SWhen the sun begins to set, grab a chair, set it up outside the front door, wait for the neighbors to do the same, and then let the evening come with a long chat – what a nice tradition.
In the northern half of Europe, however, such a thing would never occur. Squat on a kitchen chair in front of the house? In the middle of the sidewalk, on the street? And then with all of your neighbors? In our latitudes something like this would probably be interpreted as a sit-in strike.
Neighborhood care is also a question of geography. In Andalusia it is Cool talk, chatting in the fresh air, normal everyday life. And Carlos Sánchez Barea even calls it “a therapy”.
The video from Algar is part of a petition
Sánchez is Mayor of Algar. A small town in the southeast of Seville, 1,400 inhabitants, some agriculture, a meat cooperative, the wood-fired bakery was founded by Sánchez’s grandfather. Algar is one of the white villages in Andalusia, but it is off the main tourist route, there is not much to discover, if you are young, you move away.
Sánchez is 39 and the first conservative after a series of socialist mayors; in Algar people actually vote on the left. His election promises must have sounded convincing: to bring the village forward and connect it to the stream of tourist blessings.
Such resolutions may also have played a role in the fact that the mayor has now started an initiative that made his little Algar known throughout Spain in one fell swoop. Everywhere in the country people watched the video that the smart mayor had made.
It shows how people in Algar sit on the street. Sometimes just as a couple, sometimes as a group, sometimes on plastic chairs, sometimes on wicker armchairs, sometimes with a dog, sometimes with children, in a row, in a circle or all over the place. Mostly with a mask. And always deep in conversation. Chatting in the fresh air as a film document, musically accompanied by a hit of the season: “Even if I can only offer you a little, I’ll give it to you with pride, everything I have is also yours.”
What makes the video spectacular: It’s part of a petition. On behalf of his village, the mayor requests that outdoor chats be protected by Unesco and included in the intangible cultural heritage. Like many other Spanish peculiarities: the flamenco, the Christmassy sibyls singing on Mallorca or the castells, the human pyramids, for which articulate Catalonians step on their shoulders.
Tradition helps in times of Corona
However, if you look at the list of intangible cultural heritage you have to ask the mayor again: Señor Sánchez, isn’t that a bit of an honor? After all, the other traditions such as flamenco or standing on the shoulders of the lower for four to five days require a certain degree of artistry, which really not everyone can do. But what special skills do you need to throw yourself on a chair and chat with your neighbors?
“Actually nothing,” admits the mayor, but his petition is about a greater good. An ominous development must be halted, and the corona lockdown last year made this trend even worse: “People are spending more and more time in front of the screens, and we must not allow social media to replace interpersonal communication.” Those who are older or live alone need to be able to interact with others – in other words, a real social network.
The palaver in front of the house was created at a time when there was no air conditioning. In the evenings, when the alleys are cooling down, people would open the windows and go outside, and because small talk sitting down is more convenient, they would just take their chairs with them. It is cheaper than a visit to the pub and much less expensive than any home visit Chat.
And nobody goes to change for that either. On the contrary, says Mayor Sánchez, “the women are sitting there in their aprons, the men in shorts”. You tell each other your experiences of the day, discuss everyday problems, laugh a little, gossip a little – that strengthens the cohesion in the village, says Sánchez, and especially after the long lockdown it is of therapeutic value. “That’s why we have to prevent this beautiful tradition from dying out.”
Support from other regions in Spain
The petition is now with the Andalusian regional administration, they should examine it and, in the best case, forward it to Unesco. However, it is questionable whether chatting in the fresh air will actually make it into the canon of world cultural heritage.
Sociologists are rather skeptical about the move, mainly because the tradition is not a unique selling point of the Andalusians, even if there is probably more gossip on the street than elsewhere. After all, the custom of sitting outside in front of the house in the evening also exists in other regions of Spain and even elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
Carlos Sánchez doesn’t slow it down. He proudly tells that mayors of other Spanish villages, “from Extremadura, Castile and even Catalonia”, have contacted him to support him. And the initiative also brought more tourism to his village: “Some even came with chairs to sit down with.”
In contrast to flamenco, for example, the mayor also recognizes that it can be Cool talk difficult to export, however. In Germany, he suspects, it is too cool to sit outside in the evening anyway. “But you could sit down outside with your neighbors at lunchtime when the sun is shining.” It is definitely an idea for the home office.
Tips for the white villages in Andalusia:
If you know one thing, you know them all – that doesn’t apply to the white villages in Andalusia. Well worth it to look at that Route of the White Villages to go, for the tour you need one day or more, depending on the number of stops, and above all: a car that can go uphill.
Most of the white villages are inland, the most famous, Ronda, balances on a rock plateau a spectacular 120 meters above the Tajo gorge. The houses of Setenil de las Bodegas crouch under rocks, Zahara de la Sierra is located on a reservoir, Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, from Frigiliana you have a great view of the Mediterranean Sea, Ubrique is famous for its leather goods. Which villages you choose for the route depends on whether you start in the province of Cádiz or on the Costa del Sol.