Like a heart circulating blood, people come from every corner of town to flow through their plaza mayor. A Spanish plaza mayor is the major life line of any city or pueblo. If you want to take the vitals of your new destination head straight to the plaza mayor.
While architectural design can reflect both the king who started its construction, and the one who finally finished it 120 years later, what is constant is the role plazas play in Spanish society. It is the heart that connects all the veins. The old, the young. The resident, and the visitor. The lonesome traveler and familial group. Everyone finds themselves there, at one time or another.
For me every exploration in Spain begins at the plaza mayor. Hiding behind shades and anonymity, I peep the town as it is, when nobody’s watching in plain sight. How peaceful it is to share a history and space with everyone who lives in your town. I try to melt into the scene, imagine what it would be like to know just one little thing about every person present at that moment. A city born girl like myself my closest relation is the 2 mile stretch of downtown Chicago. Cold steel buildings reach for the sky driving wedges, disconnecting one part of the city from another. Its no surprise our world are small. North side, south side, this neighborhood, my block, my building, and finally my home. Lacking any sense of connection to the past or present, I hardly give my fellow Chicagoans a glance much less thought. Here in Spain traditions are held more closely and familiar bonds extend father away from the central family unit. Old people having a chat? Plaza Mayor. Impromptu after school football match (without proper goal)? Plaza mayor. Lovely couple out for drinks while their children recklessly play somewhere, safe? Plaza Mayor. For a cafe con leche….pues tu sabes. The Plaza mayor!
If social media has done anything for me, it has made my life look way better than yours. The only problem is I know this to not be true. In between the depressing photos of me absolutely enjoying my new life in Spain, are the times when my life is less than glorious and downright miserable. Obviously I am not sharing these little gems, they are left for my repressed memory banks. Here are some ways my life is no better than yours.
1. I am embarrassed on the regular. Every time I form my mouth to speak a word in Spanish. I am met with a confused look, as if the person to whom I am speaking already knows that everything coming out of my mouth is gibberish.
2. I teach English to children (enough said).
3. I am most always broke. Yup. Broke. But what about all those pictures of me all over the globe? Well, my answer to that is, I live in Europe. I can hop on a 5 euro bus from Madrid to some of the coolest places I’ve ever seen. For a 50 euro flight I could be in Italy, Paris, or bloody England for that matter. With deals like this, destinations that once seemed impossible to reach are now in my grasp.
4. Loneliness is real. It just is. Yes I am surrounded by people, but they ain’t my people (Chitown Stand UP!). I am constantly surrounded by people who don’t truly love me yet. And I yearn for my loved ones, wishing they could be where I am.
5. I really don’t have a fifth one, but I think the reason my life looks so much better than yours is because despite the above downsides, I am doing exactly what I want to do with myself at this moment. Maybe you’ve thought of doing something, but have talked yourself out of it, as we all have. You’ve convinced yourself you’re too old, too busy, too attached to that shitty job you hate, or just not good enough. This is where my life IS truly better than yours. I’ve told myself the same things, but what I did instead was not listen to it and believed that I can be fulfilled in this life, and you can too.