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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Vic Cruz

    Vic Cruz was born in Buenos Aries, Argentina, but moved to Hebden Bridge in 1988. She is an artist/printmaker and gallery development officer. Vic was interviewed by Tony Wright (17th November 2003)

    What are your name, place and date of birth and where do you live now?

    My name is Vic Cruz. I was born in Buenos Aires in Argentina, the third of January in 1960. I now live in Hebden Bridge.

    What made you come to Hebden Bridge?

    I left when I was about 18. It was a time of war, civil war in Argentina and a lot of people were leaving, young people especially. I thought I’d go travelling. A lot of people were going to Europe and I had family in Spain, so I left to wander around for a bit and clear my head.

    How did you end up in Hebden, then?

    Oh, after about 3 or 4 years of Europe, Spain and Italy, I moved to London cos I wanted to learn English. I thought that would be a useful skill. Also, I wanted to go to London really. I’d heard a lot about London and thought it would be very different. My family background and Europe were more continental, so London was a big attraction for me in my twenties, my early twenties.

    And eventually, when did you come to Hebden?

    I came to Hebden Bridge in 1996 (it was in fact 1986, ed.), September 1996. After a long summer in London being homeless and no money and I left London to come and visit a friend for a break. I was with my partner then, ****, and we bought a little under dwelling within three weeks cash, through a friend of our friend that we were staying with. Somebody was separating and had a big house and they thought they could make a bit of money, to get out by selling the under dwelling, which was the cellar, really. For me, it was in a very, I thought, friendly street, nice people and it was very, very cheap and we had the money then. We thought of buying this little place to get away and to, yeah, maybe have workshops, a studio, a living place, just to have.

    Can you tell me a little bit then, to go back, about your life in Buenos Aires, because Buenos Aires is a huge city?

    Yeah, a huge city, I lived about ten kilometres away from the city centre in a suburb. Quiet, but still very near the city in away. It’s very, very big; there was transport, lots of buses, trains as well. So it was my dad’s family came from the Basque country, from Bilbao and they left during the war as refugees in a big boat in 1936. They left for Buenos Aries. They thought they’d start again. They were republican and lived in a small fishing village outside Bilbao, in a place called Mundaca, which is next door to Guernica and it was bombed by the Germans.

    So they left and they bought a plot of land, a very classic immigrant story. They bought a plot of land in the Basque neighbourhood ghetto, where a lot of Basque and Spanish, no mostly where a lot of Basque people were heading for. They all helped each other build houses, just like a little country house in the Basque hills near Bilbao. I was brought up in this house and my grandparents spoke Basque at home and the whole family was going back when Franco died.

    I was fifteen when Franco died and though we had a massive party cos we thought we were going to go back home, for me it was just a story, it was my parents and grandparents who … I was by then very bordinia, which is the people who come from Buenos Aires, from the city. My accent was different. I couldn’t talk Basque. I spoke with a very broad Argentinian accent, which my grandmother hated. I went to school in the city, in Buenos Aires, a very big school, all girls, ordinary free school. I specialised in secondary school, I specialised in history and languages. They, you know, you do different things.

    They have a different system there?

    Yeah, a different system. So, I thought maybe, I was going to be a journalist or a, yeah, somebody who would write. I never quite did that, but anyway that was me when I was very young. So, yeah, the city of Buenos Aires, I got my first job there and lived in the city.

    So basically, you were a city girl. When you went to Spain and Italy, was it mainly big cities you went to there?

    Well, I left when I was eighteen, partly saying I was going to visit the family in Spain, which I did. They came from a fishing village and I thought it was very, very small, so I travelled quite a bit. I moved around. I lived in Barcelona for almost two years and I was in Madrid and in Italy as well, but my family was from a village and I felt that was very different that what I was used to.

    Well, Hebden Bridge is very countrified and quite small. How do you feel about that side if it?

    Well, I lived in London for ten years and so when I left London I wanted to live in a peaceful place, a smaller place. I thought it was a fantastically beautiful, Hebden Bridge, very, very different than what I was use to as a child, Yes, a place I could get to know more.

