TRAVELOGUE #6 – Maimonides and Flaky Matza




25 April 2003


Ruth at the keyboard: 


The tourist season has certainly picked up in the last few weeks, partly because of Easter (and holy week vacations), the seasonal change which supposedly promises better weather, and finally (I think) because Spain, and in particular, Andalucia, has more visitors than Portugal.  The majority of the tourists we see are middle aged and pensioner aged people from Spain and other European countries, primarily French and German, but also a smattering of Italian and British tourists.   Now that we are in Cordoba, the sun is shining and I am getting a chance to wear some nice warm weather city clothes.  The weather has not been consistently cooperative. 

During Semana Santa (Easter week or Holy Week), which we spent in Southern Spain beach country in the towns of San Miguel and San Jose, we were grateful that we did catch a few rays, but we did also catch heavy rainfall (to remind us of home?), as well as sandstorms while lying on the beautiful shores.   Originally we had hoped to spend Semana Santa in one of the towns that are known for their processionals.  We quickly discovered that to obtain a room in one of these towns requires booking way ahead or trying for luck.  Not being  gamblers, we booked ourselves into San Jose, the beach resort town, and our plan was to try to catch one of the events at a nearby town. We decided that we would go small scale and head to the town of Turre which was holding two events that evening:  a reenactment of the Crucifixion of Christ and later on a processional.  Well-small scale was interesting for the first little while, that is, after the 8:30 performance finally started at 9:30. The 11 PM processional hadn’t started by the time we headed back to San Jose after midnight.  Needless to say none of this matched up to what we eventually did see on TV, or what we saw at the "dress rehearsals" in Arcos de la Frontera.

Semana Santa also included our Pesach week.  Avi and I had a two person improvisational seder in our little room. We included the skeleton of the ritual and improvised as well as we could.  The certified and guaranteed "Las legitimas y acreditas Tortas de Aceite de Inez Rosales", flaky, slightly sweet, round flat cakes became our matzoh for the week.  They may have looked like matzoh, but they were no bread of affliction with their 24% olive oil content.  We sang the "table of contents", some of the hits, and were creative about the seder plate and traditional foods. 

Our Spanish is improving somewhat, though we do not get many opportunities to converse at more than a superficial level, except perhaps at the Internet outlets where Avi is certainly learning the vocabulary as he struggles to mail the photos back home.  However, each day our vocabulary increases, as well as our ability to correct each other’s mistakes.  Yes, the mistakes are still being made, but at least we can spot them.  In Granada, we spotted a notice for a Spanish tutor, phoned him and arranged a Saturday afternoon lesson.  The lesson really helped!  The tutor, Osvaldo, is an art student from Colombia, so we understood him well and could engage in discussion about the differences in Spanish of South America and that of Spain.


April 26

Well, the sun shone yesterday but today it is back to rain.  Cordoba is another one of the towns in the Sephardi heritage tour.  Cordoba takes great pride (as well as commercial liberty) in the accomplishments of its  former Moslem and Jewish citizens.  Of course, there is a well marked Juderia with its Calle de los Judios, Plazas de Maimonides and Judah Halevi,   as well as  stores selling books and CD's of sephardic content.  When I asked at the store calling itself Spharad whether there is any Jewish community in Cordoba, as expected, the answer was negative. 

There is some current evidence of Moslem residents:  a number of restaurants and fast food outlets, and a few women seen walking the streets with middle eastern attire.  However, the grandeur of the Mesquita or Mosque(subsequently converted into a cathedral), ruins of Arab baths, etc. recall times long past. The tourist brochures boast of great times when thinkers like Maimonides, along with his Moslem and Christian counterparts produced great works of philosophy, religion and science, a time when these disciplines were integrated and when the thinkers of these religions collaborated.  There is a delightful museum in Cordoba dedicated to telling the story of this "golden era" of cooperation.  Though almost all of the comments in the guest book were positive, we came across one commentator who referred to the contents as "socialist propaganda."

Last night we went to an outdoor concert sponsored by the municipality of Cordoba and some NGO's dedicated to anti-racism and integration of immigrants into the Spanish society.  In addition to music (we heard an Arab-African band), there were a couple of information tables with literature and petitions to allow immigrants the vote at the municipal level.  Unlike Canada, Spain like much of Europe does not have a history of immigration, let alone integration.  We were advised that it takes ten years to become a citizen,  one year if you come from Latin America.  We had been previously told that if you are of Spanish ancestry living in Latin America, you are automatically eligible to immigrate.  With Spain now part of the European Union, a citizen of an EU country is eligible to vote in any municipality s/he lives in.  (Guess I could vote.) Other than the Moslem community of Granada, we have seen very few people of a visible minority.  We met s couple with one dark skinned spouse from Malaysia who commented that they were constantly being stared at in Spain whereas in Germany, where they live, they felt that "mixed couples" were a common phenomenon. 

If restaurant food is any indication of multi-culturalism, it hasn’t come to Spain.  Oh yes, there was the wonderful Indian restaurant we ate in in Nerja, but that was filled with English and French tourists, and in communities other than Granada, the falafel and schwarma were frequented  by tourists.  I am curious to find out whether cities like Madrid and Barcelona will be different.  Stay tuned! However, regionalism with regards to food is a phenomenon we have noted.  Culinary specialties are peculiar to a region and sometimes even to a specific town.  So, we now know to follow our new  motto:  "Try it now because tomorrow may be too late."


Be well out there.  We’re fine here.