Some people you have never met somehow touch your life in a very special way – it is as if you really know them. In fact you do, because they reach to you through their words, or their work; in one way or another they change your life and you feel truly grateful to them. They become special to you.
Mercedes was one of such persons, and last week I was sad to learn about her passing, for she – with her life’s work – has certainly brought many bright moments into my life.
In her youth she met and fell for a dashing young journalist called Antonio. They married and moved to Barcelona. Soon after the birth of their son they had the idea of founding a magazine, one that would be entertaining, that would show the bright and pleasant side of life and make people happy just by reading it. Together they founded Hola in 1944, now a famous magazine if ever there was one. For years they only published it in Spain, but they steadily expanded to other Spanish speaking countries, and then one day they took the huge step of publishing an English version in the UK; from then on it just grew and grew and today I’ve lost count of the many countries where local editions are published. Hola, the Spanish “mother” and all of her children have become a case study, and incredible story of success.
Last week Hola dedicated a moving article to their founder, whom they called “the soul of Hola” and they wrote: “How many good moments you have given us”; I truly feel the same, for Hola means a lot to me, it’s like a dear old friend for I have been reading it religiously every week since I was twenty years old.
By then the Spanish edition (the only one available) was already quite popular in Portugal and I had read it occasionally, but somehow in the beginning of 1983 I became attached to it. However, as it came out every week buying it would put some strain on my finances so Granddad generously said he would bear the cost. In fact, he said, he considered an investment in my fluency in the Spanish language and so challenged me to learn it without having to attend a single class and I’m happy to say I have passed with honours. Even today, when people ask me where I have learned my Spanish and I proudly say “By reading Hola magazine”, they hardly believe me but it is the plain truth!
In addition to being my Spanish teacher Hola has been so much more. In its pages I have learned History – mostly through their articles about the European Royal Houses – and also the latest fashions. I have copied hairstyles and how to combine certain outfits; some of my clothes have been inspired in those of Spanish socialites, even if I can’t aspire to buy the same brands as they do. I still remember a not so logical combination of a grey skirt and bomber with a red sweat shirt and red (yes, very red!) matching shoes and stockings. However, as I had seen Isabel Preysler (the former wife of Julio Iglesias and definitely one of the most elegant women in Spain even today) wearing it on a trip to Paris I dared make the combination and it was such a success that I remember it to this day!
What a pleasure it has always been to walk to the kiosk and get my copy, and how I immediately long to go through its pages and learn the latest news. After so many years I have to confess the old excitement is still there. And I won’t miss one single copy. Whenever I travel to a country where it’s not available I will have someone back home get it for me. All my friends know I’m addicted and they will ask me “So, Teresa, what is the latest news on Hola?” and I will happily tell them and they will marvel at how well informed I am.
There would be so much to say about Hola, how it has been with me through the last thirty years: I bought a copy on my wedding day, as I was going to the hairdresser, and took it with me on my honeymoon; it accompanied me to the hospital where I gave birth to my two boys and my friends who visited me could not help but laughing as they saw it on the dressing table; in happy times or sad ones, there it was to keep me company and cheer me up, or just let me relax while going through its pages; it has showed me the most beautiful houses and the most glamorous people, told me very interesting stories and the latest gossip; and all of this Hola has done in a kind way, careful never to publish anything sharp or cruel, always taking care not to hurt, even if the news must be given. And I believe this way of making news is what makes Hola truly unique.
So on this week when Hola has lost one of its founders, a lady who devoted her life to this magazine, working hard at a time when women stayed at home and having worked well into her nineties, I would like to join my voice to those who have thanked her for bringing Hola into our lives. She never knew me but I knew her, the lady of the bright eyes and the kind smile. I say “Bravo” for the amazing magazine she created with her husband, one she developed together with her children and grandchildren and all the people that work for Hola. I am so grateful to her for creating something so special that it has touched so many lives, giving us so many moments of joy.
Somehow all the readers of Hola will not entirely lose Mercedes, for her legacy will linger on. She will always have a special place in our hearts, for she has given us all a very special gift, our Hola magazine. In my case, a faithful companion that, I have no doubt, will be with me every single week for the rest of my life. Hola magazine – many years ago, now and forevermore – always the nicest way to say Hello.