The first time I visited Spain with the UNICLAM tour back in 1972 (see posts from 6/4/ and 6/5/2015) the country had been under the military regime of Generalissimo Francisco Franco for almost 33 years, since his Nationalist army defeated the Republicans in 1939 at the end of the Spanish Civil War.
But I was 20 years old, what did I know from fascist dictatorships? I found the cities we visited enchanting and the people friendly, and I scarcely noticed the discreet presence of the policia patrolling the streets in military-style uniforms, rifles slung over their shoulders.
Except for one night in Madrid, where we spent a couple of days on the first leg of the trip on our way south to Andalucia.
I believe it was on our second night in Madrid that Sin, Guenaele, Cato, Cato’s girlfriend Dominique and I were in a restaurant together eating dinner when our waiter struck up a conversation with Cato who, being Peruvian, spoke Spanish.
The waiter (whose name, sadly, I can no longer remember) was a sociable youngster probably in his early twenties with black-rimmed glasses and straight red hair with bangs that fell across his forehead almost to his eyes. He looked like a typical American 70’s kid.
As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant our waiter hurried over and told us, with Cato as translator, that if we came back at the end of his shift at 10 o’clock he’d take us to a place called The Caves that tourists seldom found and where we could see some real live flamenco dancing.
We all thought this sounded like a splendid idea, so at 10 pm we returned to the restaurant and picked up our enthusiastic waiter then began following him through the streets of Madrid.
I don’t remember how long we’d been walking before we were approached by two policemen. They looked to me like soldiers, and for all we knew maybe the police and the military were one in the same. In any case one of the policemen gestured to our waiter to step aside and began grilling him on what he was doing with these foreigners. Our waiter began talking fast, nervously gesticulating while explaining that everything was fine, we were all friends, he was just taking us to The Caves to see the flamenco dancers, he meant us no harm. The police officers then came over to us and asked us if everything was all right. Cato explained that what the waiter told them was true and that everything was fine.
Satisfied that this group of young tourists in their city weren’t being led into any danger, the police/soldiers saluted us then walked off and our poor temporarily shaken waiter led us the rest of the way to The Caves, where we were, in fact, treated to an enthralling evening of watching wonderful live flamenco dancers in the company of our good-natured new Spanish friend.
In truth I didn’t think much about the incident with the policia until that tense moment in the poncho shop in Seville ( see post from 6/5/ 2015) when the image of those no-nonsense, rifle-toting constabularies flashed through my brain and compelled me to jump into the fray and buy myself a poncho.