Updated: Jul 25
It has always been a dream of mine to visit Spain. Ever since I was a child I've heard my dad refer to Spain as the "homeland" and talk about our conquistador ancestors. Earlier this month I ventured down to Málaga, Spain where my Aunt Ana, Uncle Robert, and cousin Emilia just moved from my home state, New Mexico.
Ms. Gallegos (my aunt) joined a growing number of Hispanics from the United States benefiting from a 2015 Spanish law seeking to atone for one of the grimmest chapters in Spain’s history: the expulsion of thousands of Sephardic Jews in 1492.
The law offers citizenship to descendants of those Jews, many of whom converted to Catholicism but secretly adhered to Jewish traditions as they settled in New Mexico and other frontiers of the Spanish Empire. - NY Times Article
It has been fascinating to learn about my family's Jewish heritage through this process; most of my Hispanic family had no idea this was part of our history. As far as we knew, we were Catholic all the way back to Spain. This law creates an interesting opportunity for me and others in my family to pursue citizenship in Spain. Both my sisters are entering the application process, and I am thinking about it. Although my future husband is a Danish/Australian citizen, so I may wait and see what comes of that.
Andalucia Málaga is in the southernmost region of Spain-- Andalucia. "Andalucia has 500 miles of coastline and of which 70% are sandy beaches. Once Spain´s poorest region, Andalucia - and specifically the provinces of Malaga, Granada, and Seville - is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, thanks to its sandy beaches, beautiful countryside, spectacular mountain ranges...home of flamenco and bullfighting, which can be best enjoyed at the region´s countless ferias and romerias," - www.andalucia.com
This region was so much more beautiful than I had imagined. It has the New Mexico skies, the Colorado mountains, and the California shoreline. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Morocco over the Mediterranean Sea. As I was flying into the city, I saw snow-capped mountains, and I knew I would feel at home. Málaga is known for what are called "white villages" where all of the architecture is beautifully painted white. The center of the city was pristine, as the streets were power-washed every single night. My aunt Ana told me that on some late nights you'll see beer and cans thrown about as parties sound through the streets, and by 7 AM the streets are sparkling clean again! I also loved the artwork that filled the city. At every turn, there was a fountain, mural or sculpture.
This Southern part of Spain is known for its accents. My Spanish is conversational at best, but this accent was strong enough to strike me. They are known for the strong "TH" sounds as well as cutting off words mid-sentence. Gracias sounds more like gra-thias. I think it would take some getting used to, but it was really fun to hear the locals speak.
Sidebar- I got to spend a relaxing morning with my aunt at a hammam, which I had never heard of. At Hammam al Andalus, we enjoyed a 90-minute bath, massage, and some sweet Moroccan tea. A "hammam" is a Turkish bath, and this is a popular activity in Spain. The hot baths were in an incredibly ornate building filled with candles and skylights. I've never been more relaxed! If you are in Spain definitely seek one out.
We made a day trip in my family's cute ragtop Fiat to Nerja, which is a little beach town roughly an hour away. When I researched Málaga and things to do, this little hidden gem didn't pop up. But it is absolutely worth seeing, the water was crystal clear turquoise and when you go to the lookout you can see the grand mountains that slope down to the beach.
¡Me encantó la comida! This part of Spain is known for the "espetos" which are sardines that are grilled on a stick over a beach fire. My Aunt Ana talked a lot about this specialty and we saw the fire pits on the sand. I will try this next trip, apparently, it's very popular in the summer! For breakfast, the common meal is toast with smeared tomato and sliced jamón, and I'm a huge fan. I also tried paella, which is a dish with rice, saffron, chicken, seafood that is all mixed together, and honestly, I could eat that every day. Oh, and of course "tapas," which are like appetizers. In most restaurants, their tapas are displayed out in front so you know what you're getting into.
My cousin Emilia, 13, was super excited to show me the HUGE mangoes in the supermarket. You can legitimately smell the mangoes from three isles over. They are so sweet, delicious, and grown right there in Málaga; I've always loved mangoes, and now I don't think Danish mangoes are going to cut it.
There were lots of smells in the supermarket that were also really prominent, good, and bad. The other section that was really smelly was the Iberian Jámon. This ham is dried, cured, and still has hooves on it! This is a Spanish delicacy, and I learned that the Spanish pride themselves over the cutting technique as this ham is supposed to be sliced extremely fine. I personally love the ham, but I know many people find it much too strong, it is very salty and smelly. At a distance is smells kind of like jerky, and kind of like dog food.
Three days in Spain wasn't nearly enough time to see all the things I wanted to see. I had no idea that Spain was broken into all these regions with different cultures and even subtle language differences. You could spend weeks in any region, the history and culture in Spain is deep and just adds to the allure. I have to make it to a bullfight someday! If I ever get the chance to live in Spain, I will jump at it.