The Hawkesbury Generation

One of the things that I like the most about living in the present is that it turns into History instantaneously without you even knowing it. It is also a golden gate to the near future and therefore it represents an entire world of new opportunities. Probably most of those people that we study at school and who did amazing things never thought that they were making History. But they were. I am not saying this because I think that in the time that just happened in between before and after you read this you are going to make History or be remembered for that. I am saying it because I feel that we often tend to underestimate the things that we do in our daily lives and mythologize what others did, particularly if someone has written about them.

I did my PhD at the Spanish Research council, specifically at the National Natural History Museum in Madrid, which is next to the student residence. This particular place, La residencia de estudiantes, gathered during the decades of the 1920s and 1930s some of the most brilliant and admired minds of their time, particularly writers such as Federico García-Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Miguel de Unamuno, artists like Salvador Dalí or film directors like Luis Buñuel. They were all at the forefront of their respective fields and used to get together frequently to talk, discuss new ideas, eat or simply hang out at the residence. They were probably just good friends. A really cool group of friends. During my PhD, I and my friends used to have lunch at the cafeteria of the Spanish Research Council and then buy a coffee and drink it right in front of the residence. One day I talked to my friends about all these stories that had happened almost a hundred years ago and, half joking half serious, they named the bench we were at El banco de Unamuno (The bench of Unamuno).  Funnily enough, we kept calling it that way for a while and I always thought internally that perhaps (why not?) we might as well be making History with our endless conversations about science, supervisors, our theses, or simply about life. I always felt that in a way we were supposed to be part of the intellectual elite of our country. I do not know exactly what this means but whatever it is I am not trying to say that we were any better than anyone else at all. I just thought that there were some similitudes between us, young and motivated scientists, and those who were there before us. I guess that it made me feel special in a way.

Then I defended and got a new job as a post-doc in Australia. There I found new friends to talk to and discuss with and, among them, there was a good bunch of people from overseas that were in a very similar situation. I guess that, at some point, I started to feel that perhaps we were also making History as we went out for beers and dinner to the local “Hotel” every Friday night or worked together in the lab. Will someone tell our story in the future? Will ever someone say something like: “did you know that “all these people” worked at or visited the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment more or less at the same time? I guess that in a way, we are already the “Hawkesbury generation”, whether or not we become famous, and I guess that we are already History in a way. In our way. And I am glad that I have had the pleasure and the privilege to meet some of the most incredible people that I have ever met in my entire life in Australia and I am also very happy and proud that some of them are my compatriots. Even if the History does not remember us, I will always will.

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