Born in La Zarza 72 years ago, but raised in Los Pajares, Pedro Valverde is a clear example of an entrepreneurial Zarza native who, starting from very humble origins, went on to set up an important travel agency in Alicante.
Married, father of two children and grandfather of five grandchildren, Pedro Valverde offers in this interview a mix of memories and feelings from his childhood and a journey through the rest of his life.
What memories do you have from your childhood?
It was a happy period, because although I lacked many necessary things, I had the love of my parents, especially my mother, and I also had the true friendship of the neighbors. We loved each other and we continue to love each other.
My childhood was spent in Los Pajares. I am still able to review the names and surnames of the neighbors who lived in each house. The people there were very healthy, some families helped others.
Were they hard times?
Yes, quite hard. They looked for my father to keep sheep on a farm in Torremejías. We lived for six months – winter included – in a hut built under an olive tree (I still go to see him, from time to time, because of what he taught me). We were in charge of a flock of 352 sheep and a mastiff. I remember that my father earned 30 pesetas and I earned 10 a day. We saved to buy blankets, some of which I still have.
And the school at that time?
Between 1957 and 1965 I studied in Alcuéscar (Cáceres). Under the guidance of Don Leocadio Galán, they formed me as a person, both from a human and religious point of view. It was an indelible experience that marked my life.
When did you decide to leave?
In the summer of 1969, some gentlemen who were visiting Los Pajares and lived in Alicante, invited me to spend a few days at their vacation home. Upon returning, I had already decided to return to Alicante. There I discovered progress. They were much more advanced than us.
How did you get started in the world of travel?
At one of the many Moorish and Christian festivals in the Spanish Levant, I met the director of Viajes Meliá, at that time the best there was in the sector. He liked me and hired me as a sales manager. Shortly after, in 1973, they appointed me director of the agency they opened in Elche.
And when did you decide to create your own company?
In 1977, I left Viajes Meliá and, together with another man, we set up our travel agency. We specialize in the footwear sector, very important in Elche. We charter flights, attend international fairs, hire hotels, rent planes… We were pioneers in organizing trips related to the footwear sector.
For work or leisure reasons you will have visited many places. Which countries or cities would you choose?
I’ll stick with countries like Italy, Portugal and France. And cities like Paris, Florence and Prague. But to live, Spain.
What meaning does La Zarza have in your life?
La Zarza is my life, my origins. Here I still sleep in the room (renovated, of course) where I was born. Despite having put down roots in a faraway place, my desire to return remains intact. I am also lucky that my children are delighted. Here I have family and friends who appreciate me very much and whom I appreciate equally, so coming to town is always a great joy for me.
Once retired, what do you spend your time doing?
I retired in 2010, but I am still involved with the company. The person who creates a company and sees it grow and consolidate, lives and breathes for it. Especially if you love the profession, as I do. I also enjoy and dedicate a lot of time to my grandchildren.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most pleasant thing is to sell enthusiasm and make many people happy, both on their vacations and on their business trips. It fills me with pride to see the descendants of my first clients continue traveling with my company.
Do you often come to La Zarza?
I feel a great love for La Zarza. I have always tried to come two or three times a year. I have never missed an appointment, except for a couple of years when, for personal reasons, I couldn’t and it was a nightmare. Now, once retired, my stays in the town are longer than before. Fortunately, my wife, children and grandchildren accompany me.