    I’d like to ask you about your work. What type of work do you do?

    I, mostly work with my hands. I’m a printmaker. I make prints to sell and I teach other people how to make prints, handprints, etchings, silkscreen prints, lithographs and the rest. (Easthorpe Gallery, Mirfield, ed.)

    Is Hebden a good place, then, for that type of work? Do you get inspiration from the landscape or the fact that there are other artists around or there’s access to other cultural places, museums, what have you?

    Yes, I think it’s not bad. I can get to places easily. I wouldn’t say Hebden Bridge, at the moment, offers me everything I would like. I know I can get to places from Hebden Bridge quite easily and that makes it easier, so it’s just a choice I can make. I do have colleagues in Hebden Bridge and people I admire, working hard and I think that helps, yeah.

    I’d like to ask you about what I’d call the community of Hebden Bridge. Do you feel that you are a part of a community in Hebden Bridge or are you on your own, as it were?

    No, I don’t think I’m part of the community. I wouldn’t say I’m on my own. I think, perhaps, a very small group people, going back to my work, who are artists, or …

    So, you feel, perhaps, you are part of an artistic community then?

    Yeah, a little bit, more so than the community. No, I think, I do find it quite hard or I have done in the past. I am quite aware that I’m not part of the community.

    Any reasons why you think that is?

    I think people feel quite suspicious of me.

    Really?

    Um, in a way, not in a bad way, not in an offensive way, but I think it takes a long time to break down that barrier of, ‘why are you here’.

    So, are you trying to say that the born and bred people, the Yorkshire people, they’re the ones who are suspicious and, perhaps, the ones you might get on with more are the cosmopolitan ones, who’ve travelled more?

    Yes. I don’t think I have that many friends or people that I see regularly that are from Hebden Bridge. I don’t know if I’ve made all that much effort to get to know people who were born in Hebden Bridge. I don’t think we’ve come across. We’ve met partly, because of what I’ve been doing in the last fifteen years, I guess. I did work in Hebden Bridge for three or four years and it was with people from Manchester, not people from Hebden Bridge.

    So, if you were to make any comparisons of Hebden Bridge with Buenos Aires or Bilbao or even London, are there any kinds of comparisons you can make or differences?

    Oh! Differences, huge. Yeah, I think I would want to talk more about the differences rather than trying to compare or make parallels. I think there are huge differences, of size, of location, of geography, of lives, really.

    When you were raised in the big cities, you were raised in a, sort of, Basque area. Did you feel part of a community there?

    Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I mean it was a bit disjointed, classic immigrant, first generation. There was my parents’ community, my family, my main community, like my tribe. Then there were the people I was born with, my generation. That was quite different, as well.

    Do you feel as if Argentina is your country? Do you actually feel like you are Argentine, is that how you feel?

    Yeah, I think so. I lived half my life, more than half my life away from Argentina, but I follow it very close. I’ve still got family there.

    Did you bring any customs or traditions from your earlier life to Hebden Bridge? Are there things that you do, a particular feast day or cooking or anything like that?

    Oh yeah! Cooking, definitely. Yes and food in general, cooking, eating, sitting at a table, sharing food with other people and times of eating, as well. I’ve always kept my own times of eating, which is always two or three hours later than everybody else. I could never have tea at 6 o’clock. I tried when my children were young and when I lived with an English person closely in the same house, shared meals and I never got use to it. I could never do it. So, I would, I like eating at dinnertime. My idea of a good day would be to stop at midday and cook and eat and talk and then probably do the same very late in the evening before going to bed.

    Is there anything else?

    The language, Spanish. I speak quite a bit of Spanish, in a way. I have people I talk to on the phone nearly daily in Spanish and I speak Spanish to my children. They don’t speak back to me in Spanish. I don’t think they like it, particularly, but it’s something as they get older, we’ve had good and bad times with it, but as they get older they’re accepting more. They realise its’ part of me, really, as we get more individual.

    Do they understand what you’re saying, though?

    Yeah, most of the time, if I speak slowly.

