Esmeralda Pérez in Garabandal: Only God Knows plays the role of Aniceta, the mother of Conchita. Pérez is married to Rafael Samino, who plays the role of Fr. Valentín, the town’s parish priest. She is a social educator and the mother of six children. Pérez shares her experience with us after taking part in the filming of the first movie concerning the apparitions of Garabandal.
1. Esmeralda, together with your husband and four of your six children, some of whom are still very small, you participated in the filming of Garabandal: Only God Knows. You spent all your summer vacations working on the project. Why? Is Garabandal important for your family? Or do you simply love theater and adventures?
If someone had asked me to participate in a movie that summer for the mere pleasure of a new experience, or for personal prestige, I assure you that I would not have done it, especially knowing that I would have to reorganize the lives of my entire family. I would not have considered it at all.
However, it is a completely different story if I grasp that Our Mother is asking it of us. Ah! That changes everything! If She wants it, even though it may seem like a crazy idea (as was the case!), I know we have to go on ahead with it. As always, we placed ourselves in Her hands and She took care of everything. We all understood it that way, from Miguel and Gabriel who are nine and seven years old, to Javier who is 15 and Santiago who is 24 years old. “It’s for the Virgin.”
And yes, for many reasons, Garabandal is very special for us. It’s not only the place in itself; what makes it special is what it means for us, what it has meant, and what we hope it will mean for us in the future. The message of Garabandal is significant for the whole world.
2. How did your children like the experience? What roles did they play?
Miguel and Gabriel were village children. Javier was a teenager in the village, and Santiago was Manín, the young tutor whom Fr. Valentín put in charge of gathering the reports.
Every part of the filming process was a big exciting adventure for them. They made lasting relationships with others. They repeated the scenes over and over again without any complaints. They participated with us in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the prayers. They spent the days letting their imaginations go free.
During the filming, we celebrated Miguel’s First Holy Communion. It was a very special moment, even though all the guests (everyone who was collaborating in the movie, all the actors, etc.) were wearing strange clothing. In fact, we asked Miguel if he wanted Rafa, his father, (Fr. Valentín in the movie) and I to change out of our characters’ outfits before the ceremony. Without hesitation, he said to us, “Dress normally, please. The other way doesn’t look right, Mom.”
Months after the filming, they remember it as a very special time.
3. Was it easy for you to take on the role of Aniceta, Conchita’s very worried mother?
It was not difficult for me to get into the role of Aniceta. As a mother myself, it was relatively easy for me to act as I would have acted in that situation.
I always thought what I would have said or done in that situation. Imagine my daughter comes and tells me that she has just seen an Angel. Hmm… I think Aniceta’s reaction in the movie is kind considering the situation.
In a certain way, Aniceta personifies the parents of all of the girls. They had to suffer their own doubts, the ridicule of their neighbors, the misunderstandings of the villagers and even of the members of the Church, the constant “persecution” of those who were close to them, the worries about the health of their girls who often slept so little and had to suffer the cold. I think it would be a very hard situation for any parent.
4. You went through an entire month filming, with a very demanding agenda and with young children. It must have been exhausting. When you look back on it, what are the images and the anecdotes that come to mind?
What has marked me the most is the family environment on the set that was extended to all those who arrived. At one moment you were an actor, the next you were setting up decorations, afterwards we were all together participating in the Eucharist, and then a little while later, we were setting the table for lunch to continue filming soon after. We did all of this with immense joy in our hearts.
We “shared” our children. When I was busy filming a scene, I knew someone was taking care of my children. When I had time for my kids, I took care of all of the rest of the kids.
I loved the trust and kindness our director, Brian Jackson (or rather, the collaborator of Our Director, the Virgin) showed to all the actors. He never said, “That was awful (or horrible!)” When we finished a scene, he would always say with his American accent, “Perfecto, perfecto. Let’s do it again.” And, sure enough, we repeated the scenes over and over again until they turned out according to his plan.
The most astonishing moment was probably when I joined the filming and saw my husband dressed for the occasion for the first time. I already knew he was going to play the role of Fr. Valentín, the parish priest, but seeing him with a cassock, my goodness!
5. What has participating in the filming meant for you?
I know I receive so much from God every day. He wanted to give us this experience as well, and that’s it. We spent some very beautiful days together as a family, with wonderful people—I would love to name all of them, but they won’t fit—in a beautiful place, with Our Mother at the head of everything, and all “for the Glory of God.” What more can we ask?