Olivares, Javier


Since I was very, very young, I have always been drawing. In fact, when I attempt to trace back before the first graphic impressions, I can hardly remember anything. Drawing was the activity I liked the most, although at the time I had no idea it could be a profession; it was as natural for me as jumping, singing, or playing was for other children.

I still keep, in quite good condition, some illustrated books that a classmate and I made together. In them we narrated the adventures of some characters called ‘los Audaces del Espacio’ (the Daring of Space), and we drew around fifteen or twenty of them. That was around Year 5 or 6; we must have been nine or ten. I can still hear the frequent reprimands from my parents (privileged witnesses of my first ‘works’) for covering with doodles the textbooks I was meant to pass down to my siblings.

I do not have a particularly positive memory of childhood. I strongly disliked the obligation of having to spend the summers where others decided, to wear the clothes my mother imposed on me (seventies fashion!), and things like such. Going to school became tedious very early on. One phrase, that my father systematically attributed to almost all my teachers, accompanied me during my school years: ‘This child is very intelligent, if he wanted he could get good grades, but he is very lazy’. I was not actually lazy. As soon as I got home, I would immerse myself in a hectic activity: playing with my toys, drawing, reading comic books, building cardboard aircraft carriers and space ships with my brother, and a thousand other things. It was the lack of an interest in the things I was taught in school (and, above all, in the way they were taught) that separated me from that world.

I was a blond boy, shy and distracted, but my drawings gained me the friendliness of other children, since they read my comics. I even ran a handmade newspaper that came out every month. In such a cruel world that is school, full of scary bullies and with spontaneous joy bursting at the slightest embarrassment, knowing how to draw provided a small proactive shield.

Of my classmates I remember their names more clearly than their faces, probably due to the habit of taking registry, an implacable litany teachers tortured us with. In addition, I only saw my friends at school. I never played out in the street, since I lived in a neighbourhood without parks and my mother was terrified of the outside world, so my house was the place were I played.

One cold morning, in the enormous school playground, I remember witnessing a distressing scene, when the Head Teacher angrily threw out a poor man that sold mantecados (a traditional Spanish and Latin American butter bun) during break time. He used to carry them in a basket and we had all at some point one from him, even some teachers. He was a character who was almost part of the school. I could not understand how that man could have been treated that way in front of all those children. During the tense encounter, the man offered the Head Teacher a mantecado, and the latter slapped it away while he pushed him towards the exit. It is strange, but I have not been able to forget that image: that vendor offering a mantecado to the furious teacher. We never knew why he was thrown out in such a way.

It was around that time when I realised that a mantecado, despite its rocky appearance, is incredibly fragile. How many times had they crumbled in my hands before reaching my mouth! Until a grown-up taught me how to eat them and explained that one must squeeze them tightly before unwrapping them to achieve a manageable consistency.

Javier Olivares

Self-portrait of the author