Ortiz, your ship come in yet?”The hackles rose on Ramon Ortiz’ neck. Did someone know about the ship? Heturned startled eyes in the direction of the caller. A group of older men stood under theawning outside Ferrier’s Tapas Bar, sheltering themselves from the pelting rain. Herecognized several of his grandfather’s colleagues from the
, the outlawedgoverning body of Catalonia that continued to meet in secret. Most were men who hadlived their entire lives chafing under the domination of the Castillian Spanish Empire. He picked out Joao Miro, the gray-bearded former butcher who was grinning maliciously athim.“No pot of gold yet?” he called at Ortiz again. “Maybe you can just wait for arich widow!” Several of the other men laughed, somewhat uncomfortably. Ramon knewthat Miro competed with his grandfather for the leadership of the
, and theyall held Ramon’s father in disdain, giving Miro two excuses to persecute him. But atleast they were only mocking him, not intentionally revealing his plans for the Spanishship. Still, the reference to a widow could only be an insult to his father, somethingRamon would not tolerate.
Ramon pulled his large hat lower on his head as he crossed the cobbled streettoward the gathered men. The storm, unusual for springtime Barcelona and theMediterranean coast, had been robust, starting early this morning with lightning andthunder. He avoided several puddles that had accumulated during the storm even whilekeeping his eyes sternly focused on Miro. As he reached the other side of the street mostof the men backed away, intimidated somewhat by Ramon’s tall, lean body. Althoughonly 17, he was nearly two meters tall, at least a head taller than any of the older men,and he walked with an easy athletic grace. Only Miro stood his ground.“You know, Miro, it’s true, my mother was a widow when my father married her, but since my grandfather disinherited her, she was hardly rich. But now I understandyour choice of career. You butcher everything, even your insults.”This time the laughter was genuine. “He’s got you there, Joao,” one of the other men joshed. Miro’s grin had turned sour but the other men’s general levity broke thetension, a couple of them clapping Ramon on the back. “Good one, Ramon, you’veinherited Gabriel’s sharp tongue, that’s certain.”Ramon ignored them and ducked into Ferrier’s entrance, removing his hat andshaking off the rainwater. As his eyes grew accustomed to the gloomy interior of the bar,he noted the group of young men he’d come to meet talking conspiratorially at a table inthe far corner. At the only other occupied table, against the wall to his right, a large,round man slept, his head on his arms, slumped over the table. A glass, half full, sat nextto another empty glass on the table. Some people start the day early, he thought.Cosette, Ferrier’s daughter and the bar’s serving girl, bent over the sleeping man.Ramon’s pulse quickened when he saw her. She was not quite his age but she had hadthe responsibility of helping her father ever since her mother had died when she was 8years old. As a result, she was far more serious than other girls Ramon knew from thestreets, and, he thought, far more beautiful. With a shake of her head, she picked up theempty glass and headed his way with a disapproving look on her face.
“I thought you were going to hit that old man.”Ramon grinned. “I wanted to. He deserved it, but his age saved him.”“Well, at least for once you used your brain instead of your fists. Your father would be proud, even if your Grandfather wouldn’t.”“Cosette, my Grandfather never uses his fists. You might like him if you gavehim a chance.”“I might like him if 
a chance,” she retorted. “He hates me just like hehates your father, and for the same reasons. I’m not Catalan, and I’m not stupid. And if he weren’t crippled, he would use his fists. As it is, he uses his tongue as a weapon!”Ramon laughed. He couldn’t argue with the truth.“Hey Ramon,” one of the young men in the corner called out. “We’re over here.”At his shout, the sleeping man jerked, and then resumed his resting position.Ramon waved and looked back at Cosette. “I’ve got to go. Can I see you later?”Cosette looked unhappily at the group of young men in the corner. “I don’t likethis, Ramon. You’re going to get into trouble. Why do you have to spend all your timewith them? They’re trouble, with all their plotting and protesting.”“They’re my friends, Cosette. And they’re good people. They’re just unhappywith their lives. And can you blame them? There aren’t any jobs, there’s no money,there are Spanish soldiers on every corner, and we can’t even work 
land, becausethey’ve taken it from us. You’ve got to understand that.”

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