    Do you think Hebden Bridge is a good place for children?

    For very young children, I think it’s great, yeah. I really enjoyed Hebden Bridge and being at home with my children. At the time, when I was at home with them, being able to walk to places, meeting people in the street, meeting people in the park, doing small things, taking them swimming in the little pool in the park and, yeah, walking, being outside.

    Were they born in Hebden?

    Yeah.

    What do they think of Hebden Bridge, then?

    I think they feel they’re quite lucky to live in Hebden Bridge. My children, I think, they do know it’s a good place to live. It’s peaceful and they can’t wish for anything else, really, though I think they, also, get bored of Hebden Bridge at their age. Having done …

    How old are they, now?

    Ten and thirteen and I think because they’ve been to other places, they can compare. I think their ideas of the city with more people around, more things, more shops, you know, and all the rest, is quite attractive to them.

    Do you think you’ll stay in Hebden Bridge?

    No.

    Why?

    It’s one of my biggest fears, is to become, is to grow very old and infirm in Hebden Bridge. I think it’s a very hard place for older people. I look at people’s faces in the street and I think they’d be better off in a warmer place, in a flatter place, in a more outdoor place.

    So where do you think you might go, then?

    This is a very big question because I always thought it would be very hard to leave Hebden Bridge, as well, you know. It’s quite an anxiety to swap Hebden Bridge for somewhere else. I think of a place with more light, for example, and more generous weather, easier weather.

    It’s quite harsh, here?

    I still find it quite harsh.

    Have you ever had any difficulties in Hebden Bridge because of where you’re from? Have you had any bad experiences?

    No. I lived in a house where my neighbour thought I shouldn’t really be here and that I was a foreigner.

    All Yorkshire people are like that?

    She was from Hebden Bridge and she lived next door to me for about fifteen years and she made it clear that I wasn’t welcome, but I … well …

    You’re going to find people like that wherever.

    You know, we just happened to live next door to each other, really.

    Yeah, are there any things about Hebden Bridge that limit what you want to do with your life? Are there things that could make it a lot better?

    Umm
    .

    What kind of things?

    Sometimes I would like to live in a place where people talked to each other a bit more, like in the street or outside. I think it’s, partly, to do with the weather, really. I think it’s harder to walk into a place when it’s cold and talk to people in a room than to talk to people on a bench. That’s one of the things I enjoy the most in the summer in Hebden Bridge. People are out and they seem more willing to talk, to pass the time, to have a conversation. If I have to walk to somewhere, a pub or a public place, I am quite conscious of the arrangement, and who people are with and I find that harder, but it might be me. No, well, at the moment, I manage to work, and you know…

    Do you think it’s a cultural difference, then, that maybe not just Yorkshire people, but English people don’t talk as much as maybe people from Argentina or Spain?

    Yeah, I think it might be. I have thought about this. I don’t know if it’s England or Yorkshire people. In London, I lived in places where there were a lot of foreigners and they were London Greeks or London West Indians or … and that made it quite acceptable to all muck in, you know, or talk and be around and take over places, council estates or areas of the park and the swimming pool. I think here, it’s almost like an unspoken something, it’s the valleys, the hills, it’s the land I guess. People are more precious about it.

    Is it a bit claustrophobic?

    Yeah, a little bit.

    A bit narrow in some ways?

    Yeah, you know, you need to know the history of people with money, without money or class. I think there’re a lot of barriers to do with that. To do with your family and what they did or they’re working class or middle class, what they work at. There are a lot of barriers to do with your background, your name, your education, which I find that quite difficult. I think it’s a shame, that, you know …

    Yeah, I would agree with you there really. I’d like to ask you about the landscape in your printmaking or your painting or artwork. Do you get any inspiration from the landscape?

