National Geographic : 1965 Mar
The Changing Face of Old Spain terms of his almadrenas, the wooden shoes of the rainy north (pages 330-31). ; "I wore them as a boy," said Te6filo Rod riguez, "because Aviles was only a country village then. Very muddy. You have seen our almadrefias? Each shoe has three legs like a milk stool-to lift you above the mud. Well, the mud is gone. To build the mill, an estuary was filled. Now we have more jobs. And money. And paved streets. My children do not wear wooden shoes." That steel mill has also helped boost Span ish steel production to nearly four times its 1940 level (page 320). A similar success marks other industries. Overall, the national income has doubled in the last generation. The living standard has also jumped. And for the first time since the Spanish Civil War, the national treasury stores a surplus of gold bullion. Many economists predict that Spain is beginning an economic take-off similar to Italy's after World War II. Outsiders share in the credit: the European investors, the tourists, the United States AID mission. But the overwhelming credit belongs to the Spanish people themselves. Let me admit at once that I am prejudiced. I have admired things Spanish since I spent my own boyhood in Mexico.* Yet perhaps for this very reason, I brought certain res ervations with me to Spain. Many of my Mexican friends still take a rebellious view of their mother country. I expected a stiff and stuffy people, riven by classes of the prideful rich and the depressed poor. Martha shared these feelings. And so we came to Spain as Medieval walls and tower of Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava bespeak a time of terror when Barbary pirates hid out in se cluded coves by day and attacked by night. The crenelated fortifications prevailed; in vaders never captured them. Roman ruins atop the hill at right recall the more leisurely existence of earlier times; pines and cork trees grow amid the remains of mosaic floors, hot-air heating system, and swimming-pool bath. Behind the 12th-century tower lies old Tossa, astride a rocky neck of land. Modern hotels and villas border a nearby beach. Swedish vacationers splash ashore at Sitges, a resort south of Barcelona. This year Spain expects 15,000,000 visitors, equal to half the population of the country. somewhat suspicious friends of the family. But almost instantly, Spaniards surprised, delighted, and charmed us. There was less poverty than we expected-except in parts of green Galicia and the western dust bowl of Extremadura. And for all their formality, Spaniards seemed to us the least stuffy people in Europe. Cab drivers chat easily with grandees; the gravest face in Spain has its share of laugh wrinkles. We also found that Spaniards are perhaps the most courteous people in the Western World. Barcelona Makes Noise and Money Martha and I began our Spanish travels at a traditional starting point: the great port of Barcelona. Spain boasts two cities of more than a million-Madrid and Barcelona. But Barcelonans boast only of Barcelona. "We Catalans are the only hard-working people in Spain," they are pleased to admit. Actually, that is Catalan exaggeration. Bar celona must share industrial honors with Madrid and with a strip along the factory dotted Cantabrian coast on the Bay of Biscay; together, these three areas account for more than half the industrial output of Spain. "At least," said my wife, "Barcelona leads in the production of noise." So it may. Certainly it clangs with industrial percussion. Textile shuttles pulse. Trains chug to the noisy dock area with loads of steel, ceramics, wine, and chemicals. *See "Mexico in Motion," by Bart McDowell, NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, October, 1961.