from Franco’s SPAIN to COLOMBIA via England: EXPAT Files #6

I met Christian Zozaya a few years ago online through my school, Colegio Nueva Granada’s (CNG), website. He read a chapter of my book and asked to read the whole thing even though it was not yet edited – much less published. To my surprise and delight he wrote back with helpful cultural comments and edited some grammatical mistakes he had found in the Spanish.

He is writing a memoir of his fascinating life. I have two posts from Prof. Zozaya, the introduction from the draft of his memoir, Culture Shock and the text he wrote to commemorate the 75th anniversary of CNG (he was one of the first students). At the recent reunion in Bogota I was very pleased to run into several of his classmates and hear stories about the old days (my parent’s generation and the earliest days of CNG).            Cinda

Christian's friends dancing the Sevillana

Christian’s friends dancing the Sevillana

Born in Madrid the son of intellectuals (my father was an M.D. and my mother a Licenciada en Filosofía y Letras – roughly equivalent to a Master in Arts) my life was expected to be that of a well educated Spaniard. I would go to the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (a liberal school); college would be followed by graduate studies with a scholarship from the Junta de Ampliación de Estudios. Eventually I would be a respected professional living a life of comfort with the occasional trip abroad. I would probably speak, apart from my native Spanish, French and possibly have a good knowledge of the Germanic languages. It was going to be a nice, orderly, settled life but fate would not have it so.

The onsets of the Spanish Civil War, and afterwards of World War II were to change not only my life but that of millions of people. This book is about what it did to me and to a lot of kids who found their lives changed forever…

The Spanish Civil War broke out on July 18, 1936 and the government moved in November, first to Valencia and then to Barcelona. My family all tagged along. My grand-parents went because Antonio was a prime candidate for a firing squad given his Republican antecedents 1., and my parents because father worked for the government as head of the civilian anti-malaria campaign….

…in the spring of 1939 I was in England where my parents had sent me. Like hundreds of thousands of others…. (… to be continued)

1. Cinda’s note: Christian’s grandfather, Antonio Zozaya, was a columnist for liberal newspapers in Madrid.



Riding through a cafetal on horseback.


Reflections on the Earliest Years of Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota (I attended from 1939- 1946)

I went to Colombia after having spent a year in England while my parents stayed in Spain to the bitter end of the Spanish Civil War. My parents did not want me to forget the English that I had learned during my stay in England so they enrolled me in the Anglo-American School in Bogota.

The school was backed by the oil companies. Exploration was intense in the Magdalena River valley and the companies had hopes of finding a second Lake Maracaibo. Their employees came to Colombia with contracts for several years. This was too long a time to keep a family apart or to interrupt the kids’ education. The solution? The Anglo-American School.


I bore the school flag for the Independence Day parade.

The school changed its name from The Anglo-American School to Colegio Nueva Granada during his period. The Colombian government had declared a state of neutrality during WW II and all the international schools had to adopt names that did not reflect nationalities. Le Lycée Français had to change its name as well; I think it became l’Institut Pasteur.

With time Colombia changed its neutral stance against the Axis powers. When the school moved into a building previously occupied by the German Club, the occupants vacated it in such a hurry that they left a photograph of Der Füehrer hanging on the wall. Eventually there was another move, to the former Japanese Embassy. It was on Carrera 3 and Calle 75, a steep climb from the end of the tram line to the gate. That’s when the school bought its first bus.

Although the principals were professional educators the faculty was made up to a great extent of the children’s mothers. One of the teachers was an English lady who had her ship torpedoed under her by a German submarine as she was crossing the Atlantic from East to West. Mrs. van Schjeik, a Dutch lady, spoke excellent French and she taught us during the first year. Mr. Righthouse, a South African lawyer (we all suspected he was working for MI6 – British Intelligence) taught us a second year of French as well as algebra and geometry. Whether professional educators or not they were all excellent teachers with a full grasp of the subjects that they taught.


With fellow Spanish emigres in the mountains. (Christian is on the left).

In 1947 my family moved to Venezuela. In the ensuing years I had several encounters with people from the old days in Bogota. Fast forward to today. My wife and I are retired university professors and we live in Venezuela and Baton Rouge.

Christian Zozaya

Cinda:   Time will tell if Christian is able to live out a peaceful retirement in Venezuela. I find his story fascinating and urge him to keep working on Culture Shock.                                                                                                                    Want to read more of his disrupted life after Franco and Hitler came to power?

15 thoughts on “from Franco’s SPAIN to COLOMBIA via England: EXPAT Files #6

  1. from Franco’s SPAIN to COLOMBIA – A Place in the World

  2. Many thanks to everybody for their kind comments and especially to Cinda for having placed some of my memoirs in her blog. Cinda and I (and many others) were TCKs (Third Culture Kids) formerly known as Army brats. When you have traveled a lot, especially if you were a child, you pick up many experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise have. As you grow you take what you like out of each culture and that is what shapes your state of mind. That is why Cinda wrote “A Place in the World.” You find that your personality is a “pot pourri” formed by life with people of many places with many different ideas and you find that you belong to none and you (or I at least) feel that you (I) do not belong to any particular country. In a sense you are a citizen of the world.


    • Chris – I think you speak for so many of us. We grew up rootless – but with the advantages of knowing other cultures and languages. (I must say I still envy people who grew up in one place, can easily visit relatives and friends, point out their old school etc.)


  3. Dear Cinda,
    It is amazing to read interesting stories about my uncle Christian Zozaya in your nice blog, thank you!
    He told me about your blog, and it is really awesome.
    Kind regards

    Leonor Zozaya (Madrid, Spain)


    • Leonor – This post has generated so much interest – 1000’s of people have viewed it in just a few days. I’m honored to have a place where Christian Zozaya can tell his fascinating story. I looked at your website and see you have a PhD in history and teach paleography – that must be very interesting work. Thank you so much for writing. Saludos cordiales, Cinda


    • I don’t see why not – as long as you have nice or educational things to say. (I don’t do Twitter so would appreciate your copying me).
      Excuse the late reply to your email; it went to a spam folder.
      Thanks for visiting – come back soon! (there is already a Expat File #7 on Christian Zozaya)


LeWhy don't these Spam messages from OUtlook go to a spam folder? If I blacklist "outlook" will it take out real followers?ave a Reply

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