In the Mountains of Andalucia
The first time I saw an Andalucian Pueblo Blanco White Village I was seventeen and too young to care. Or rather, by the time I cared it was too late and the village had fallen far behind me. There were more important things at that moment for a teenager to care about. Girls and wine, to name two of them.
It was December 1971. We were six or seven piled into a compartment of a night train that snaked through the mountains from Spain's warm Mediterranean toward the frozen north. The counterculture had reached its apogee: We boys wore our hair hanging to our shoulders in tangled clumps bleached by sun and salt, and the girls wore white peasant blouses and strands of love beads. English, Swedish, Canadian, American we hadn't known each other when we boarded but we'd sought each other out and congregated in the compartment, footloose youth backpacking through Europe who were joined by the certainty that we were a generation that stood apart from each that had gone before.
By midafternoon bottles of Spanish red wine and perhaps a few illicit substances were being passed around. Someone had produced a guitar and we were singing protest songs and gentle ballads of love as the train rocked softly between the dry, sere mountains and deep gorges.
"Look at that!" someone said, pointing out the window, and the music paused.
Clinging to the top of a tall escarpment across the gorge was an Andalucian village a mosaic of whitewashed cubes built into the dark rock like the nests of cliff swallows hundreds of feet above the river. I pressed my face against the glass. I'd grown up in the cornfields of the Midwest and I had the flatlander's hunger for mountains. What was its name? I wondered. Who lived there? What did they do?
Of course, the train didn't stop, and I watched the perfect mountain village disappear behind us. I realized I'd been in Andalucia over a month and had left the entire mountainous interior unexplored, having got no further than the beaches and rollicking night spots of the Costa del Sol, where I'd met hundreds of other youth like myself, usually in a state of semi-consciousness. Where, I asked myself, had I been?
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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