Saturday, October 10, 2015

Spain's Passion For Life On The Street

As far as anybody can tell it's mostly a Spanish phenomenon. 
We're talking about the vibrant nightlife on the street that characterizes Espania.
Here's how it works: beginning at about 8 PM people in Spain pour out onto the streets to walk, show themselves off, greet one another, see what's happening, catch up on things, eat, drink, make love and generally enjoy life.
And it all seems to happen streetside.
Parents, grandparents, children, young-hipseters, aunts, uncles, cousins, even great-grandparents -- they're all out on the sidewalks as Spain comes alive in a crowded carnival of sights, sounds, fragrances, lights, colors and aromas. 
It's as if each town and city -- indeed, the whole country -- is out to claim and reclaim public space every night. And all of this usually continues well past midnight, even during weekdays. In fact, it's not uncommon to see small children cavorting on the sidewalks well past the witching hour.
There are people bicycling, roller-blading and generally moving all about. It looks frentic but it's not. It's just another night in Spain.
What's this really all about?
Well, some people say that it started with the fall of Spain's brutal dictator Francisco Franco. During Franco's time strict curfews kept the populace indoors at night. The old bastard held an iron grip on the country for 36 years. But when Franco finally died in 1975 all this began to change. Rules were gradually loosened and people poured into the streets and kept doing so night after night.
But Franco's been gone for 40 years now. Many people here don't even remember him. Still, we suppose this is a way for people to show that the nation belongs to them -- that public property is indeed public -- that it belongs to everyone.
Another factor may be that many Spaniards (particularly in the larger cities) live in small homes or apartments or even in shared space. So, the night streets give them breathing room. It's as if the public square is their family room.
The heat certainly plays a role in all this. You wouldn't necessarily want to be out on the street during the heat of the day in most of this country. That's why much of Spain still enjoys an afternoon siesta. Best to enjoy public spaces after dark.
Finally, of course there's the fact that Spainards have a late supper in place of what we call dinner. Restaurants often don't even begin serving till 8 PM or later. And at 10 or 11 o'clock in the evening sidewalk cafes, bars and other eateries are jammed.
The streets are bright and safe here and a vibrant nightlife is the norm.
But we must admit that late dinners and even later hours do take some getting used to.

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