Wandering around yesterday, I thought about my late uncle. He loved Spain. It fascinated him:
This part of it (where he’d never been) really would have intrigued him, but perhaps not entirely in “a good way.” Here in the Canaries, this island of Tenerife – it’s volcanic – is largely dusty and treeless. However, it has clusters here and there of the most modern of civilization: new homes, apartments, shops, restaurants, hotels, and even palm trees carefully planted along sidewalks and in pedestrianized areas to provide shade.
It struck me overall, initially, as similar to a mini-Las Vegas (minus the casinos and wildly over the top stuff, of course): an invented “oasis” escape in the desert. The Spanish have owned these islands for centuries. (Columbus stopped here on his way to the “New World” in 1492.) Yet there seems no “reason” for any of “this” to be built here as it is – save for the obvious appeal of the sun and the weather.
In some areas, you could be forgiven for forgetting you are actually in Spain. English is commonly spoken in the streets. Supermarkets are full of “non-Spanish” foods. There is no shortage of English eateries (including Indian restaurants – definitely aimed at English visitors and residents). I’ve actually seen a Swedish church. On Easter Sunday, the masses at the nearby Catholic Church will be held in Italian, German, English, and, oh, yeh, by the way, Spanish, too. (There seem to be quite a few Italians as well.)
This is a part of Europe, my wife joked with me, that I’ve never really experienced. It’s an example of where northern Europeans head for inexpensive winter breaks, and to retire, in order to get away from their homelands’ often lousy weather. (British Prime Minister David Cameron is over for a break on the nearby island of Lanzarote.) As a result, it has stretches that feel like some weird expat mixed-cultural theme park – especially down along beachside promenades.
Happy to have their tourist and expat money, the Spanish have over the decades increasingly accommodated them. “Spain” does gradually start to reassert itself a few streets up and away from the promenades. For that, I suppose, my uncle would have been grateful.
So far, what I’ve not yet heard is even a single American accent. Not a one. Well, not so far yet anyway. 🙂