95-year-old Spanish blogger gaining fame
'Granny' dissects past and present
María Amelia López, 95, blogs about the world she sees during the summer from Muxía, Spain, where she was born, and from Galicia the rest of the year. (International Herald Tribune Photo / Lalo R. Villar)
MUXÍA, Spain - Her readers call her "the little granny," and for eight months she has engrossed them with her ruminations on the present and her recollections of the past. Since her debut in cyberspace in December, María Amelia López, 95, has drawn thousands of readers from across the globe with an incisive blog.
The Internet journal (amis95.blogspot.com) is a meandering chronicle of old age sprinkled with vivid reminiscence and her take on contemporary life, from fashion and workers' rights to Basque terrorism and Iran's nuclear pretensions. Since her grandson Daniel, 35, set it up as a birthday present in December, López's blog has received 350,000 hits and drawn responses and, increasingly, media attention from as far away as Chile, Venezuela, Russia, and Japan.
"It's a whole new universe," said López, an elegant woman with high, arched brows and a keen stare. She dictates her entries to Daniel. "It's like having a conversation, and those who read what I say become my friends."
López, who now calls herself the "world's oldest blogger," discovered the Internet late last year, when she heard a voice coming from a computer - her grandson speaking over the Web to a friend in Mexico.
"I thought, 'What is this thing of the devil?' " she recalled, speaking in the computer room at the town hall of this quiet town on Spain's northwestern coast.
When her grandson explained, López seized on the Internet as a way of keeping up with the world.
"I told him, 'Between the life that I have led and the life into which you were born, there is an enormous difference. I want to understand your culture. I want to be on top of things,' " she said.
Daniel set up the blog and showed his grandmother how to use the Internet to read El País, the Spanish newspaper. He prints out biographies and news articles from the Web for her to read, as well as responses to her blog, she said. Nearsighted, she says she tires quickly of reading text on a computer screen.
By turns insightful, amusing, and mundane, López's blog reports on the world she sees during the summer from her seaside balcony in Muxía, where she was born, and from the Galician farmhouse where she lives with her grandson the rest of the year.
She blogs sporadically, sometimes once a week, sometimes every day, chronicling her swollen joints, her bouts of dizziness, and her trips to the doctor. She charts the progress of the construction work on the apartment building next door in Muxía, lamenting the apparent lack of safety measures and the rudimentary apparatus; she complains about poor broadband penetration in Galicia.
López turns her eye from modern fashion to Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. In January, she wondered how the girls in church could stay warm with "their little knickers showing and their hips all bare."
Not that she is against all new fashions, she added. "A miniskirt with a pretty pair of legs - that, I love," she wrote. "But you really need to have good legs."
In May, she sent regular updates from her trip to Brazil - her first outside Europe - and posted pictures of herself dancing and wading in the sea.
When ETA, the violent Basque separatist group, formally ended its cease-fire in June, López turned her sympathetic cybergaze toward Zapatero, who had tried to broker peace. "You did what you could," she wrote in her blog. "And you'll still make it if you can, but it's a very hard thing to do."
The prime minister is among hundreds who have written to López to commend her vivacity, wish her blog a long life or seek counsel, she said.
If the Internet has provided López with a new way of connecting to the outside world, it has also provided a path to her country's sometimes painful past. López was 25 when Spain's civil war began in 1936.
Last week, a tear rolled from behind her thick glasses as she read an article on her blog contributed by a reader about Francisco Sánchez Adanza, a priest she knew as a young woman who she said helped leftists during the civil war. "He saved a lot of lives," she said in a quivering voice, pressing her nose to the computer screen and reading the text aloud. "He was a saint, a true saint."
As the summer draws to a close, López said, her next project is to learn to navigate the Web more extensively and, maybe, learn a language.
"Elderly people like me - and there are a lot of old people who are younger than I am - should all have someone who shows them how to use the Internet," she said. "You have to stay informed."