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!
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!”
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?”
“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!