Other Malagas

It’s Easter Saturday and Malaga is taking a rest from six days of processions. In one corner of the city a conversation is struck up spontaneously around a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in Giuseppe’s oyster bar. On one side is an Irishman who is already as ‘malagueño’ as they come, and on the other, a Dutch couple who hope to be the same shortly. It’s their umpteenth visit to look for their dream retirement home in this same neighbourhood. They speak in English. For the couple it has been their first Semana Santa and they claim to have been close to tears watching the processions. They’ve followed them all, from various angles, as well as from thousands of videos on YouTube. The ‘malagueño’ suggests they take part in one of the processions next year. But before they reach that level of integration they aim to speak a little Spanish.

Between one video and another the woman complains that she hasn’t been able to find anywhere that sells CDs of the processional marches. No-one has the answer to such a simple question.

The conversation continues and the Irish ‘malagueño’ shows the Dutch couple several videos of Verdiales bands on his phone, and explains the ancestral musical traditions of the area. The repetitive sounds of the violin and the cymbals fill this Italian bar from the tiny loudspeaker as four European nationalities look on. All this is taking place at the foot of the iconic Victoria church where the tyres of the cars still screech on the bend due to the wax on the road, a sound that’s almost as ancestral and ‘malagueño’ as the Verdiales music itself.

So why am I describing all this? Because I believe that this is the clearest example to show that Malaga has now gone beyond the ‘malagueños’ themselves, who are by no means the only champions of our traditions, our culture and our values. People from all over the world have discovered this corner of the Mediterranean and want to become part of it; to experience it, get to know it and come to love it like the best of us. That’s how it was during the last period of financial and social splendour in the city, in the 19th century, with its bourgeoisie and foreign surnames. And that’s how it will be in the 21st century, in this new cycle of urban expansion. The success of Malaga over the next few decades will depend in part on the ability we have to listen to what these new voices can contribute; new sap for an ancient tree that has seen more than a few plagues that are being cured with fertiliser from around the world at its roots.

If you will allow me to paraphrase the famous quote by French poet Paul Éluard: there is another Malaga, but it’s in this one.