An American dream on the Costa del Sol

David Kylen is living the Andalusian dream.
David Kylen is living the Andalusian dream. / T.Bryant
  • David Kylen first visited Spain in 1970. He arrived in Torremolinos after reading about the town in James Michener's book, The Drifters

David Kylen, President of the American Club of the Costa del Sol, has seen many changes since his first visit to the Costa del Sol almost 50 years ago, but he claims that this has not altered his opinion of the place he has come to adore.

Born in DeKalb, Illinois, in 1944, David grew up amidst the ethos of the American Dream. Like many American boys of the era, David was athletic and enjoyed football, basketball and baseball. His parents were both school teachers and so it seemed only natural that he would follow in their footsteps. He obtained a Masters degree in History and went on to work as a secondary school teacher, although he later acquired an interest in behaviour disorder and he began working at a Chicago reform school for children with learning disabilities. Since then, he has had a lifelong passion to help children.

He first visited Spain during a two-month tour of Europe in 1970. He arrived in Torremolinos after reading about the town in James Michener's book, The Drifters, a powerful novel based on the lives of six young runaways adrift in a world of drugs, dreams and pleasure.

His love of athletics led to him accompanying a friend to the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972. His friend was a shotput in the American team, and although they were not personally affected by the events - in which a Palestinian terrorist group killed 11 Israeli athletes and a West German police officer - the ordeal has stayed with him to this day.

"I was in Munich in 1972, and it was pretty scary and has left a lasting impression. We didn't see it, but we knew it had happened. It was shortly after this that I came back to Spain," David says emotionally as he remembers the incident.

David returned to the Costa del Sol in late 1972 and soon realised that he wanted to spend more time here. He originally intended to open a bar in Torremolinos, but the project never got off the ground and he was forced to rethink his future. He returned to the USA, where he would spend the next ten years teaching history at a high school in Chicago. After being made redundant from his teaching position, David returned to Spain once again, working in real estate and property management, although it would be another 17 years before he would become a permanent resident in Fuengirola.

"I never settled permanently until I realised I could take early retirement. I had been travelling back and forth because I had started to make acquaintances here. This was one of the things I loved about this part of the coast, because it was so easy to make friends," David explains.

David has not completely cut his ties with America. He has two sisters that he visits and he returns for a high school reunion that takes place every five years; although he admits that he has no immediate plans to return to live in his motherland.

"I'm living my dream. I have seen many changes to the coast, but it has not changed my opinion of it. This is progress in our time and I feel completely at home in Fuengirola," he points out in his fading Chicago accent.

David discovered the American Club, an association that he has now been president of for 15 years, soon after he settled in Fuengirola in 1999. He needed to make social contacts and at that time there were plenty of Americans living on this part of the coast. The American Club in Fuengirola was the first branch to open on the coast and over the years the association has helped numerous charities. However, David's passion for helping youngsters instigated a change in the club's policy and the Fuengirola chapter now donates all its efforts to the children's home (Ciudad de los Niños) in Malaga. David could empathise with the plight of the children and he believes that it is very important to help people when they are at the dawn of their lives, not necessarily when they are at the end of it.

"Children have to know that there is someone out there thinking about them. It is important to help them because some have issues and my experience working with children with behaviour disorders has made me realise this. That was my specialty, I was very good at it," David says passionately.

David's life is divided between his association with the expat American community and his love of the Andalusian way of life. His hobbies include reading, especially spy novels by John Le Carre or Len Dieghton, although he loves nothing more than to sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures that life on the Costa del Sol offers.

"I can't think of anything I miss about America because I love it here. This is paradise for me," David concludes.

The American Club's next charity event is the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Valparaiso on Thursday 22 November.