Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cosas del Pueblo (Village Matters)

As a study in contrasts, I want to share a special experience I had last night here my village, Muro, Mallorca. Firstly, it helps to know that I am reading a book called Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and its Silent Past by Giles Trimlett, given to me recently by a friend in Brooklyn. It is not only teaching me about the transition from Franco's dictatorship to modern Spain, but it's also helping me better understand some of the cultural differences I face each day. Just yesterday morning I read about the code of silence kept for many years regarding the numerous civil war murders and unmarked graves. The author attempted to pry information from a grand-daughter of the former Republican leadership about the deaths of three women in her town. Rather than discuss versions of the past from a right or left political standpoint, she wanted to keep the conversation brief, calling such things 'cosas del pueblo' (village matters).

I have definitely been confronted with the insular nature of relationships and gossip from pueblo to pueblo in my 4 short years in Mallorca. I have struggled with finding people who are willing to let me in. The Mallorquin villages are so strongly knit, they not only have different accents, but even have different words for the same vocabulary in two towns only a few miles apart. So, I smirked when I read the phrase, cosas del pueblo.

At about ten p.m., we heard the familiar sound of the tambor percussion group in the street. They can be heard each Tuesday night from afar, practicing in the parking lot of the local train station. But this time the drum beats were very close - just outside our house. Jose and I realized instantly who they were for - we had just discovered that a beloved local highschool student has been diagnosed with bone cancer at age 17. The tambor group came to his door and pulled him out of his home, slung his tambor over his shouldter as he propped himself up on crutches. The serenade was all the more poignant, as Nadal himself participated.

We put a bathrobe on Malena and rushed out to join the intimate crowd. The song ended and we hung back in the darkness to watch Nadal's classmates and fellow bandsmen embrace him one by one. With heavy hearts, we walked back home. At that moment one thought came to my mind, cosas del pueblo.

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