Pointing the Fingers and Parading the Cojones - El Puerto de Santa Maria - 1973

It's 1973.  I've been thinking a lot about the women here in El Puerto de Santa Maria.  I find them very surprising and very puzzling. There's nobody to tell this to as my Spanish isn't all that good. Plus, I don't want to offend anyone.  But since no one questions what's going on around here, maybe I should indeed speak up and point out the obvious, that women shouldn't be living this way?

Macarena  was engaged to be married, but her fiance died in a dreadful accident. She's older than me, possibly in her late twenties. Macarena wears dowdy, shapeless clothes, and always looks morose. Her cheeks are already lined and her hands look rough and weather beaten.
      "I'll never marry. I'll never have children." Her face looks wan and downcast.  
      "Why?" I ask, puzzled.
      "Because people would point their fingers at me and say, 'She already had a man'."
I feel I should tell her that indeed, she can get married one day. But, she'd probably just scowl at me, mumbling, "You're a foreigner. You don't understand."  And she'd be absolutely correct about that.
                 
There's the group of posh young women who look to be about my age. Most days they sit in the Bar Central, their jackets draped over their shoulders like a cape. Thick gold chains hang loosely from their neck and their gold bracelets jingle as they pick up the tiny cups of coffee. I feel a pang of envy for I don't have much jewellery. Nor do I wear clothes as expensive as theirs. They inhale their cigarettes as if they were men, and exhale with the charm of a steam engine.

The loudest one speaks up. "Montse. What's wrong with your husband?" Her voice is deep and her tone accusatory. She taps Montse on her knee.
     "Nothing. He's perfectly fine."  Montse looks defensive.
     "Oh?" Smoke exhales itself from her mouth into the hot air of the bar.  "Well, he doesn't have  a lover, does he?"
     "No, he doesn't."
     "Then, he doesn't have cojones! What kind of man is he?!" She shrugs her shoulders and stares at the others who shake their heads in despair at the mere thought of a husband not having a lover.
                                                                                                 
I'm surprised that young, pretty women believe that if your husband isn't fooling around that that makes him less of a man. It's as if it's a sense of pride to have a husband who has lovers. And if he has enough money to pay for an apartment for his bit of stuff, then so much the better.

It's amazing to watch these unfaithful, macho husbands on Sundays. They are so very attentive and loving to their darling wives on this one day of the week. They stroll down the road to the bars and restaurants, he in front, his wife and the children behind him. He lifts her copa of fino and gently places it in her delicate hand, as if she's incapable of picking it up herself. He caresses her jacket, tucks it around her shoulders, and beams down at her. He tickles her throat. He parades her and his children for everyone to see.

The children are very well dressed. The girls wear dresses that go down almost to their ankles. They have what look to be crocheted socks, and little dark, leather shoes that probably cost a fortune. The boys wear short trousers that go all the way beyond their knees. Their shirts look like girls' blouses. And they too wear expensive shoes. The macho  husband beams with pride at his children, picks them up and cuddles them. You'd never know he has another life where his wife and children don't even cross his mind.

It's possible that all the lovely clothes, the private schools, and the expensive restaurants compensate for the infidelity. There is no divorce, so what can the women do?  They have no choice but to abide by the permiso marital doctrine that states that women need their husband's approval to travel or to be employed. Franco's society is without a doubt keeping the family intact.

But couldn't someone speak up? Couldn't the gossip mongers point  their fingers at these macho men, tell them it's more macho to be faithful?

Macarena  knows and accepts her place in society. There's no other way. She's doomed to live the life of a barren spinster. God forbid. She's already in her late twenties, practically over the hill. But if she really, really wants to get married and have children, then shouldn't she just go beyond what the gossip mongers say? Much as she mourns the death of her fiance, she shouldn't cut off any hope of a kind future just because people are pointing their fingers.

It is of course simply none of my business, and in the end it's probably best just to keep my thoughts to myself.