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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part II. South West

Señora Andalucía

Steve Porter
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The bus was winding its way past the wind farms above Tarifa when it started to encounter more traffic and had to come to a halt. There was a roadblock ahead and the police drew up to inform drivers that it could take some time to clear. People began to wander off the bus and headed for a café on a wooden shack on the hillside. We got out to stretch our legs. For those of a quixotic nature, this would have been the perfect opportunity to joust with giants. Wind turbines were scattered all over the surrounding hills. In the sea below, surfers were testing their skills on the Atlantic breakers. The shores of Africa shimmered in the haze on the other side. It looked enticing but at the same time I could not help but think of the civil wars, the famine and the poverty of that nearby continent.

The coast around Tarifa is a common point of entry into Europe for those in search of a better life. Some are prepared to risk all by floating in undercover of night on makeshift rafts. Some don’t make it. Wet black bodies are washed up and appear as sad images on Spanish TV news. Those that make it will soon realise that modern Europe can be a hostile place. They will have to listen to accusations that they are not ‘genuine refugees’ and that they are just coming over for an easy life as elements of the media throughout the EU, insinuate that immigrants are spoiling things for everybody else. Risking your life crossing the sea on a raft under cover of darkness seemingly proves nothing. Some will find employment in the fields of Southern Spain on a casual and illegal basis. Although they face deportation if caught, immigrants often have little choice because official papers are difficult to obtain and take a long time to process. And the mere flash of an EU passport at the door of a police station allows European citizens waiting on residence applications to avoid standing in a queue of Africans and South Americans winding several hundred metres down the street.

History is weighed against the North Africans in Spain. In some quarters they have never been forgiven for once occupying a large section of the peninsula. Officially they are known as magrebíes. To many Spaniards they are still moros or Moors. I once had a student who was a schoolteacher in Spain. She told me that the term ‘moro’ was not offensive or racist even though she was using it as a direct substitute for the word ‘thief’.

On returning to the bus we found a party in full swing. A big woman of about sixty with dyed red hair was clapping and twisting her arms in swanlike movements to tacky organ music. The song faded out and another began. The woman recognised it.

“Ay, Islas Canarias, venga.”

Most of the passengers maintained their good humour and accepted the delay. Only a few were on holiday and many could have been missing work appointments or travel connections. Eventually, the cars snaking up the road ahead began to climb the hill. There was a big cheer as our driver finished his cigarette and came aboard to start the engine. As we continued the journey towards Málaga, Señora Andalucía moved with the rocks and mountains of the red earth in time to the music. I noticed she wasn’t wearing a watch. I took mine off. We were on Southern Spanish Time and would be in Málaga when we got there.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
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Date of publicationNovember 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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