Do people in Marbella spend most of their days lying around a poolside, sipping champagne and zipping off every once in a while in their own personal yachts when they get bored?
Well, I dunno. Most of the people I know in Marbella are pretty poor and down-and-out. Although, on the other hand, I have to admit that most of the local people I know in general here in the south of Spain are pretty poor and down-and-out. (Unlike in Barcelona, where most of my friends were average, middle-class and with good jobs.)
I’ve got a friend who works cleaning houses. She’s a single mum, she has to struggle to make ends meet. Although she’s been living this way for years, and I guess she’s doing pretty fine when you take everything into account. She’s been able to pay her rent up till now, never got her electricity cut off for non-payment, hasn’t as yet had to resort to living off of flour and potatoes for a week or take her son to the homeless shelter for a meal.
But does she live off of Chardonnay and pink champagne or lounge on the beach in topless designer bikinis?
Well, she does lounge on the beach sometimes. But not in designer bikinis, hers are more likely to hail from the dollar store.
Most of the time she doesn’t have shampoo, shower gel, cutlery, pots and pans or towels in her home. You know, the usual, basic, everyday items that most of us take for granted that everyone will have and that most of us assume that everyone can afford. When she can get it, she usually has milk (after all, she’s got a growing kid) and oil, olive oil when things are going great, sunflower when things are a bit tighter.
So, well, you can’t exactly say she’s starving to death. But maybe that’s not exactly how you expect an inhabitant of opulent Marbella to be living, either.
Another friend in Marbella is pretty hip. She’s an artist, so, of course, she makes art. Handicraft, to be more precise. Then she sells it in improvised stalls at street markets.
Well, that’s not such a bad way to make a living. She says her best-selling wares, nonetheless, aren’t her artwork but rather, cheap clothes that she barters away for one, two or three euros apiece.
You know, fashion’s quite important in Marbella.
Now, I know that supposedly, a lot of world-class citizens are supposed to own mansions and palaces in Marbella. The famous (and wealthy) Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja is perhaps Marbella’s most renowned sweetheart. Arab sheiks seem to like to make Marbella their home. The rich and famous favour Marbella as their winter hideout, and I imagine that if you mention the name of this small city, probably images of luxury spas and giant estates surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees spring to mind.
But the truth is, I didn’t see any of these famed properties. Now, logically, I know that they exist but I guess, like the mythical Shangri-La, maybe you’ve got to be “in the know” in order to be able to find them. Sort of like the mystic valley behind the mountains whose doors only open to you if you happen to be a seeker of spiritual truth, or something of the sort, and you come in peace.
So in conclusion, I guess Marbella is just yet another example of a typical southern Spanish locale where the lifestyles of the “natives” (ie. Spanish people) differ enormously from those of its foreign (and usually world-celebrity) inhabitants.
Now, I know that Marbella and, for that matter, the great majority of communities both large and small in southern Spain, are going to be just fairly normal, average, ordinary towns where you can find all sorts of people. Well-to-do people with large homes surrounded by gardens, middle-class citizens with reliable but not outstanding jobs and poorer, more marginal types, who work in the “domestic assistance” sector or at odd jobs.
But it strikes me over and over again how such a large proportion of the Spanish people I know and meet in this part of the country belong to the “poorer, more marginal types”, as opposed to well-off foreigners or Spaniards with steady employment living in other regions of Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona or basically any northern city.
And over and over again it makes me wonder: Is it just the culture? Perhaps here in this part of the country kids aren’t encouraged to work? Maybe they just grew up used to observing their out-of-work fathers lounging around on the sofas most of the time, and decided that that was the way people are supposed to live? (I say fathers, of course, because on the contrary here mothers never rest. There is always more work to be done around the home, meals to be cooked, rooms to be cleaned, clothes to be ironed…..)
What really struck me about this balcony was the incredible intricate faces in wrought iron. Do you see them?
Is it just the attitude? Maybe here people don’t bother trying, because they think: Well, Andalucia has always been poor, so what’s the use?
I don’t know what it is that exists here in southern Spain, that keeps people poor and uninterested in obtaining or completing their education. I don’t know why so many people take “recreational” drugs here. Well, I know that drugs are a major problem in many parts of the world, and not only here. But here, I get the impression that most people take them. Or at least most of the people that I know, at any rate.
My ex brother-in-law recently passed from an overdose of the medication he was taking to wean himself off of strong illegal substances. He came from a good, well-off, educated family. He didn’t need to take drugs. He had a successful business.
Many of my friends here take drugs too. A little bit of Mary over here, a joint of hashish on the beach. Some coke if you’re successful and you can afford it. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much (or little) money you’ve got, drugs are always readily available and easy to obtain at any gathering with your friends.
All the same, I thought I’d leave you with some images of historic Marbella in the evening, with the colours of the setting sun tinting the sky.
Here is a photo full of light, in case you were tired of gazing at all those dark night photos.
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