A GUIDEPOST REPRINT: “The Secret Spring of Spain,” 12 April 1968

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THE SPANISH SCENE: The Secret Spring of Spain
by D. Randolph Long
12 April 1968


If you are not careful, you’ll miss spring in Spain altogether and spend most of your life wondering how you did it. It’s not hard, because the meteorological border is pretty indefinite; one, day is a dull, cold, rainy winter day and POW… suddenly it’s summer. There are ways to catch it though, and it all depends on how much attention you pay and where you are in the very changeable land of Spain.

In the northern provinces and along the coast the seasonal switch is practically instantaneous. The invariably long winter in a few days has completely relinquished its gloomy grip and the grey ocean turns a blue-green shade that signals the time is right for bathing, beaching, and beckoning the thousand of French and European tourists who are waiting for the word to come swarming in.

In the South from Cádiz to Alicante, spring starts with the Sevilla Semana Santa, no matter what is the temperature or weather. With Holy Week attitudes change and plans for the summer vacation pop up with every blooming flower. Guitars and palms clapping to flamenco tunes reverberate after a long absence in the artistic and warm little plazas that surround bucolic fountains and are themselves embraced by shiny green-leaved trees that soon will bear the inedible oranges of Andalucía’s romantic capital. But if you miss Holy Week, you have really missed Sevilla Spring too. If you do happen to be there at the right time, the delicacy and finesse of spring in Sevilla can easily be lost in the confusion and clatter of the more modern and vacant parts of the jeweled city. Like all beautiful sensations in life, the spring of Sevilla is evanescent.

In the Levante region, you can be sure there is no spring until after the Fallas festival. It’s always cold then. But, one never knows when the rather lengthy Levantine Spring is really going to hit. If you are traveling there, however, you will know. When you are riding aboard a motorcycle at 100 km/hr. from Madrid and you rise up out of the treacherous twists of the Puerto de Contreras (100 km from Valencia to greet warmer air finally, then you can be sure Valencia is in its spring house. If you don’t get that adrenalin-effect until Requena (68 km from Valencia) then it´s still sweater and indoor-café time. And the good fish aren’t in yet either. For lack of a motorcycle you can check the bug count on your car windshield. If you can drive for five minutes without killing ten flying insects along the orange country road, it’s still not spring.

For many other parts of Spain, other rules hold. When the main street sidewalks are jammed with people on weekends, it’s spring all right. In the winter they would most likely be home, and in the summer they would be out in the country. Universal concern about sacando entradas (getting tickets) means the bullfights have started and in Madrid’s the patron saint’s festival, San Isidro, with its world-renowned bullfight series is invariably the first fully springtime fiesta in Madrid.

Spring in the capitals of Madrid and Barcelona also brings the final plans and beginnings of the summer’s toil of ripping up the city streets and putting them down again after the heat has passed.

Again in the capitals, conferences, book fairs, and a never-ending series of club meetings have their annual revivals in the Spring. During the unthinkable heat of the summer when real work becomes impossible, these activities save people’s sanity.

Traveling can lead one in and out of spring in Spain as fast as you can drive. And if you cross from Cataluña to the Basque provinces through the ups and downs of the innumerable Pyrennees valleys, some with green grass and some still with snow, you will need all the concentration in your power to soak in and appreciate what too many people think to be only one day in which Persephone reappears in the upper world.