    Well, I don’t really work very much like that. I do a lot of drawing, that’s how I start all my prints. A lot of the time, I don’t really know where it’s coming from. It’s quite to do with the ways look in front of me. A response to the moment or what I’m doing then. I guess there is some connection because I’m here, but I always have found it very difficult talking about where my ideas come from. I’m not too sure. That’s what I do, I draw and then I turn them into prints. I’m very aware of colour and very aware of how things look on a surface and a space and a size. I follow it round and round and I guess that’s what keeps me making more work. That I’m just always looking, looking and I’m responding either to the last mark or the last contribution … and that’s how it goes.

    Yeah, I guess, you know, sometimes I would say music has inspired me, as well, in some ways, and yes, obviously it does the place I live, yes. I find it quite hard to do a very quick connection. Yes, it’s obviously there.

    Just a very routine question about the amenities here, like the buses, trains, the shops, the health facilities, the schools. Are they any good?

    I’m happy with the schools. I think we could do better with things like shops. I find Hebden Bridge very expensive for what I buy and need. I think it could be more basic and straight forward. I don’t really use many shops altogether. I think, I would like the library to have newer books or books that are coming out now. I guess they cost a lot of money, the books I would like to have.

    Well, I found that but what I, my strategy is to get them to order them from other libraries and in a couple weeks, very often, they come in, but you have to wait.

    Yes, it’s accessible and again I could choose to push it more but I … it’s fine. I would like to see more sport for younger people and myself. I don’t do a lot of sport, but I would like, perhaps, to have a comfortable place to treat myself and do something different and clear my head. For the rest, the trains, yes, they’re late, but they get you places if you want and buses the same. Quite a lot of shops in Hebden Bridge annoy me because I think they are for visitors and not that interesting even for visitors. I think they’re a bit patronising, a little bit dull. For socialising I would like a little less pretension like a comfortable place, somewhere cheap and easy to eat late, maybe open late. Yeah, accessible for everybody, a café really, at night, or a couple, you know, rather than just a pub.

    Well, that’s all you get really, isn’t it?

    Yes.

    When did you first come to Hebden, then?

    1996.

    So, is it…. 1996, wasn’t it 1986?

    Yes, 1986.

    That’s a very long time. Has it changed, then?

    Oh, yeah!

    How has it changed?

    Oh, it’s changed quite a bit to me.

    For good or for bad?

    There use to be a lot less money, a lot less money. Yeah, the shops, there were more greengrocers and butchers. Houses were very cheap. Yeah, it was very different. There were a lot of very young poor people, quite happy, walking the hills and cooking at home and living a good life.

    So, it’s not like that, now?

    No, I don’t think so. I think housing, and I’ve experienced this myself moving around in the last four years, it’s, I think, has become quite ridiculous. I think it, Hebden Bridge, has been bought for a lot of money. I mean, I think by everybody, really. I think every body has tried to get on it and in it. I think of young people in ten or twenty years time, you know, but I guess that’s happened all over the country and in Europe. It’s not new.

    So, do you worry your children, if they want to stay in Hebden, that they would find it difficult to be able to stay?

    Yes, I think so. It’s quite a worry. These days, I look around quite a bit in Hebden Bridge for somewhere to live. It was quite desperate and I thought it had changed so much. Renting rooms or even people opening their houses a bit more. I think property has become very precious and a way of making money more than a roof over their head.

    It’s not a place to live, but a place to invest in?

    Yeah, I mean, it was very, very in my face.

    If that’s the case, and I think it is true, people that come in and are paying these very high prices, what kind of people are they, apart from being rich? What kind of people are they, any idea?

    Well, they are probably people who just live here on weekends, because I guess they’ve got to earn the money somewhere and it probably takes them hours away from Hebden Bridge. So, I think they see the place as a place to come to and hide away or rest up after a week somewhere else. Yeah, so it’s probably people who just like the look of Hebden Bridge, which, well there’s nothing wrong with that, because I moved here because I really liked the look of Hebden Bridge and could afford it then.

    Do you think in the future that might change? Do you think it will always be for the wealthy, then? Will it go even more that way or go back to the way it use to be?

