Almeria is one of my favourite cities but there is nothing obvious about it - to many people, it would seem a bit of a dump but that is precisely why I love it. It is an earthy, real city where people live and work and struggle to survive, as they have done for hundreds of years. Ever since the Moors were driven out and the Christians took over, the region has been one of the poorest and most neglected corners of Spain.
There is a lot of poverty and ugliness in Almeria but there are stunningly beautiful corners waiting to be discovered.
ANDALUCIAN RAP AND FLAMENCO
The other night we watched a documentary about rap poetry in Andalucia which gave a very different picture of the region to the one the tourist centres try to create.
These rap artists are performing on the streets of the poorest neighbourhoods of the cities of the south. Their rap poetry is unique to Andalucia, for the rhythm and beat of flamenco are clearly recognisable within it. In fact, as one young man performed on the street and a crowd of local residents gathered round, two older women spontaneously started clapping and dancing flamenco-style to the singing of the young rapper. These two art forms are born out of the same cultural tradition - the same vitality, poverty, alienation and pride.
Even where we live in East London, an area so diverse and multicultural, I can’t imagine women my age dancing in the street like that.
There is no doubt that Andalucians are a lot less self-conscious than we Northern Europeans, possibly because of the climate. When it can get so hot, everyone strips off no matter what their body size or shape. They have a far more healthy attitude to the body - a far less sexualised one. The more a culture hides the body, the more hung-up they seem to become about it and the more they fetishize it in a harmful, damaging way.