My trip to Spain: June and July, 2012.
My understanding is superficial, a tourist’s, no more, and yet it seems to me this momentous news (in the eyes of the rest of the world) has little effect here; the protests go on in their cheerful way, the streets are closed (we can’t get back from our shopping trip to our hotel!) and the underlying iron and fire of the Spanish character remains intact.
Flamenco in Sevilla: we whiteys will never be able to do more than stare astonished, glimpsing something we will never possess or even understand. The dire quality of this dancing and singing—hardly dancing and singing at all, in my context, but open-throated shouting and violent stamping—has no place in our determinedly superficial, and determinedly cheerful, music-and-dance as we know it from Broadway musicals and pop songs; even the music of the counterculture (if there is any…) seems feather light by comparison.
Perhaps like our long ago immigrant forebears we still believe we have come to the land of light, or brought it with us; no amount of slaughter and collapse, economic or moral, will turn that light into the coat of iron that underlies Spanish performance.
That woman dancer’s arched back, her glare of angry defiance, that man’s snake-like twisting, the total absence of smiles, that couple dancing like a pair of snakes, writhing—is this a nightmare or a dream?
It doesn’t really matter because in either case it is entirely out of reach. Instead we have fields of golden grain, white church steeples, gas-colored sunsets, the West as our only hope of open space—and my West is deeply shrouded in the smoke from our biggest ever wild fire.
But the sun shines through, as we make our compromises and move on, always hoping, as Edmund Wilson wrote when he was eighty, that there is still something exciting around the corner—good talk, he thought, or a party.
But not the essential darkness of tragedy—or of dance.