Diary of an Andalusian Village (2)
It’s much warmer up here in the mountains now. When the seasons change it happens quite abruptly leaving you walking around in inappropriate clothing for a couple of days until you realize this is really it and Spring has arrived. This happens especially when, like me, I took a very early bus to a town much further down the mountain and found that although it was chilly waiting for the bus with only a jumper on instead of a coat, by the time I arrived it was very hot indeed.
This morning I visited my friend who I haven’t seen in a while because she and her husband have been busy bringing in the olive harvest. We speak some of the time in Spanish and some of the time in English so each can learn the others language. Today she took me down to her land outside the village. They keep bees as well and as we sat by an ancient Arab water basin we were surrounded by them. ‘Don’t worry,’ said Amalia, ‘they know me,’ and it was true, neither of us was stung. Above the water basin was a stone built arch, the entrance to a tunnel into the cliff side which is part of the old system of irrigation that directs water to where it is needed as it flows off the mountain. Water is scarce so every drop is precious. Vegetation isn't as lush up here as it is down on the coast but, apart from the almond trees which have been in blossom for about a week now, there is an array of spring flowers many of them so tiny you have to bend down to see them reveal their intricate beauty. The soil is full of stones and rocks and conducive to the abundant growth of wild rosemary, thyme, lavender, and sage. Once upon a time wheat was grown here as well but the only remaining witness to this are the large round threshing circles, built of cobbled stone and placed strategically on the windiest outcrops. You can be assured that if you are standing on a threshing circle you will be looking out on a wide open view in all directions; down the valleys to the Mediterranean coastline with its regular tower-forts that served as lookout posts and beacons, allowing news to travel literally as fast as fire from Cadiz to Almeria.
As we get back in the car, Amalia tells me proudly that there are two Arab graves on her land. I nearly jump out of the car again but she has already turned the ignition, I really want to see those graves and she promises to take me to them next time. I begin to wonder if the former Arab owners of this land, who have left signs of their presence clear to see, were actually Amalia's ancestors, maybe a family who were victims of the Inquisition and the forced conversions of the 15th and 16th centuries? There must be records somewhere of the Muslim presence in the rural areas of the mountains, it's obvious, of course, in the architecture, the agriculture, the language, and the large Arab built towns such as Cordoba, Seville, Granada, but the Spanish people went through a huge denial of their Islamic (and Jewish) heritage even succumbing to the dubious and destructive claim of 'racial purity' during the time of Franco when Muslims and Jews were forbidden entry into Spain. These mountains once provided food supplies to the Kingdom of Granada and the people who worked hard on the land deserve recognition. I am hoping that when I go to see those graves with Amalia they will have tombstones with names on them.