Jean Leon: a busy boss

Jean Leon: a busy boss

Winemakers and wine producers are special people. Creative, passionate and passionate about the business. Jean Leon is one such man with an exceptional background. He was friends with Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan. And not only is he the founder and namesake of a fantastic winery, his own life thundered on - a personality entirely his own way. Text Charlotte van Zummeren

Jean Leon was born Ceferino Carrión Madrazo to a family of nine children in Santander. Over time, they moved to Barcelona. Ceferino's father and older brother José, both merchant marines, were killed in World War II when the British navy sank the ship they were working on. The Allies suspected that the ship was secretly carrying war supplies for the Nazi army. Spain's neutrality during World War II meant that the press did not report the incident, preventing Ceferino's widow and mother from claiming a pension. This led to a period of great poverty for the widow and her children.

Once Ceferino was working, he came home one day from his job at the Pegaso car factory in Barcelona. Neatly dressed, he told his mother he was taking his girlfriend out to dinner to celebrate her name day. So he didn't. He left on the sly with three friends for France and did not get back in touch until months later. In France, he worked as a waiter, interpreter and whatever else came his way. He was supposed to serve in the Spanish army, but refused. He held Franco responsible for the death of his father and brother, and had vowed never to serve in his army. Not showing up for conscription is a criminal offence, so in Spain he had better not show his face again. Guatemala was to be the next destination. He tried seven times to travel to the country as a stowaway, but never succeeded. Each time he was caught and sent back to France. That was a stroke of luck, because in Spain he would have been imprisoned immediately. The eighth time, he managed to board a ship in Le Havre. Only this ship was not going to Guatemala, but to the United States. Ceferino only found this out when he was already on the high seas. During the voyage, Ceferino was discovered by an African-American sailor. He did not betray him, but took care of him and hid him in the hold. The sailor brought him food and taught him English. They became good friends. After the voyage, Leon made repeated attempts to find him, to no avail. 'I have never forgotten that man. I would have recognised his face among a million black men. He was like a guardian angel to me. Without him, I would never have ended up in America,' he later said.

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