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Now that we so desperately need to review and strengthen the idea of Spain, I search the words of the minds of our past, new old reasons that will help me understand this dreadful and immoral political context. It is a strange country, Spain.

This search took me through numerous authors, and I didn’t know what it was I was looking for until I run into one of Azorín’s books. Inside I found a beautiful description of Córdoba that soothed me. Azorin’s words build a clean and brief image of the city, a delicate, almost frail, touch containing the right amount of color and meaning. I walked the city inside my heart. It is a circle, every word is where it needs to be and not a comma is unneeded.

I urge you all to read it just before you go out to meet Córdoba.

 

HOURS IN CÓRDOBA (Azorín 1909)

I wake up and go out to the balcony and remain there watching the sky above and the street. These first hours of the day; air is fresh and gentle; sky is clear and radiant, deep blue. I leave the house. I begin to walk the narrow streets. Córdoba is city of silence and sorrow. No other Spanish city has such a fragrant charm whispering the streets. Walkers are rare at that early hour. Streets form an entangled and twisted labyrinth impossible to decipher. Little narrow streets; big flat stones at each side of the street and in the middle a thin line cobbled with bald and pointed pebbles. Nothing disturbs the silence. Every now and then, a walker passes through followed by an echo of footsteps. Houses are finished with white stucco or painted with sharp lime.

I walkea long while through the labyrinth; sometimes I would stop before a gate to see a patio deep inside. These houses in Córdoba they have a patio an it is something like a soul, a root. It is a small patio; some have columns holding the corridors together; others are humbler, poorer. I prefer those of the humble houses, the ignored houses. When I walk the quiet and white streets I glimpse many of these patios. It is all silence, pause and whiteness; maybe spindles or bay stand out from the pale white walls and the blue skies. Some patios remind primitive Italian backgrounds. I see one with the pavement slightly sloping up; then, there in the back a smaller patio opens under a simple white arch; and under that arch, waiting, rigid, still, unaffected, a donkey harnessed with red and yellow; above the arch, blackened and symmetric, a cypress highlighted by the blue sky. Not a whisper, neither in the house nor in the street, breaks the profound and dense silence. A perfect harmony reigns among my repose, the white walls, the cypress, the still rigid donkey and the deep blue of the radiant sky. Where is the artist that will gather this true emotion of Andalucía, in this city, this place, this hour? Is this Andalucía of the harmonious sound of things, of serene sorrow, the mild, frivolous and boisterous Andalucía shown in paintings and theaters?

I continue my walk. The labyrinth of streets reaches the environs of the Cathedral (the Mezquita) in an interesting manner. It is here where the silence, the peace, the sorrow are greater. Now and then, a donkey passes with a load of coal; an old woman slowly walks, stops, walks again; shy hands lift the curtains behind a glass to the noise of footsteps. Slow, sound, rhythmic, the bells call the hour, chimes in the city echo through the silence until they sweetly fade away.

I reach the Cathedral. I push the doors and enter the Patio de los Naranjos. Inside, four or six beggars sunbathe. The patio is wide, cobbled with pebbles; orange trees grow in lines; the tall and strong tower rises on one side. Only a few travelers cross the patio at this hour to go to the Cathedral. The same silence in the city lives here within these walls. From a fountain a steady stream of water flows. Every half an hour a girl shows up to fill a clay jug; water splashes inside making the clay cry. Still the girl waits by the fountain. The sparrows on the orange trees tweet and jump around. A beggar slowly toss in his coat. The bells return to the chime slow and sound and steady over the city.

In this city, at this hour a sensation of serenity and oblivion inhabits the spirit. The soul that things have is heard. We feel the longing for things we have never known; we yearn for something we cannot specify and yet its lacking embitter us. If we exit the Cathedral and go meet the river, in the distance we see the farmed lands of the countryside. There are no trees on sight. The land is just a bit uneven but flat; the green of the blossomed terraces takes turns with the darker square of fallow land. The understanding between this austere, noble, mystic landscape and the narrow streets of white and silent patios is also perfect. A last detail: in the morning, at noon, a strong smell of  olive trees burning travels the streets and houses. It is the ancient scent of Southern and Eastern cities of Spain.

Where is the artist –we go back and back again to the question– who will gather the soul of this city? To express this profound concert of things, this intimate understanding between tones, this serenity, this repose, this silence, this melancholia.


 

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