It’s Not Just the Tapas

We’re home from our adventure, our summer in Spain. I cried as we boarded the plane, taking one last selfie with my oldest who had mixed feelings about the entire trip anyway, but was still a bit sad to leave.

Why wouldn’t I want to come home to the cultural center of the world, the glorious promised land, the capitalistic orgasm of climbing corporate ladders and winning, winning, winning?

Because we aren’t winning.

Because once we lived for a year in Spain and I just spent six weeks there, and the only police I ever saw were wearing bright green vests and directing traffic, helping people get their cars towed, guiding us through a busy roundabout, showing us the best way to navigate the beach parking lot. No pulled-over cars on the side of the highway. No interrogations. No guns held high, ready to shoot.

No shots.

One of the students I used to tutor, now in college, jokingly admitted that she’s majoring in criminology.

“But… there’s no crime here. What will you do with that degree?”

She gave me a sheepish smile and countered, “You’re right… It’s just a degree to get a degree.”

Here they have whole majors dedicated to the brutal segmentation of crimes: Computer forensics. Corporal forensics. Criminal justice. Criminal psychology.

I could go on.

It’s not just the police, or the lack of guns, or the fact that there is no traffic anywhere, ever. It’s not just how openly the people welcome you into their lives, how they accept foreigners and don’t shout or call the cops when they walk through their restaurants selling everything from beach blankets to giant wooden sculptures. It’s not just the tapas, but damn those olive plates, patatas bravas, and chopitos sure make my mouth water.

It’s the feeling you get when you walk the streets. When people pause in Huelva when running into a random distant relative and chat for thirty minutes. When the streets are spilling with people at 1:00 a.m., drinking and grinning, and spilling with people at 10:00 a.m., ready to open their stores and their lives to tourists and locals alike. When no one asks you, ever, why you are walking down this street at this hour, why you are here and not there, why you would want to leave your country.

It’s the prices. The ability to go out to eat and join the crowd spilling onto every restaurant terrace and to pay a quarter of your salary for housing and a fraction of a paycheck for health insurance and just a few euros for the best painkillers you could ever imagine that aren’t even close to being opioids (which are outlawed in Spain).

It’s the no pasa nada attitude, the love-for-life living they embrace as powerfully as they draw in each breath.

Goddamn, and the views. You can have Roman ruins. You can have green hills with coastal bays in the distance. You can have fern forests. You can have desert farms. You can have Mediterranean reefs. You can have Islamic architecture that competes with anything in the Middle East or Northern Africa. You can have a castle, a cathedral, a pedestrian walkway, in every small village or large city. You can have stone streets and tile sidewalks and four official languages and food from every spectrum of the culinary palate. You can have olives that will make your mouth water just thinking about their pungent flavor days, weeks, or months later.

You can have peace. Real peace. Not the, “I’m-going-to-run-a-few-errands-on-foot-today-and-almost-get-plowed-by-an-F-150-turning-left” peace you might find on an American street.

Real peace. The kind that comes with Spanish sunshine, Spanish hospitality, Spanish roundabouts, Spanish wine.

The kind of peace that comes from a country not wholly concerned with capitalism, with police presence, with power; but rather, with socialism, quality of life, and human rights.

It’s not just the tapas. It’s not just the siesta. It’s the whole mentality of what life could be like if we just opened up our minds to the simple idea that peace. Brings. Peace.

And with peace? Happiness waits right around the corner, sparkling in the port, in your tapas-filled mouth, in your heart, in your love.

In Spain.