Carboneras, Chapter I: Blood on the Sand
The first thing we saw yesterday as, at around 6 or 7 p.m. we headed to the beach (good time of day -- the sun goes down around 10) was the aggressive graffitti. Crude white letters painted on the new washroom shed on the east end of the beach spelled out FUERA PUTOS MOROS. ARRIVA ESPAÑ (the graffitist, besides misspelling, had failed to calculate room for the final A). On the adjoining, shorter wall the complaint was spelled out in further detail: NOS ESTAN INVADIENDO ENTRETODOS. VAMOS A ECHARLLE (there's that spelling difficulty again) HUEVOS. Both walls are decorated with crude swastikas and other mysterious symbols: an A with extended crossbar, like wings, a cross through a circle.

Pretty scary. Is it really serious? There are plenty of bored young men in this little town, trying to amuse themselves by racing loud motorscooters at 1 and 2 in the morning. There are also maybe a score or so of immigrants, very noticeable in a town of about 5,000 permanent residents. Rumanians, Bulgarians, at least one family of black Africans, and possibly some "moros" (used loosely to include Moroccans, Algerians and other North Africans). But are the bored Spanish youth capable of violence? I know they don't typically know much history, but surely they are aware that "Arriba España" was the slogan of the Franco forces; I doubt though that they are aware that when he invaded Spain to overthrow the Republic, Franco's troops were the Moors he had commanded in Ceuta. This morning I photographed the graffitti, framing the shot to include the Moorish watchtower on the peak behind the town.

There has been a lot of blood on these beaches, some real and some theatrical. This is where they filmed "Lawrence of Arabia", where the 12th century watchtower plays the part of a Syrian castle and the sand as the desert of the fertile crescent. After the Catholic Monarchs (Fernando & Isabel, in case you've forgotten) chased the Nazarí­ Moors out of the area in 1488, and out of Granada (their last stronghold) in 1492, they and their successors had trouble staffing the watchtower, because the area -- depopulated after the expulsion of the Moorish agriculturalists -- was so isolated and vulnerable that the Spanish guards kept getting kidnapped by corsairs from the Barbary Coast. That is, the Moors returned, over and over again, and because their correligionaries the Ottoman Turks controlled the Mediterranean at the time, there was no one to stop them. They would pillage and burn and carry off "old Christians" (as distinct from newly converted former Muslims) as slaves. In one famous raid in 1573, they carried off more than 240. That, the Marqués del Carpio (then owner of the land all around here) decided, was the last straw. And with all the speed of cumbersome monarchy, some 20 years or so later (no exact record remains) the kingdom began building its fort, the Castle of San Andrés. Meanwhile, since the Battle of Lepanto (where Miguel Cervantes, not yet a famous writer but a mere sailor, lost the use of a hand), the Ottoman dominion had ceased and the danger of raids must have diminished.

I've begun trying to find out something about this little place that we have been visiting for years, and only today did I discover this history. The town exists mainly because the State required a garrison here. By 1850, the garrison of San Andrés was 28 men. The town had 300 houses for 450 "vecinos" (I suppose that meant "heads of households") and 1,800 "souls", a church, a plaza, a boys' school with 30 pupils and a budget, and a girl's school with 10 "discí­pulas" and no budget. (Wonder what they taught them? Whatever it was, I guess the girls didn't need books.) The main industry was fishing (it still is -- wonderful abundance of many kinds of fish), plus agriculture and mining (lead, later iron). Very poor. The land is terribly dry, and an especially prolonged drought in the 1870s drove many to emigrate. When people hear Susana & me talking, they take us for Argentines (she actually is; I just talk like one), and they hurry to tell us stories of relatives who emigrated to Argentina.

More blood in the sands in the 1930s. This was a "red zone," and still is -- the Socialist mayor has been in power for decades. I plan to interview some old timers, both reds and whites. And I hope also to find out what people have to say about the immigrants, and whether the "Arriba España" crowd is any kind of threat. More later. Hasta luego.

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