    I’m not too sure, really. I don’t know. I don’t really know. I mean I would like to see young people squatting mills and finding their way and sharing houses and really becoming independent of having to buy your own place or having to pay a landlord a lot of money. And you know, yes, I hope they do, that the place changes. When I looked around for alternative housing I didn’t see very much, but then I was in a different situation. Yes, it didn’t happen for me, but I mean, I hope younger people do manage, yeah, to stay here and live the way they want to.

    It would be a pity if they didn’t, because pretty soon all the middle aged people are going to be old and if all the young people or children can’t survive, they move away. It will then become a bit of a ghost town, a bit of a relic. I think it won’t be a thriving community anymore.

    Yeah, sure, yeah.

    Something needs to be done, but I don’t know what, really.

    Yeah, I think that was one of the attractions of moving to Hebden Bridge, at the time when we did. There were quite a few young people, almost escaping from having to pay a lot of rent. I mean, London had gone up and you couldn’t get an easy going place for the money we had, so there was the feeling, well, let’s make our own little town and try and help each other. Yeah, that feeling was there when I came and so it felt good, as well, to be where you could do that. We kind of did. We lived in a very easy street where people had to share the toilet. We were, more or less in the same situation though that’s changed, now.

    So the question I asked earlier about whether you felt part of the community, it sounds like in the early days you felt part of a community?

    Yes. And that’s what’s changed in Hebden Bridge. It’s the way it has changed over the years. I think it was a certain community. I didn’t meet a lot of young local people. They were people from different places and we felt close because of that, we were newcomers. People brought their own ideas and this was a place where you could do some of it, you know. There was a studio to be organised and homes for people, so in that sense, I was part of that community. I mean it was a Hebden Bridge, then, community.

    I felt that. I came in1987 and the street that I lived on, everybody talked to everybody.

    Yeah, yeah.

    Out the back street, young and old together and whatever, but it’s not like that, now.

    No, no. I mean I haven’t lived on this side of town (Fairfield). I always lived on the other side of town (Windsor View) and I felt I didn’t know this side of town. I lived there for eighteen years or something and it was … I still think it’s quite different, this side of town. It might be because it’s quite a bit darker and feels harder and also, it is the council estate and the other side of town and I don’t think people talk to each other on the estate, now, today. I’ve been here eighteen months. It’s going to be two years in December. No, people don’t talk to each other.

    There was the suggestion of making, of forming a tenants association and it didn’t happen at all. People weren’t interested, at all. Again, it’s partly because this is, probably, the rough end. At the better end, people have been buying houses and trying to make their patch nice and are a bit resentful of the ones who haven’t because they’re paying rent. There’s all that going on.

    I think, once upon a time, the estate, and I lived on council estates in London, always, it was like that. Because you lived on the estate, you were always saying, you lived in a council property, you know, an estate property and the council was your target and your neighbour was your friend, because you were all in the same street. Whereas now, if you walk through, there are the people who are in the estate because they have to be, they can’t get out.

    There are the people who thought ‘ahh’, we can buy this house cheaply and do it up and maybe it’ll go up in price. You could tell that maybe they’d thought about doing it up, to sell it or to gentrify it and it’s caused a little bit of friction with the people who just want a place to live and it’s affordable and convenient because that’s all they can get, you know. Yes, something like that. But, I mean, that is probably the situation on a lot of estates, today in England.

    Do you get visitors, like family coming here or old friends who don’t live here and come up to stay?

    Yeah, sometimes.

    **What’s their impression of Hebden Bridge? How do they see **

    Everybody likes it. They love the look of Hebden Bridge, the hills, the lanes, the walks, the buildings, the size. You can walk everywhere. But, there’s still a little bit of ummm …. traditional England, the picture of England, of small buildings, clean, quite clean, quite looked after and the rolling green hills and the sheep, you know.

    Is there anything you’d like to add?

    No, I mean, I love the countryside around here, going up the tops, looking down. That to me is quite stunning, quite lifting, you know. I don’t think I could live in a very flat open country place, anymore. I think, I would find that very desolate, more claustrophobic that living in the valley. And though, where I am now, in this flat, is very dark, I know that in ten minutes or less I can get to the sun on the top of a hill and that for me is very important.

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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