Family Leisure

August 2004

Dear Friends of Tienda,

It is August, the height of summer, and I dream of what it would be like if my family and I were living in Spain right now. For much of the month we might be enjoying the uncrowded Atlantic beaches of the Costa de Luz -- or exploring the caves of Altamira and the new dinosaur museum with the kids. For throughout Spain commercial activity winds down in August. Many firms close completely so that owners and employees alike can plan extended vacations with their families. Although this is inconvenient to us as importers, I appreciate the value traditional Spaniards place on leisure time with their families -- an attitude toward life that extends throughout the year, not just at vacation time.

When our family lived in Andalucia, all the shopkeepers in our seaside town would close their shops in the early afternoon to enjoy a siesta - a time set aside for refreshment and rest with the family. Then, after re-opening in late afternoon for two or three hours, the shops would close for the day and the owners would retire to their favorite cafes to enjoy tapas with close friends and family members. Perhaps they would savor a caña of beer with some Manchego cheese, thinly sliced Jamón Ibérico, or a sizzling cazuela of garlic shrimp.

Later in the evening some would head home to join their families to stroll about town - the traditional paseo. On a warm summer evening it seems as if the whole town is out on the streets walking about. I find nothing more affirming than to see three generations of a family walking together: a proud young couple with a baby in the stroller, "Grandma" holding the hand of her grandchild, and three generations in warm, pleasant conversation. This has been the traditional way of living for hundreds of years.

In modern Spain and America we also find ourselves part of a culture with competing values - those of convenience and individual autonomy. The slow ritual of personal interactions is thought to be "wasting time." A generation ago we depended on another person to fuel our cars. An attendant, often a local youth, would greet us, pump our gas, wipe our windshield, and check the oil. Today we can slip in our credit cards, pump our gas, and be on our way - sometimes even when the station is closed! We enjoy the same type of efficiency with ATM banking, airport check-ins! We hardly need to see a person.

In many ways this automation is a wonderful advance. No one regrets the elimination of waiting in long lines for mundane activities, or dealing with petty bureaucrats. In addition the new technology broadens our horizons. In an earlier time we could never have enjoyed artisan foods from Spain unless we lived near a large port. Now we can have boquerones in Buffalo, or lomo in Louisville!

But, if we are not careful, we can allow electronic efficiency to replace the human interactions that make the traditional Spanish way of living so healthy. I make an effort to keep the two cultures in a dynamic balance so that we can draw from the best of both. For example, at La Tienda we are always improving our technology so that you will enjoy the convenience of our on-line site, yet we will always make time for you should you like to give us a call and talk together about Spanish products.

The longer our family lived in Spain the more we learned to incorporate into our modern way of life the traditional ways of our Spanish neighbors - taking more time to be with others, thinking of a leisurely meal as a blessing, experiencing a healthier way to spend our days and raise our children.

Isn't the long life-expectancy experienced by Spaniards more than olive oil and the Mediterranean diet? It is a life where conviviality is a virtue, not a luxury. It is a traditional life where the seemingly trivial human events of everyday living - chatting at the market, dining with your family, visiting with your friends - are given the respect they deserve.

Although in both America and modern Spain we may find our automated lifestyle in conflict with the healthy way of life of our traditional friends in Spain, nevertheless it is possible to draw from the virtues of both of our cultures and be the better for it. Our family tries to live this balance every day, and we hope that you and those you love will make time to have a wonderful time together for the rest of the summer.

Hasta Pronto,