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.


Ronda, Provincia de Málaga, España
Sorry for the delay in writing. It's not always easy to find both an internet business and the time to write when you're busy exploring ancient Moorish castles and even more ancient Iberian cave paintings, plus the many layers of Spanish and other cultures on top of those. We left JFK in New York on July 4, on a Spanish charter airline, Air Plus, and arrived in Málaga the morning of July 5 -- groggy, but not totally wiped out, because we both had managed to sleep a few hours in the cramped seats of the plane. We rented a SmartCar -- an engineering marvel, exactly half the length of a "normal" car, but so cleverly designed that we could fit ourselves and our luggage. It's a lot of fun -- it turns in no space at all, can be parked almost anyplace you could fit a motorcycle, and, if it weren't that the Andalucian sun is so brutal even as late as 8 or 9 at night, we could put the top down. We had a scare yesterday, though. On Sunday we had parked on a little street in Ronda, unaware that we had picked a loading zone -- which was OK until 3 pm on Monday (all business in Andalucia closes down from about 1 to 4 or 5 pm, but it seems that truck drivers wake up from siesta a little earlier). It was about 4:30 when we went to get our little red car, and there was a tow truck backing up to haul it away! It wouldn´t have required much effort from the tow truck. The city cop supervising was annoyed with us, pointed out the "loading zone" signs, and told us to get the car out of there -- which we gladly did. If we had had to get it out of the pound, it would have cost us muchos euros and hours of annoyance.

A few memorable moments (not involving tow trucks): the Roman theater in the city of Malaga (there should be an accent over that first "a" but Blogger is screwing up all the accents), discovered by accident during excavations in the 1960s, where in the 1960s and 70s rebellious directors and actors used to stage plays by Aristophanes, Euripides, et al., with veiled anti-Franco messages (not veiled heavily enough -- the Guardia Civil came down hard on them). This was a reminder of the Roman occupation of Andalucia, where Romanization occurred faster and more thoroughly than in the rest of Hispania. It was near Seville that the Romans defeated the Phoenicians -- earlier colonial occupiers -- in 206 BC. Then came the Vandals (from whose name we get Andalucia, I recently read) in the 4th century AD, then the Visigoths a century later, and then the first "Moors" -- Berbers from Morocco, led by Tariq, who was invited by one Visigothic faction to help fight another one, and ended up seizing the whole territory. They defeated the last Visigothic king, Rodrigo, in the early 8th c., and took control of the entire Iberian peninsula but for a Christian mountain redoubt in Asturias. All of this history (except the Vandals, who left few traces) is visible today in this province. More memorable moments (not remembered from centuries but only days ago): the Pasaje de las Chinitas, where stood the Cafe Cantante de las Chinitas made famous by a poem of one of Malaga's best known sons, Federico Garcia Lorca. It's a narrow pedestrian passageway, now filled with little stores and bars, but the Cafe Cantante is now a textile shop. The Alcazaba, where the Moorish rulers lived, right next to the ancient Roman theater (which the Moors must have known about; it disappeared under new construction after the Moors themselves had disappeared). As in many towns of Andalucía, the Christian conquerors built their church on the base of the former mosque, which gives the churches a peculiar, un-Christian shape. The central space of a Moorish mosque tended to be cubic, the ceiling rising as high as the width and length of thefloor. Christian churches of the period (15th-16th centuries) were, in other places, usually cruciform. Wonderful seafood (mariscos) at the Marisqueria Alaska; a thin, poor, but skilled guitarrist sitting in a passageway on Sunday morning, playing for coffee money. I stopped to listen more closely when he started to play one of the pieces that I've been practicing, because I like it and wanted to hear how to play it better. I thought it was by Fernando Sor, but he said no, it was anonymous, and he was sure it had been composed by sentimental priests (but surely in the time of Sor, early 19th century). The music and the lesson were easily worth the 2 euros I left him, and he was happy to have his coffee money at last). Parque Natural in the spectacular mountain forests between Malaga and Ronda. Ronda itself, once the home of an independent taifa, or Moorish kingdom, but conquered in 1485 by Fernando el Catolico (just seven years before he captured Granada and his wife, Isabel, dispatched a Genoese seafarer to go find India). The old part of Ronda is on the east side of the Tajo, one of Spain's great rivers, which here cuts deep through the rock ("tajo" means cut) making the Moorish castle unassailable from the west. We had a room in the Hotel Don Miguel, No. 101 (ask for it if you are in Ronda), on the west bank, with a balcony looking into the rough vertical walls of the gorge, where rock doves (we call them "pigeons" in New York) flutter and swirl and perch easily on the nearly shear rock face. Much more, of course. Yesterday we drove to Arcos de la Frontera, merely an hour from Ronda, the westernmost of the "white towns". This too was for a time an independent little taifa, but it was taken by the Christians under Alfonso el Sabio in 1285 -- a terrible earlier blow to Muslim hegemony. The Muslims by this time were having the same problem as the Visigoths 500 years earlier. They were fighting so much among themselves that they could not unite against the common enemy, whereas the Christians had finally gotten themselves more or less united. So, there went the neighborhood. It was a war between two monotheisms, but one was more monolithic than the other.

Today we plan to see some much more ancient signs of human settlement, cave paintings from long before the arrival even of the Phoenicians, before there was a Spain. Then back to Malaga, and tomorrow we drive through Granada and Almeria up to our destination, the little town of Carboneras.

BTW, somebody seems to have hijacked my e-name. If you get a "call for help" or invitation to play a game from "gefox", that's not me. Hasta luego.