Air Street Nr. 2

Tahal : The heart of the Sierra – The people

This is part 2 of my small reportage about Tahal, a beautiful Spanish village in the heart of the Sierra Alhamilla (Provincia de Almeria), which we visited some days ago. Part 1 was about the village itself, today it will be about its inhabitants.


The first contact with the people there was quite early and extremely noisy. We had just got up as we heard cars passing by, all sounding their horns. We went out of the motor home and saw about 40 cars in procession slowly filing towards the village, full of people shouting and laughing and pressing their horns incessantly. It must be a wedding, I said, but strangely the people in the cars were wearing everyday clothes.

“Perhaps they have no money for Sunday best…”

commented Kevin, pragmatic as always…

Well, I know that Spaniards, how ever poor they are, always spend a lot of money on these kind of fiestas and economy be damned!!

Anyway… as the sounds of the horns faded away, another cacophony assaulted our ears. I thought it was a kind of orchestra preparing for the wedding. Kevin with his very sensitive musician´s ears, got quite crazy as the musicians seemed to have not a clue how to find the tune, and sought refuge back inside the motor home !

Quite perplexed, I decided to make some investigations. Anyway I wanted to enter the village to make some sketches, so I took my pad and off I went. Soon I understood why the musicians were so dodgy. In fact, by the fort, a music lesson was taking place, and only small children of ages between 5 and 8 years were attending it!

Tahal The Orchestra

Wow, I thought, such a small village in the middle of nowhere, and tiny children are already taught to play musical instruments! It struck me then that the people in this village, they really know what to do to keep their souls young and alive!

Then I went deeper into the village, sat on a bench and started to draw. Except the children from the music school, I didn´t see anybody there, and I thought they were all in the wedding procession. But after a while, some faces appeared behind the windows, then some bodies at the doors. Immobile, old bodies. All looking at me in a very suspicious way. As if they had never seen a painter before!

After a while one of the bodies started to move, came to me, and then another one, and another one, and at the end I had a big group of old people around me. I guess most of the inhabitants over 70 were gathered around me, forming something like a wall between me and their village. After long moments of silence and scrutiny, a very fat lady seized the moment:

“What are you doing here?”

“I am sketching…”

“Are you making some measurements?”

Obviously they didn´t know what sketching meant…

“No, I am making drawings of the houses…”

“Are you working for the town hall or something like that?”

I started to understand what was going on. They were kind of scared, and I tried to put on a lovely face and say some peaceful words:

“No, I am just painting the houses… they are so beautiful!”

The lady´s face brightened a little bit.

“So, you don´t work for the town hall?”

“No, no, not at all… I am just painting for myself…”


“Of course… I am a painter! and I love to paint houses!”

“Oh then…”

And I noticed how suddenly the tension of the group seemed to melt away I really could see it in their collective body language. Some even wandered off. But the fat lady pressed on:

“And what do you do then with that? Do you make photos out of that?”

she asked, gesturing to my pad. In fact I started to become quite impatient. I wanted to sketch, and needed to be alone, and concentrated. So I stopped trying to clarify what I was doing:

“Yes, that´s it!”

“But you don´t make the photos for the town hall, do you?”

Oh dear….

“No, just for me….”

“Then it´s good. You can stay here and do what you want then.”

Everybody went away, leaving just the lady and me. She continued in friendly conversation, asking me where I came from and so on. Then a very old guy suddenly appeared, surely about 100 years old, and the lady said to him:

“I was asking her where she comes from… I like to know where the people come from… She comes from France!”

And the old guy told me in French that he had lived 15 years in Paris, rue Versailles, a long time ago. But his family was living here, in Tahal, and he had returned.

“Yes, one has to live where the family is, no?”

I answered to him, thinking what a hypocrite I am, with me always living where my family are not!

At the end as they were going away, I shouted

“Have a nice day!”

and the lady came back to me, with a wide smile on her face, and said:

“This is very kind of you to wish me a nice day! Have a nice day yourself!”

We humans, all in our own very special way, are so incredibly touching, aren´t we?

At least the Tahalians are!

The old French from Tahal


5 Responses to “Air Street Nr. 2”

  1. Susan Cornelis Says:

    I could picture it all so clearly! Great storytelling Miki. I wonder what these people were afraid of from the Town Hall? Don’t you wish you’d been able to sketch the fat lady and the 100 year old man? But I’m sure the buildings made a great subject too.

  2. Miki Says:

    Thnakyou, Susan, i am glad you like it. And in fact I wrote the story for you, as I like and need to share with you my life.
    I think the people were afraid that the town hall would start to change their village and makes it more “suitable” for tourism. You know, tourism has invaded Spain in an incredible, massive way, anyway all along the coast and now even a certain distance away from the coast. I think it is a unique phenomena in the world, one cannot imagine really what happens here.
    Yes, of course I would have loved to sketch the people there, or take photos. But I didn´t dare, not after what happened. They would have thought that I wanted to steal their souls, I guess!

  3. ivdanu Says:

    The village people reactions to you sketching, miki, reminds me so much of the paysants from Romania! I suppose paysants (just like artists) have some distinctive similar traits… They almost never had anything good coming from the authorities… No wonder they are kind of skeptical or even mefiants…

    You post stirred my longing for my country – and my worries that I wouldn`t be able, this year also, to get my plain tickets…but maybe I will win the lottery!

  4. Miki Says:

    Oh Danu, you cannot know, but I am thinking so many times of you, asking myself when you will be able to visit your mother and your country again.I can deeply understand and feel your longing, and I am so sorry about it. Well, longing as itself is a wonderful thing, but not when it is not satisfied one day…
    Yes, you are right with the paysants… just in that village it was so extreme. I have painted in many villages in Spain, some even much more isolated and smaller than this one, and I was never confronted with that extreme reaction. i guess the reason here was that the inhabitants were extremely proud of their village, one could see it in each detail, and they were all protecting it like their baby. I found it very touching.

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