Friday, April 13, 2007

Pondering the Pueblo

Last weekend was Easter. In America that means a visit from the Easter Bunny (or Easter Bubba in my house) and an early morning scavenger hunt for goodies. In Madrid that means a visit with family and friends and a hunt for the quickest exit out of town. Semana santa, like so many other Spanish holidays, means everyone heads to their pueblo. Well, perhaps not always their pueblo; sometimes it's to the hometown of a friend, or a friend of a friend, or the sister of a friend of your coworker. Point is, many people head out of town to a much quieter spot for a few days. Hearing all of this from Nacho (he went to the house of the paternal grandmother of his maternal cousin) got me to thinking about the pueblo in general, and MY pueblo in particular.

The tradition of returning to the pueblo comes from the idea of people leaving the small town in search of fortune in the big cities. For a lot of modern native madrileños (certainly those of my generation) the pueblo is the town that held their grandparents’ homes or the parents’ childhood memories. For Nacho, it's the town in which he spent extended summer breaks, frequently with his cousins, running free and generally terrorizing the local girls. More than anything, I think the pueblo is a reminder of the less stressful times in life - certainly childhood, but also holiday weekends and long summer nights. It is a place that knows you as well as you know it.

As I ponder my upcoming move to Madrid, I am realizing that St. Louis has become my pueblo. Though I haven't truly lived there for almost 10 years, over the past decade St. Louis has still, undoubtedly, always been home. Moving forward, I find that it is transitioning from being "home" to being "where I'm from.” A simple change in speech, but a momentous one in meaning. St. Louis is the place that abounds with childhood memories, familiar sites, and an innate restfulness for me. But it isn’t home anymore. Home, for better or worse, brings with it the daily struggles and stresses, achievements and triumphs of life. The pueblo is an escape from that.

I've planned a week in my pueblo - a week of homegrown comforts - before my departure for Spain. And I look forward to stepping off the plane in St. Louis just as a teacher looks forward to the first week of summer break – a momentary respite before a return to the real world.

1 comment:

Spaniard said...

Geez, I never thought about my pueblo like that, i miss it...