Strutting About, 1973, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain


It's late afternoon, 1973, in El Puerto de Santa Maria. I look out the window of the apartment at  the horses being trained for the Feria. A man has one tethered and he holds the strap loosely as the horse walks round and round in circles. It tries to get away, but the man pulls it back and soon the horse settles down. It starts to strut, lifting its hooves high off the ground.

The Feria is one of the most important events of the whole year. It's a time for not just the horses to strut around, but for the people as well. The women wear brightly coloured dresses that flair out each time they move a leg, and the men are dressed in tight-fitting trousers and short jackets that make them look as if they're wearing their big brothers' hand-me-downs.

I've been practising the Sevillanas dances with one of the teachers from the school. We attend a local church where they offer free dance classes. Pretty good, if you want my opinion. The instructor is this really skinny, tiny man, about my height.

"Straight back, chest out. More! More! Arms up straight. Now, wiggle your fingers."
"I can't do everything all at once!"
"Smile! Grin! Lift your leg up!"
"I can't lift my leg. It's stuck."
He starts clapping his hands in rhythmic palpitations. My feet stomp about as if I'm pressing grapes.
"Don't look at your feet! Look up, chest out. Posture!"

The other teacher is really good at this stuff. She dances elegantly. Her arms and legs seem to dive through the air and her fingers swoop up as a bird taking off.  My spine is bent over backwards and I'm practically falling over. My fingers look short and chubby and my feet are like lead.

"Arms high in the air. Sensual hands, please. Legs, kick high!"

I don't know what sensual hands are, but I give it a shot and pretend I'm poking at the instructor's funny, bulging eyes.

"Well done, senorita. Well done!"

He seems pleased!

Feeling quite chuffed with myself, I strut about, chest out, arms high, fingers sensual as they flutter in the air.

On the way back to the apartment I notice people seated at small tables. They're laughing loudly and smoking. Someone throws an empty Ducado packet on the ground. Small groups saunter along all the while clapping their hands in short staccato movements. I feel my feet tapping, my back arching,  and I have this urge to clap my hands too. Gosh, all this Feria stuff is catching!









2 comments:

robin graham said...

Loving your blog - I live down the coast from Puerta de Santa Maria, in Tarifa. As young child, I also experienced the Spain of the (late) seventies so these beautifully written, present tense memories really resonate. You might enjoy my stories of contemporary Andalusia and elsewhere at www.alotofwind.com

One thing though - it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to comment on this! I recommend wordpress...

sstaas said...

Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Enjoyed looking at your blog.