El Rocio – The Real Deal – Not a Movie Set
As I explained last week I am actually living in Spain for a few months, a lovely gift from a beautiful Australian couple, which gives me the chance to embed myself into Spanish culture. Of course living with English speakers you automatically use that language in your conversations while in each other’s company but there are an amazing number of opportunities to hear Spanish in everyday life and to attempt some sort of communication. It is totally surprising to me how quickly you begin to understand firstly a smattering of words, then the rhythm of a language and finally the initial rules of grammar. Not that I am saying it is easy to learn an other language but being immersed in it and with a little bit of effort, it is remarkable how fast you can learn.
Language skills are not the only thing you learn during the embedding process, it can be a taste for the foods of a certain country or social norms, styles of dress or any other aspect of the local culture, but what you truly gain is an appreciation for that people. Generally the more you understand, the more you appreciate, the more you realise how similar we all are.
Having said there are a few peculiarities that make the Spanish quite different to Australians. They are quite loud and passionate, sometimes in the street you may hear what appears to be yelling but when it is translated for you, you find out they were only discussing what they are having for dinner. Which brings me to meal times, for the most part the Spanish still stop whatever they are doing come 2.00pm and have their main meal, then return to work around 5.00 pm. I explained to a Young woman the other day that in Australia we generally have 9.30 bedtime ( I know it varies but it does average for the majority of people about that time during the week). Her reaction was a horrified, “no, no, no” but all I can say is without a siesta there’s no way they could keep the times they do either!
My trip of discovery for you this week starts with El Rocio ( roe – theo), or as the sign post as you drive in should read, “The Town that came alive from a 1970’s spaghetti western”, looks for every inch and purpose a staged movie set. You really expect to see a young Clint Eastwood swaggering down the main street gun in hand, while a Mexican bandido sits watching ominously from the porch, rifle hidden under a poncho, with a large sunbrero partially obscuring his menacing eyes and a huge, black slug of a moustache the rest of the face.
Set on the edge of the Donana National Park, El Rocio is surrounded on three sides by by wetlands, supporting many varieties of wading birds including Flamingoes. The park also is also home to a large population of wild horses, this has lead to a love of all things equine by the towns population. There doesn’t appear to be a single building in town that is under 100 years, thus every house has a hitching rail and many have their own stables. The Spanish horseman tradition seems to be alive and well in Andalusia and El Rocio especially.
As we drove down the dusty, sand streets heading for the bitumen and 2016, Clint shot the outlaw hiding on the bell tower and I knew I had a unique experience. Not “Movieworld” but the real deal, one that very few have had the opportunity to enjoy.