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Monday, December 7, 2015

Troglodyte Homes and Flamenco

I had always thought that troglodytes were prehistoric men - Homo Neanderthalensis, Homo Floresiensis, Homo Habilis etc... Imagine my surprise to learn that Homo Sapiens can also be troglodytes.

Troglodytes = someone who lives in a cave.

Spain has seen a long history of ethnic cleansing. For centuries, the Catholic rulers discriminated brutally against the Moors (Muslims) and the Gypsies (Romano people). Laws were made to prevent them from speaking their own languages and practising their own religions. Often, they were chased out of house and home, dispossessed of all that they owned. With nowhere to go, these people took refuge in the mountain caves that surrounded Granada. At first, they lived in natural caves. Soon, they learnt to dig homes into the mountain.

These caves were well camouflaged. It was hard for the authorities to see where the homes were because the openings could be confused with normal cave crevices. These caves were also easy to defend when under attack.

Today, cave homes can be found in many countries. See HERE and HERE. Some of these cave homes have more luxury than most of us will experience in a lifetime. Temperatures in caves stay a comfortable 20 Deg C in summer and winter. If well-designed, cave homes can be well ventilated and well-lit. What's not to like?

Domestic Bliss in a Cave

See the tiny little bedroom in the far end?

Someone really lives in that cave!

Moors and Gypsies lived together in these caves and what resulted was a melding of cultures that today explodes forth in the Flamenco. Few people know that the Flamenco started as a voice-only art form. It was a primitive and plaintive chant that carried with it deep loss and pain, as well as exultant joy and gripping excitement. It was only a voice accompanied by the beat of a wooden staff, the spontaneous emotional expression of a community both reviled and persecuted.

Today's planned Flamenco dance performances in tourist joints (15 Euros/person) are a poor cousin of the true Flamenco, which is often performed in the private intimacy of friends and family where emotions raw and sincere are expressed to people who know and love you. In days past, the gypsy performers would refuse to perform at planned performances because Flamenco, the true Flamenco cannot be had on demand. It needed to be spontaneous and tied to the emotions of the moment.

I tried unsuccessfully to get myself invited to a private Flamenco. Failing which, I did not want to experience some watered down version in a tourist trap so I decided NOT to watch the Flamenco at all. We experienced a Shaolin Martial Arts show in Beijing which was a watered down version of the real thing. Since, I am Chinese, I do know what the real thing looks like. That was not it. Next, we also experienced a tourist trap water puppetry show in Hanoi, which was somehow less than satisfying even though I am unfamiliar with that art form. I refuse to make the same mistake with Flamenco.

Oh dear! We are in Granada and have seen neither the Alhambra nor watched a Flamenco dance.

1 comment:

Malar said...

Oh, it's so awesome place to visit! The caves are well decorated!