Community and Connection in Spain

Donald B. Harris | December 2021

Dear La Tienda family,

After all is said and done - all the parties, and carols and presents - the lasting memories of the Christmas season will boil down to enjoying our families: our children, their young families, the doting grandparents and close friends (who are included as “family.”)

The importance of friends and family was brought home to Ruth and me just the other day. Ruth and I are marking our 57th wedding anniversary. Over coffee we were reflecting upon our many happy trips to Spain over the past 50+ years. Although we are now in our mid-eighties, we decided that we should make one farewell trip to Spain before it became too difficult an enterprise. On past trips, we would plan amazing two or three week safaris at breakneck speed. We would stop at a new site each night (that was when we were “young and foolish.”)

Now with the accrued “wisdom of the ages” but ignoring the reality of our “calendar ages”, Ruth and I excitedly broke out our detailed Campsa maps to decide the places we want to revisit: Cádiz, Toledo, Mallorca, Cáceres, Córdoba, the towns along the Camino de Santiago. Then there were our personal favorite medieval monastic sites: Sant Joan de les Adabesses, deep in the Pyrenees; or Santes Creus, in Valencia; Guadalupe, in Cáceres; and Cangas de Onís in Asturias. We soon realized that our farewell trip would be exhausting and would take at least six weeks!

So we regrouped, realizing that the Spain we love is not confined to a peninsula full of fabulous monuments. One can find castles and churches everywhere, but we want to visit the families whom we had grown to love over the past 50 years. It is our connection the Spanish people that is most meaningful to us, their way of life and their loving commitment to children and families. They seem to include their children in all their activities. When they visit with friends in their favorite tapas bar at 11pm, their children might be playing with other children at the next table. “Youth live with their parents until they are 30 years old, on the average", observed the New York Times recently. "They have multigenerational households where young adults get vaccinations to protect older relatives." 

In our experience, there is a general feeling of community in Spain - that we are all God’s children and that we are committed to helping one another. I was amazed to read about a town where all the villagers shared in the El Gordo lottery jackpot of their lucky neighbor. During days of unemployment, the youth are welcomed back to their childhood households, even if the greater family had to sacrifice. I don’t think I am over-romanticizing either. After all, I have spent a lifetime interacting with families in Spain!

There are so many good friends we can’t wait to see, like the Díaz family - Pedro, Isabella and their children and grandchildren. We first met Pedro and Isabella in Rota in the early 1970s. Our good friend Carmen, who runs Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía with her husband Juan Carlos, shared intimate times with us as we visited her father in Mallorca and her mother one Good Friday in El Puerto de Santa María. 

We immediately bonded with Abel and Marisol Rodríguez of Cordoba - we both have three sons, and our grandsons played together with their warm and intelligent boys. We enjoy the ties we have with Fermín and Aixa – the amazing family in Priego de Córdoba that provides our Señorio de Vizcántar olive oil. One of my favorite groups of friends are the ladies at La Despensa Nuestra who lovingly produce sauces and soups to help their working “sisters” keep the tradition of eating lunch together with their families. And there are so many more great friends we hope to see.

In the end, we decided to stay in just two places close to our hearts – Santiago de Compostela, the beautiful stone city in Galicia and destination of countless pilgrims, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the relaxed, classic sherry town in Andalucía. In Sanlúcar we are renting a traditional house so we can invite our friends to stay with us and connect in the most Spanish way – sharing great food around the table.

May your Christmas holiday season be blessed with a renewed love for one another, and a sense of caring.

¡Feliz Navidad!
Don & Ruth Harris
and our family