A Fascinating Holiday in the Old Moorish Town of
Plaza Baja de La Despedia (lots of photos below)
The house overlooks the historic square at the centre of the old town of Alora. There has been a community here for over 2,000 years but it probably only started to resemble what you see today at the onset of the building of the church in 1600. Certainly by the time the church (described in guidebooks as “second only to the cathedral in Malaga”) was finished in 1699 plots of land in the layout of the square were being transacted. I know this because when I purchased the house I had to accept liability for a 300 year old debt that came with it. In Spain, if a debt secured on property is not discharged it remains with the property even if ownership changes and, once noted in the deeds, remains the liability of the new owners ad infinitum, until paid. In my case a dept of three escudos (about 3p in old Portuguese currency) has been passed down through the generations for over 300 years and, with some hilarity at the signing ceremony, I had to accept that if a Portuguese looking bloke waving some old documents came knocking on the door I would have to pay up – the notary told us that a few months previous she had officiated over the similar transfer of a debt of a live chicken!
Today the old quarter is still very traditionally Spanish. To say it is the Spain of Hemmingway is an exaggeration but there is a wonderful 15 minute documentary on YouTube of Alora in the sixties - click here to view - and you can sit on the house terrace and still see the remnants of that life here – and the church bell is pure Hemmingway (but thankfully turned off at 10pm). People come into the square to go about their lives, to use the few small shops but, much more often, just to sit around and talk whilst, particularly in the evening, children play. From the terrace and balconies I’ve watched weddings emerge from the church, festivals of astonishing colour and pageantry, horses clipping by, families being social, children playing football, men talking and drinking (illegally but also quietly - botellón or outside drinking is a widespread culture in the poorer parts of Spain, many people simply cannot afford to go to bars), businessmen off to important meetings, people dressed in incredible finery and much more. Often I see a man on an old motor scooter carrying fodder, I imagine for a horse or a donkey, from one side of town to the other, but the most incongruous site was a bright yellow Ferrari, gleaming new but looking totally out of place. Not nearly so pleasing as the old man in the beat up Fiat who each day resolutely drives out of the square against the traffic on one of the narrow oneway streets. He’s probably been going down that street all his life; Town Hall can put up as many “No Entry” signs as they like but who are they to interfere? Which neatly sums up the Andalucian attitude to unpopular government rules.
The square is the focus of a local Andalucian lifestyle that bustles morning and night (though not in the afternoon during siesta). I love the life and the friendly people here (you will often find neighbours sitting on the doorstep, which we are not used to in the UK) and if you are looking for traditional Spanish culture and an illustration of life today in a rural Spanish town, you will love it too. And as you while away your time on the terrace you might see ..........:
and children playing.......... but mostly you will see people!